Wednesday, May 15, 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.
In recognition of International Hospice Month
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today for all members of this Legislature to pay tribute to International Hospice Month. The many volunteers and staff of Hospice Yukon provide a variety of supports to our fellow Yukoners during an important stage of life.
This is a positive service, Mr. Speaker. Families and friends benefit greatly from the support of trained hospice workers during their time of grieving. Many hospice volunteers take the time to listen and sit quietly during the last hours or days of a personís life.
This work is meaningful and rewarding. As a community, many of us have taken part in the Hospice Yukon Lights of Life ceremony. This ceremony allows Yukoners to remember and honour loved ones who have died, and it provides an opportunity to share information about death, dying and grieving.
The many services of Hospice Yukon are available to adults and children, and we encourage all Yukoners to reach out for their help when it is needed.
Mr. Speaker, service is what life is all about; so said Marion Edelman, the American founder and president of the Childrenís Defense Fund and the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar.
Our thanks and appreciation to the many volunteers and staff of Hospice Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Kent: It is my pleasure to introduce Mr. John Stecyk, who is the new Deputy Minister of the Department of Infrastructure. He has joined us here in the gallery today.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Forest Industry Association should continue to receive funding from the federal government, contrary to the recommendation contained in the report of the special forestry envoy appointed by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to support the position taken by the Yukon Forest Industry Association in relation to the recommendations of the special forestry envoy and agree to act as a mediator between the Yukon Forest Industry Association and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Infrastructure should be renamed as the department of highways, transportation and communication.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse schools reorganization
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. Today we heard that the Department of Education is losing 11 teachers due to declining enrolment. Some schools have had their student enrolment increase but are losing staff. Will the minister explain the process that was used to determine which schools are impacted and by how much?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There is a staffing formula in the territory that is used to base the number of teachers to students. Right now, the Yukon has the best student/teacher ratio in the country. The average is about 16 in Canada, and in the Yukon, we have 12 students per teacher, so thatís one of the best ó well, it is the best in Canada right now.
Mrs. Peter: Many schools are affected, but F.H. Collins and Whitehorse Elementary are the ones that are experiencing the most impact. Losing staff at the high school may result in fewer options for students. Losing staff at Whitehorse Elementary may result in more split grades, which the minister doesnít like and some parents have problems with.
Is the minister willing to be a bit more flexible and set aside the formula to ensure that schools can continue to meet their studentsí needs?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iíll say again for the member opposite that we have the best teacher/student ratios in the country, and one of the things that has been made very clear to me in this community and in the territory is the involvement of parents and teachers and school councils in decisions of this nature.
So, Iím looking forward to having that dialogue with the community at large about the teacher/student ratios, and I wonít make any changes without having that dialogue.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the parents at Whitehorse Elementary have expressed concern that this may be a back-door way of moving the English-stream kids somewhere else. It has been made clear to the minister in recent weeks that parents want the programs at Whitehorse Elementary School to remain.
What steps will the minister take to assure parents that their needs are not being ignored in this bureaucratic process?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, if you look at the statistics for Whitehorse Elementary, in fact, there are slightly more than nine students for every teacher, which is better than almost anywhere else in the Yukon, and weíre still the best in the country. Weíre not even certain at this point whether there are going to be enough children to have an English kindergarten class at Whitehorse Elementary next year. There are things, and thatís why we brought it to the attention of the parents at that school ó we would like to see what is best for the children there and do our utmost to ensure that that occurs.
I think members need to also look at the fact that weíre not trying to reduce teachers. Weíre trying to keep teachers in the Yukon by shifting them into positions in reading recovery and learning assistance and other areas so that, in fact, those numbers are outside the ratios I just gave you. So, in fact, itís even better than what I had mentioned, which is still, as I said, the best in the country.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Does the Premier agree that the best ideas for community development usually come from the communities themselves rather than a centralized government structure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposition, the leader of the official opposition, for his invitation yesterday. I was unable to attend their forum. However, I did have a representative attend, and there were a number of ideas that were presented at the forum, as I am expecting to hear a number of ideas from Yukoners, and many of them have been forwarded to the government.
So I would agree with the member opposite that Yukoners have very good ideas, not only on education, as the Minister of Education has just been speaking about with his colleague, but also on the economy, on health and on other issues of concern.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping that the Premier takes some of the ideas presented last night seriously, as we will.
One of the economic challenges facing the Yukon is how to create economic opportunities throughout the territory. People want the option of staying in their own communities and still having jobs and business opportunities, and we believe that government can play a big role in helping to make this happen.
What government resources are available at the community or regional level to provide practical advice and support to people who want to pursue economic opportunities right where they live, at a regional level?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In partnership with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, which, of course, partners with their member chambers from throughout the Yukon, there is the Yukon Business Service Centre, as well as the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, which has a number of excellent staff who are a tremendous resource available to all Yukoners.
And I thank the member opposite for recognizing that good ideas come from all Yukoners, which, of course, includes members on both sides of this House.
Mr. Fairclough: We on this side of the House have offered government many good ideas. We talked about a five-point plan in trying to get people working right now, today. One of the other good ideas that we offered is the idea of regional development boards.
Now, boards set up by local people can be very effective in identifying community needs and priorities in both economic and other areas of concern. What they need from government is on-the-ground expertise to help them achieve their goals. It could be anything from developing community tourism plans or helping individuals write a business plan.
So, will the Premier agree to consider ó itís just to consider ó providing well-qualified resource people to help communities or regions set up and run effective development boards?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We already do this. For example, as the member knows, I was speaking at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce just a few short moments ago. One of the things I didnít speak about was the development by the Whitehorse area of the Whitehorse area tourism plan. That was spearheaded by the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with the City of Whitehorse. We were at that time provided with staff from the Department of Tourism. Thatís exactly what the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture still does. In fact, Iíve had discussions with some of their officials who are working with Kluane on an update of their plan and some of the other areas.
The member asked if we provide and work with communities in terms of community development, be it small business or tourism ó absolutely, we do that, and we are seeing the results of some of that work with the recent unemployment statistics.
Question re: Forestry funding
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. When this minister was first appointed, Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House thought this was a minister responsible for economic development. As it turns out, it appears the minister is a lieutenant for the minister responsible for the environment, and his actions show that this minister is more concerned about park planning than economic planning.
Can the minister explain why the Department of Environment has a total of $2.9 million devoted to parks and protected areas, whereas the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó this ministerís responsibility ó has not one thin dime for forest industry planning, and this is a resource the minister is about to take over in 10 and a half months?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Member for Watson Lake made a good point at the conclusion of his question, that the responsibility for forestry still lies with the federal government. We are taking that responsibility over on April 1, 2003. We are working on a number of policy and legislative initiatives so that weíre ready for assumption of that industry when it is transferred to us, and we fully expect it to be a key economic contributor to the Yukon Territory when we do assume responsibility, and weíll work with the federal government in the year leading up to our assumption of responsibility so that the transfer is as seamless as possible.
Mr. Fentie: Devolution is a small comfort to Yukoners, given the mismanagement that this Liberal government has shown in all the affairs that they have taken on, on behalf of Yukon people. One can only wonder the mess weíd be in in forestry if they had management control of that resource.
Thereís a further problem here that this minister has allowed his colleague, the Minister of Environment, to carry on with: outside of the protected areas strategy, there is more land base being alienated. In southeast Yukon, these areas include the forest ecosystem network in the La Biche; they include the wilderness preserve in the Watson Creek watershed and they include the Rancheria caribou herd study area. These areas have significant forest resources available and would add greatly to the needs of a forest industry.
Why is this minister allowing his colleague, the Minister of Environment, to alienate land base without due and proper process?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I thank the Member for Watson Lake for the question. Again, as I have stated, the forest management is still the responsibility of the federal government. We will be assuming that responsibility on April 1, 2003. We are looking for balance when it comes to the economy and the environment, and I should note for Yukoners that we have just witnessed another flip-flop from the Member for Watson Lake. Prior to joining the Yukon Party, he did support devolution; now it is apparent that he doesnít support it with his new friend.
Mr. Fentie: Again, the minister evades the importance of the question. His colleague is alienating land base without due process, and that is costing our economy. Letís look at some evidence of that cost. Today, under this governmentís watch, headed up by this minister responsible for economic development, the territoryís spending power now sits at 81 percent from the federal government. The private sector spending power is vastly diminished under this Liberal governmentís watch. When is the minister going to address this very serious problem and get our private sector back involved in our economy, where they should be, by taking on some balance in his portfolio and ensuring that what is spent in parks and protected areas is balanced off by spendingÖ
Speaker: Conclusion please.
Mr. Fentie: Öin industrial resource planning?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources spends substantial resources with the Yukon geology program and, of course, the oil and gas initiatives that we do. The Department of Business, Tourism and Culture is working hard on the IT sector as well as the tourism sectors to diversify the economy. It is something that we are very concerned about. We want to make sure that Yukoners have opportunities, regardless of what industry it is in.
I would just like to quote from the Member for Watson Lake, November 24, 1999, and I quote, "Mr. Speaker, I can say that the Yukon Party is absolutely void and empty of any ideas when it comes to helping to improve the economy in this territory." Certainly, I can state that that quote, made in November 1999 by the Member for Watson Lake, remains true today.
Question re: Museums strategy
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the government members for their applause. My question today is for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture regarding the development of a government museum strategy.
Last fall, the consultant, Bill Barkley, consulted the museum community, First Nations and the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, collecting their concerns. The consultantís final report went to the government in March. Now, I would like to know why the minister waited until last week before releasing the Barkley report to the Yukon Heritage Resources Board and the other groups.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Just one correction for the member opposite ó the fact is that it is in draft and is out for consultation. Itís being reviewed by the heritage board, the YHMA ó by a number of organizations and the public at large. The fact of the matter is that it was a compilation of comments and suggestions that Mr. Barkley had gathered during his review. So, weíre allowing for public consultation.
The members opposite talk about our lack of consultation. Well, this is a prime example of what we have done, and will continue to do, by way of consultation.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Iím sure itís not clear to people out there about the status of this report. Itís our information the report is final. Now, some groups have expressed apprehensions about the department wanting to sanitize the report. I hope thatís not why it took so long to release it, or else why didnít the minister table it right away, as he was asked?
Last week, the minister said the government was taking the consultantís advice. The question is, which advice is he taking? Will the minister commit to take action on the reportís recommendations, especially those that identified problems within the ministerís own department?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, the member is partially right in some of the comments that he made. We are taking advice, and weíre taking advice from Yukoners. We put that report out. It was the raw comments compiled by Mr. Barkley. We said we would put it out for review by the Heritage Resources Board, as well as the YHMA, as well as a number of other organizations and small museums in the territory. Iím not going to presuppose what the recommendations from Yukoners are going to be. Iíll wait for that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the museums and heritage resources make an important contribution to our economy and to our way of life in the Yukon Territory. Last week, the minister made a strange statement to the effect the government is taking the consultantís advice, yet the museum strategy is in some other consultative phase. Apparently, a working group is being formed to work on some sort of a parallel museum strategy, Mr. Speaker. Now, will the minister give his assurance that this parallel strategy wonít be used to bypass recommendations the government doesnít like or to find ways to nickel and dime the museums and heritage communities within the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite should wake up and stop dreaming. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that we value our heritage resources and we want to hear back directly from the people whom this strategy is going to affect. I am putting those recommendations from the consultant out for a further qualification by Yukoners. If they feel thatís what they need, if they feel the recommendations are worthy of government support, then weíll listen to what they have to say. Thatís what consultation is all about, and weíre going to follow through on that.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Institute location
Mr. Jim: My question today is for the Minister of Justice, who has received very little attention on the floor and I will now allow him some floor time.
The future of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has become a very real, daily concern of many of my constituents in McIntyre-Takhini. Those concerns include perceived lack of consultation on its location, as witnessed by letters to the editor in the press. Just what type of programs is being proposed for those new, redeveloped correctional facilities? The government has stated on their Web site that initial sod turning will begin on the current site as early as this fall.
My question to the minister is this: what specific consultations were held and are still being held by the Department of Justice with the residents of Takhini and the surrounding area on the location of the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I welcome the opportunity to answer the question for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini.
The department did examine alternate locations in the fall of 2001. In order to come to a very specific location, or one that met the costs of this government, one of the issues was the land assembly package, and as much as $2 million is required for a building the size of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Other packages were looked at in the area of the old Whitehorse Copper Mine area but there are no services there. There is no water, no sewer, no power. The most effective use of the amount of extra money that would be required was to keep it in its initial location where we had services and there was access from roads on two sides.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I didnít ask what the government had done. I asked what they had done in terms of consultation with the residents of Takhini.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd appreciate it if the minister could give us and these concerned constituents specific answers to these specific questions.
Residents in the area of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, both its present location and the revamped site, have specific concerns ó understandably, Mr. Speaker. There is an elementary school adjacent to the site and there are family sport venues adjacent to the site, not to mention the many family homes adjacent to the site.
Can the minister tell us if his department has consulted with these concerned people about the rules on day release of the incarcerated persons, and what failsafe measures will be in place to give those same residents peace of mind?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I want to assure the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that there are meetings planned in the next two months with the Takhini school council and also with the residents of the area. I want to also assure the member that the institution has been in its present location since 1967, and a number of the other people and the baseball areas have come into existence since that facility has been there.
This is a case where WCC was there first, and the large part of that area has grown up around it, not in spite of it.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, this is another perfect example of the consultation process that goes on with this government here. Once the dust settles, then, wow, we have a building, we have an infrastructure, and how do we deal with it?
Mr. Speaker, the minister should understand this is not an issue that will simply allow government rhetoric to vanish. The question will not go away.
Mr. Speaker, I have received numerous questions about the very real concern about safety for the residents surrounding the Whitehorse correctional facility. This government believes they have done the necessary amount of consultation; however, there remains a lot of concern out there about the decisions already made with respect to security, area safety, who is picking up the tab for infrastructure, and others.
Given that this facility will remain on the same site for another 40 years, Mr. Speaker, did this ó
Speaker: Conclusion please.
Mr. Jim: ó did this department or his government ever consider holding an actual referendum, voted on by the residents most affected, on the location scheduled for this new correctional facility, and will the minister attend a town hall meeting held in Takhini Elementary School on May 27 at 7:00 p.m. to respond to this matter?
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The Member for McIntyre-Takhini should know that generally governments do not hold referenda when picking locations for our projects. We have not and will not for the Whitehorse service centre thatís coming. Itís a cost-effective decision and I want all members opposite to understand that.
Number two, the member referred to safety and security and I want to take this opportunity to assure all members of this Legislature that the very latest in electronic security will be at the new institution. So that will take care of that issue. Number three, I am more than welcome to attend public meetings anywhere in this city for people who want to discuss the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, be it McIntyre-Takhini or any other part of the city.
Question re: Protected areas strategy, moratorium on
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Environment. Now, back on April 24, the minister, in conjunction with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, issued a news release stating they had decided to defer the identification of any more areas of interest under the Yukon protected areas strategy. That was until the four recently initialled memoranda of understanding on land claims had been ratified. The minister went on to state that First Nations in particular will not have the time nor the internal structures needed to dedicate to the YPAS process. Five days later the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations refuted this statement when he categorically said that First Nations could not be blamed for putting YPAS on hold.
Now, given that there isnít a hold on YPAS ó there isnít a slowdown ó will the minister table his instructions to his department officials here and now, ordering them to defer or even slow down the YPAS process? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do welcome the question from the Member for Klondike. Unfortunately, he is a little out of date. The fact of the matter is that we have slowed down the process, and I have consulted with a number of chiefs, exactly for the reasons that contributed to the slowdown initiative. Not only those who are working toward ratification of their self-government agreements, but the other First Nations chiefs who have already settled, and their requests are quite specific: we are to slow down, involve, include and consult, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Mr. Jenkins: I asked the minister to table written instructions that he issued to his department, and the minister canít. The ministerís words virtually have no credibility. I am seeking written proof that he is actually doing what he said he would be doing. Will the minister now come clean and admit that his news release of April 24 was a complete and utter sham, designed to give the impression that he had ordered a slowdown of YPAS, when in fact it is full speed ahead. There is no slowdown.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do take exception to "sham". We have always indicated that we are open and accountable and will continue to do that. I would question the Member for Klondikeís credibility on a vast number of issues.
Speaker: Order please. Order please. I think we are going down a road that we donít want to go. The Chair does not want to limit debate in here. The Chair is trying to get as many questions in as we possibly can. The Chair didnít stop the Member for Klondike with the word "sham". The Chair is going to address it at the end of Question Period. I would ask the minister for cooperation, and I will address it. I would like to get on with Question Period, and hopefully get as many questions as we can. Would the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do apologize to you, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that we have slowed down the process. We want to consult. We are doing more detailed assessments in cooperation with the Department of Tourism, with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, with the federal departments at the request of industry ó specifically that the assessments on areas in the territory be complete, thorough and full. So we are following through on that recommendation. It takes a little more time to do that, Mr. Speaker. We have responded to the request, and weíll continue to listen to industry on how they want the assessments done.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister can duck and dodge, but actions speak louder than words. Iíd like the minister to table his instructions to his department ordering the deferment or slowdown of YPAS. I donít want him to tell the House that he has to go back to his office to get them, because if he does, the ink wonít be dry and theyíll have to be backdated because they do not exist. There are no written instructions, and there is not a slowdown in place. Itís just a façade that the minister is putting up.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is one exception to the member opposite. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that he was imputing false motives to me. That being said, the fact of the matter is that the Deputy Minister of Tourism, the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Deputy Minister of Environment were all instructed by their respective ministers to slow down the process, and they followed the instructions of the government. The member opposite is indicating that that wasnít done. Those members were aware that the press conference was going to happen. They were aware that this government has slowed down the process, and we have, regardless of what the member opposite is trying to allude to.
Question re: Home care program in communities
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health. Now, we have heard a number of questions recently concerning home care in the Yukon Territory, and Iíd like to say that I raised this issue with the minister just a couple of weeks ago.
Now we know ó weíve been listening to the radio ó that concerns have been expressed in my community and others that an adequate home care service is not in place and accessible to all, as it should be. So, Iíd like to ask the minister what steps she is taking to ensure that home care is being expanded to recognize real needs in the communities?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I believe the member opposite is referring to the issue of the home care ó federal programs delivered in Teslin. Now, there are problems with the understanding of Yukoners as to who delivers which programs.
Now, the territorial government offers personal services for individuals ó things like baths and taking medication ó and then DIAND offers services similar to housework and that sort of thing. Now, each community has a different perspective and a different way of offering those services, and that often leads to confusion.
What I have done is that I have spoken to my deputy minister about getting that information clearly out to all Yukon communities about who delivers what service. Itís a problem. Itís available in most Yukon communities. Itís just that thereís a lack of understanding, both on the government side and the public side, as to how to access those services and which services are delivered by which government.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Iíd like to correct the minister if I may. Iím speaking about a Yukon territorial government program and Iím speaking about a Yukon territorial government jurisdiction. So the ministerís answer is not totally correct.
It seems ironic, because it was just a couple of years ago during the election campaign that this Liberal government had all the answers ó they were all there. They were even portrayed in the election campaign and in the platform.
So, there is a need. We recognize that there is a need out there that has to be in all communities. So, again, Iíd like to ask this minister: when can these communities expect to have access to adequate home care service?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go through what adequate home care services are in the Yukon; they are a variety of things. Itís home support, which includes personal care, respite care and homemaking services, as well as regional social workers. Also available are therapy services ó occupational therapy and physiotherapy are available in Watson Lake, Dawson City and three times a year in all other communities, as needed and by request.
In addition to that, there are nursing services that are available in all communities through community nursing. Dawson City and Watson Lake have a dedicated home care nurse in response to consistent community needs. Now, there are a number of different programs available in communities ó itís not consistent. Itís different in every community, as Iíve mentioned to the member opposite.
Now the member opposite says that, when we were in opposition, we had all the answers. Well, we would ask every day for answers during Question Period and never get them.
Consistently, I have given the member opposite better answers than I ever got when I was in opposition. So, if the member opposite would like further detail, I will send that on to him, as I always do.
Mr. Keenan: I hear the minister speak about consistency, and saying that it is not consistent in the delivery of services. What is not consistent is this Liberal government ó the way they flip-flop back and forth on all the issues. Two years ago they had all the doggone answers, and now it seems that we are just hiding behind a bunch of bafflegab.
I would like to point out that a related concern that does happen to come from Teslin is the home care program. It is not accessible by First Nation people. Now what we have is we have a system in place that is entirely different ó in the ministerís own words, it is not consistent from community to community. When is this minister going to do the right thing and show the consistency, show the transparency of the program and get it delivered to all members of the community? When will that happen?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are two issues. First of all, the level of service is different in every community because there are different sizes of communities and there are different needs in those communities.
I will give the member opposite an example. In Haines Junction, for example, there are four active home support workers, whereas in Dawson City there are three active home support workers who provide services to those clients and there is a permanent home care nurse in Dawson City. It is different in each community. That is the way it is. That is because the populations are different and the needs are different in all those communities. What we endeavour to do, along with the federal government, is try to provide the best services possible for Yukoners, and that is done consistently.
As for Teslin, the Teslin issue is clearly a communications problem. We spoke to the Teslin Tlingit Council and asked them if there had been any new referrals recently. We do not have a record of that. We have tried to work with the worker in the Teslin Tlingit Council to make sure that, in the future, we will have better communication between our department, DIAND and Teslin.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Before we proceed to Orders of the Day, the Chair would just like to address a matter.
Speaker: Earlier, I briefly spoke on the choice of words and so on in the House. With the recently amended seating order in the House, the Chair is endeavouring to get as many questions in as we can so that all members have a chance to ask questions. If the Chair is going to interrupt each time a member asking a question uses personal accusations or language that may cause disorder, then the Chair will be interfering with debate, and we certainly will get one fewer question, if not two fewer questions, in. Additional to that, I would ask the members to ó and itís getting pretty good. Members are pretty much getting their questions in within a minute. Some members are running over time and that, again, is going to impact in the end. We could end up with one fewer question.
So, the answers are within the allotted time limit.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Whitehorse Centre ó do you care to challenge the Chair? The Chair is keeping track of the answers here, and the time. I also have two assistants keeping track of the time. The answers are within the time limit.
After having said that, Iím trying to get a bit of cooperation in here, and itís coming from most members, so that we can get as many questions in here and have the opposition keep the government accountable. But I canít do this without the cooperation of all members.
With that, we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Minister of Community Services, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I beg the indulgence of the House. I would like to introduce Glen Everitt, the president of the Association of Yukon Communities, who was not here for introduction of visitors but came in about the time we finished that. Heís here with the associationís executive director, Jim Slater.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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. 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.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Health ó continued
Chair: Committee will continue with general debate on the Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. General debate will be on the Department of Health. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Roberts: Iíd just like to make a few comments and sort of summarize where I took off from yesterday.
I was very clear with the view, from my perspective, that one of the major goals of the government should be that of helping citizens, working with our families, working with our children, working with all the governments and trying to build capacity for the future. One of the areas I believed is very important ó and one of the areas I believed was very important when I was on that side, and now that Iím on this side, I still believe itís very important ó is the Childrenís Act.
When the minister was on this side of the House back on March 5, 1998, the minister put forward a motion on the Childrenís Act, very clearly demanding of the government of the day that the Childrenís Act be reviewed because it was really outdated.
Now this minister has an opportunity to correct that and follow through on that motion now that the minister is responsible for the Health department. I am hoping that those comments and those words made way back then will come back to the minister, so that the minister will see the light and move ahead on this very important issue. We know why we have to do it. I donít think we have to argue why we have to do it. We know that we have a Childrenís Act that is 17 or 18 years old.
I can recall some of the quotes that the minister made at that time when the member was on this side. The minister of that day, Mr. Sloan, was giving the idea that other jurisdictions have theirs out-of-date. The response from the current minister was, "Well, so what? Does that mean we stay behind or do we move ahead?" I think it is very obvious that we need to move ahead, because I believe that this is what our families want. This is what our governments want and this is what our children need. I know for a fact that controversy is going to be a part of it, but when you get into the government that seems to be the nature of the game.
So Iím going to encourage the minister to work as expeditiously, as fast, as they are able to get this on the road, because itís going to take years, as the minister knows. It will take at least two years to do the consultation on how this should be brought down in the future, and now is the time to do it.
It will be sort of just at the beginning of the next mandate of whomever that government will be.
So, Iím encouraging the minister to be brave, take it on, and do the right thing, because that is the right thing. All our people in the communities, all our stakeholders, our partners, have said this over and over again, and I think the minister is probably hearing that now. I hope the minister is hearing that now, because thatís what I heard when I did my little tours around the communities.
I believe itís the right thing to do, and I would hope that the minister will take this on with the determination that the minister displays in a lot of things that the minister does, and I really admire the minister for that. The minister has a lot of determination and a lot of energy to get things done, so this is one of those things that the minister could put on the wall and say, "I did that. I brought the Childrenís Act forward and, guess what, we will have a new childrenís act probably in two years' time."
A couple of other things ó the health summit issues are things that I believe we should also be looking at. This was an opportunity for many Yukoners to get involved in health for the future. Now with the Romanow commission just concluding its visit to the Yukon, we know that prevention is one of the big issues in health, and we have to get that back out to the communities. I think the communities are starting to say that now. I believe this minister believes in that, Mr. Chair, and I feel thatís another issue we have to put more money into.
One of the questions Iím going to be asking the minister is how much money are we putting into prevention? How many real dollars are we putting into prevention? Does it equal how much we have to put in to actually pay for the services that weíre now required to fulfill?
Another area I think is very important is looking at the Anglin report. I think the minister is well aware of the recommendations in the Anglin report. This was a report that was brought forward by the government to look at children in residential care. I think there are kind of four areas that I believe Mr. Anglin was referring to. One of them was the involvement of First Nations. One of my questions to the minister will be: how has the government involved First Nations in the development of the partnership?
This report came out in December of last year, and Iíd like to know, from that point on ó I know there are lots of other things that had been done in the past, but from the time this report was done is what Iím going to be asking for ó what steps have been taken to move down that path of working with our partners.
Another area of concern was a system of care. Right now, we believe that we have some of our residences that are not really home residences, but they tend to be more of the institutional type of residence, and Mr. Anglin is saying this is not a good thing for children, not a good thing for our youth. What is happening in that area? Iíve heard from the minister that we are doing some of these things already. Thatís fine. I agree that as soon as you start any kind of assessment or any kind of review of something, youíre starting to work on some of the solutions. Iíd like to know from the minister what some of these solutions are that they have started to work on since the Anglin report came into place.
The other point is the quality assurance. This is a very important area of what kind of quality care we are giving. I know that this is a very important issue for all of us, because we want to make sure weíre doing the best job we can. Of course, the fourth one, which the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes really talks about, is the area of advocacy, and I believe in that, too.
I want to clarify for the minister an area regarding the FAS/FAE scene, or the spectrum disorder scene. I know the minister took exception to the fact that I was using the word "disease," and I know the minister really tried to chastise me ó three times ó that this is not something that should be used.
I would like to read to the minister the definition that I took from The Oxford Dictionary that sits on the Clerks' Table, and this is what the definition of "disease" says: "an unhealthy condition of the body or mind, an illness, a sickness, a particular kind of disease with special symptoms or location, a deranged, depraved or morbid condition".
I guess, for the member opposite, I was just trying to point out that FAS/FAE, or spectrum disorder, does fit into the process of working with some of our people who have this affliction. Maybe the member doesnít like to hear that itís a disease, but by the definition, it fits. So I would like to clarify for the minister that we are trying to build positive relationships. Letís not worry about what words we use, other than the fact that weíre working together. Thatís where I believe we have to move, Mr. Chair. We are one of the same. We are 17 people here working together; letís do that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Iíd like to respond to some of the issues that the member opposite has brought up yesterday and today in his somewhat lengthy dissertation.
The first thing is that the member opposite is saying that what we need to do at this point is to review the Childrenís Act ó that all resources should go into the review of the Childrenís Act.
Mr. Chair, when I sat in opposition there was no Anglin report; there was no report on children in care. And at that time, the only way to resolve some of those out-of-date legal issues was to look at the Childrenís Act. That is still true today. Those are legal issues, though. Theyíre not program issues or people issues. The Anglin report recommends that we review the Childrenís Act, but only after many program initiatives have been undertaken.
The problem with putting all our resources into the Childrenís Act is that we will not have enough resources left over to implement the recommendations from the Anglin report. We have a limited number of people who can do a limited number of things, so we have to prioritize which is most important. To me, as the minister, itís most important to make sure that those programs and services are available to those children in a better way than theyíre being delivered today.
So, we will slowly go through the Anglin report. We will be speaking with First Nations. The department will be speaking to all Yukon First Nations over the next year, working with them and asking their views on the report ó not only the Anglin report, but also the Child Welfare League of Canada report, which will be given to me sometime at the end of June.
The member opposite is clear that perhaps the Childrenís Act is more important than the Anglin report. I canít tell from his comments which he thinks is more important. I can tell the member opposite what I think is more important, and thatís services. Certainly we need to review the legislation, and we should regularly be reviewing all of our legislation. Thatís why I think that on large pieces of legislation, we should have a clause in there that says that certain large pieces of legislation need to be reviewed on a regular basis, like the Education Act, which is a 10-year review, like the Municipal Act, which is also a 10-year review.
Living legislation is what makes our jobs better because we are legislators; that is what we do. But, as ministers, we are also responsible for delivering services to Yukoners, and quite frankly, I would rather make sure that kids have better places to stay if they are children in care than go through a piece of legislation. We will be getting to that at some point in the future. We have done some initial policy work in that area, but we would clearly rather put our resources toward programs and services for children.
The member opposite talked about the health summits. There have been two health summits ó one in a rural setting and one in Whitehorse. I attended the first one; it was quite an opportunity. And out of that health summit came the tele-health project. The tele-health project offers services for mental health, some diagnosis and some visiting between friends and relatives for individuals who are getting medical care in Whitehorse and have friends and family back in the communities. Also out of the health summit will be reports from those health summits, something that hasnít been done. Those health summit reports are in the budget for this year. They will be prepared and distributed to Yukoners so they can hear back what they said at that time about what their priorities were with health. It is important not to do just meetings and reports for the sake of reports, but to go back to check with Yukoners to make sure that what they said and what they did at that time is still good today.
The member opposite once again wanted to go through the child-in-care report. We will go through some of the initial recommendations that we are working on. The first one, as I mentioned before, is the involvement of First Nations. The recommendations address the protocols with First Nations, case planning, cultural competence of staff, and the community advisory board for each group home. What we are doing is that, once the second report is released at the end of June, we will, as I mentioned before, be approaching each individual First Nation as well as the Council of Yukon First Nations to see if we can start working on some of those areas.
Protocol ó the best we can do quickly, and thatís an important thing. And we heard about that today, actually, in Question Period. We were talking today about who delivers home care services in the communities because itís often different levels of government. These are the sorts of things that we need to come together with protocols on so that thereís an understanding of who gets what service, how and from which level of government.
The next one was the system of care. Recommendations included the following: the need for special foster homes for teens, specializing the current group homes with smaller group homes and the specialist foster homes; the separation of children younger and older than 12 years of age; the establishment of homes that serve either long- or short-term placements; the establishment of more staff-supported foster homes for teens preparing for independence; and changing Diamond Willow to a specialist foster care program.
We agree in principle with all of those approaches, and that is to develop the smaller caregiver model homes, similar, Mr. Chair ó and the member opposite is very familiar with this from his days as minister ó with the Balsam residence, where itís a family residence and there is actually somebody on-site all the time, consistently.
Work has already begun on those recommendations. Iím not saying weíre there yet. Weíre nowhere close to coming to the majority of these recommendations even being examined in depth. What weíre doing is starting down the road of doing what we can with limited resources at this time and coming up with a model that we can, in all reality, get to if we have the financial resources.
So thereís already work being done on the recommendations with the convening of the foster care redesign committee. This committee, which includes department staff and foster parents, will plan the changes needed to our foster care program.
Mr. Chair, I have met with the Foster Parent Association. They had a number of requests. We have implemented their requests and answered some of those requests, including changing the mileage program, which we had cut back on, back to the original program, which is the one that matches the YTG program. We have done that. There was also a problem ó and these sound like small problems but theyíre huge problems if youíre a foster parent.
This is a problem that we fixed. When a foster parent has a child who goes to school and gets a permission slip to go up to Beringia or on some field trip, then the foster parent has to take that permission slip down to the social worker to get it signed each time. Now, speaking as a mother, one knows that you donít see those permission slips usually until Friday, and often times the trip is on the Monday. So, in order get hold of that social worker to get that permission signed in time for that child to go on the field trip is almost impossible ó almost impossible. So what happens is that those children are set apart from other children, and they sit in the office while the other kids get to go on the field trip. Thatís wrong; thatís patently wrong.
Mr. Chair, the other strange thing about all of this is that foster families were able to get permission for up to three months over the summer to take children into another country, into Alaska, on their various family trips, but they couldnít give permission for their foster children to go on a field trip to Beringia, and that was wrong. So we fixed that. We worked with the Department of Education, and weíve come up with a system that is different from many of the schools, but itís a system that works, so those foster parents can sign those permission slips. Itís a small thing, but it means an awful lot, and it means an awful lot in the life of a child. Part of that is working with non-government organizations and the department in a meaningful and productive way so that we can make positive changes in the lives of Yukoners. The member opposite might think that thatís a small thing, but I thought it was huge.
The issue of quality assurance is, as the member opposite said, also a large issue. Some of the recommendations were the establishment of a child and youth care diploma course at Yukon College, orientation of new staff, annual staff development opportunities, the hiring of a separate supervisor for each group home residence, team building training for management and staff, implementation of a development and therapeutic activity model, review of care and treatment philosophy in each home, family and childrenís services monitoring of all contracted homes, and implementation of the UK model, or English model, which is called "inside quality assurance in all group homes."
Recommendations regarding Yukon College have been referred to the college. We do not agree with the need to hire additional supervisors for each group home. We do agree with many of the remaining recommendations and believe that they can best be implemented through the existing team-meeting process.
Family and childrenís services has shifted responsibility to ensure clinical consultation to the contracted group homes, and the British quality-assurance model is being examined. This might be the way we want to go.
Advocacy ó these recommendations address the involvement of young people in decisions affecting them. And my goodness, Mr. Chair, thatís usually the way to go, because what we as adults think is important is definitely not what children think is important. So we need to go back, occasionally, and check with them. Speaking as a mother, once again, I can absolutely attest to that.
Another recommendation is the development of the statement of staff advocacy responsibilities and the provision of training for staff in how to advocate. Learning how to advocate is quite a skill, and one would think that advocacy would be an easy thing for a person to learn, but itís not. Itís something there is a whole skill set around, and many people just donít know how to do that. They donít know how to advocate for themselves, and they donít know how to advocate for others, and thatís an important skill set that we need to put out into the community.
The establishment of a complaints procedure for youth in group homes ó and thatís part of the recommendations ó and the establishment of an independent advocate for children in the Yukon. As I mentioned many times to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, that is one of the considerations that we are examining, as well. A child advocate model would be part of the review of the Childrenís Act. We may be able to do it without that, but there would definitely have to be legislative changes.
Once again, itís important to make sure that, first of all, we advocate for children and the programs and services that are delivered to them; secondly, we look at the legislation that will bring us into the future.
But now, we need to work with the children first.
The member opposite brought up the point that, apparently, there is no ongoing funding for the new alcohol and drug secretariat. I need to inform the member opposite that that program has been approved as an ongoing program of the Yukon government and will be part of the regular budget process in the years to come. Thatís quite a feat, Mr. Chair, and something that weíre quite proud of.
The next point the member opposite brought up was the issue of prevention. We work with many partners in prevention. We work with municipalities, with facilities, recreational facilities, and the Recreation and Parks Association of Yukon, or RPAY, does our green prescription, and we are hoping that they will put the green prescription out into the communities. The green prescription is something that Mr. Romanow was very interested in when he was here. He was interested in two things: the green prescription program and the First Nations health program at the hospital.
But the green prescription program, as the member opposite knows ó because he was the minister at the time when it came into being ó speaks about the whole person. So it is support for physical health, it talks about nutrition, substance abuse, exercise ó the whole physical aspect of the person and social supports, as well, if theyíre needed.
The Recreation and Parks Association has been very successful with this project, and people are succeeding outside of the program. So theyíre taking those skills outside of the green prescription and going into their lives and changing their lives for the better because of it. Thatís a very good example of how we do things differently in the Yukon. Maybe thatís why weíre more fit than the rest of Canada. That, plus the fact that weíve got a lot of trails that we can go down if we want to run or walk or whatever you need to do.
The member opposite talked about the whole model in the Anglin report. Once again, when I was speaking yesterday with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, there are problems with this model. The first thing is, how do we get people to become foster parents? Thatís a constant challenge within the department.
We cannot force people to be foster parents, and even if we do up the pay ó and that happened in the last year and a half ó it still doesnít dramatically increase the number of foster parents who come into the system. So, what other things should we be doing to help foster parents and to bring people into the system? Thatís something we need to take a look at, because thatís a challenge. Itís great for the Anglin report to recommend this is the way we should go, but there is far more to it than just the recommendation. Itís an awful lot more complicated than that.
The member opposite probably stood up and talked about how, in the dictionary, he believes that FAS is a disease. Mr. Chair, words hurt ó quite often words hurt, and fetal alcohol syndrome is a syndrome. That means itís a series of different things or disabilities that come together under "syndrome". There are different characteristics that become part of the syndrome. In Down's syndrome, there are a series of things ó you know, the change of trisomy 21 and all of that, as well as the facial characteristics, IQ and a variety of things that create the syndrome of Down syndrome.
Fetal alcohol syndrome, or spectrum disorder ó which is the latest and greatest ó is a series of different things that come together as a syndrome. A disease is something that you may be able to be cured from. Individuals who have fetal alcohol syndrome, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder ó depending on your perspective ó wonít be cured from it. They are people with value and benefit to our society. They may cost a lot of money, but then most of us do within our lifetime in society. These individuals canít be cured, and itís an irretrievable, completely 100-percent preventable birth problem because a mother drinks during pregnancy.
When we work with groups, the words that they use do not include "disease" ó they talk about the people first, then the disability, and they are quite clear that this is a syndrome ó or theyíre using the term "fetal alcohol spectrum disorder". And out of respect for those groups, the people who work with it every day and who have far more knowledge in this area than the member opposite or myself, thatís the term that should be used.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions Iíd like to ask.
The idea of looking at the Childrenís Act ó I understand from the minister that obviously weíre going to wait until everything else comes to fruition, the reports and all that. And yet, back in those days when the minister was on this side, we didnít have all that information, so I donít know what the difference would be. Why is it that the minister is rather reluctant not to move down the path of review right now? Because we know that thatís going to take two years.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Iíll restate the position. The member perhaps wasnít taking notes at the time. When I sat in opposition, there was no Anglin report, there was no Child Welfare League report, there was no indication of where we needed to use our resources in order to improve services and programs for children in care. All we had was an outdated act, so there was much hope that, if we updated the act, perhaps it would spur a report, like the Anglin report, and help us improve services to children in care.
Well, since then, things have changed, and now we have the report and we have limited resources that we can use to make things better for children in care. So, as the minister, I have a choice: I can use it on legislation, or I can use it on programs and services for children in care. Quite frankly, Mr. Chair, I will always first go toward what directly affects children on a day-to-day basis, and thatís the programs and services that are available to them as children in care.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, Iím just going to quote the minister back in 1998, and the minister at that time, who was sitting on this side, said, "You know, there are a number of very, very good reasons to open the Childrenís Act, and the best reason of all are the children of the Yukon. Iím not too sure how many more people have to come and speak to the minister about this issue. I am not too sure how many more grandparents have to come and talk to the minister about this issue."
So I guess from what Iím hearing from the minister right now is that the minister has changed her view about what it takes to get the act moving. This is back in 1998. Now that the member is the minister, all the evidence is there. We know we have to go down this path. I mean, limited resources ó when we put money into all these endowments and so on, priorities are being made, but theyíre not being made on behalf of children. So Iím asking the minister again, with the very words coming out of the ministerís mouth that, this time, now it has changed ó what has changed? We have more evidence. Canít we get on with it, Mr. Chair? I think itís very important that we get on with it, because everybody believes in the same thing, and there is money there. Donít say there isnít. There is money.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Iíll repeat for the fourth time what Iíve said to the member opposite. Now, in 1998, when I sat in opposition, there was not an Anglin report with clear recommendations about how to improve services and programs for children in care. At that time, there was also not a report coming from the Child Welfare League of Canada about how to improve programs and services for children in care. All that we had at the time was the Childrenís Act, so at the time, I felt that that was the only way that we could improve the lives for those children in care ó to update this legislation.
Things have changed. Time has marched on. Four years later, we now have the Anglin report, and we will be getting the Child Welfare League of Canada report. Out of that, we will be going first to improve programs and services that directly affect children in care.
We could use all of our resources in rewriting the Childrenís Act, and four years down the line that would make a difference in childrenís lives, or we could do it today. I would rather do it today. That is why we are working on protocols. That is why the department, despite the fact that we have limited resources, limited staff and limited money ó and the member opposite surely knows that ó in the Department of Health and Social Services, we are still doing policy work around the Childrenís Act. But what we need to do now is improve the lives, programs and services that are available to children in care. I can use the energy that I have and the limited resources to redo the legislation, or I can directly affect the programs today. That is what I am doing; I am directly working with Yukon First Nations, our partners in the non-government organizations and other governments so that we can improve today the lives of children in care.
Now, I will not waste energy on getting a piece of legislation ready that will affect the lives of children three or four years down the road, when I can improve their lives today. We have very limited resources. We will also be working on the Childrenís Act at the same time, but I have clearly chosen my priority to be children, not legislation, because there was a difference when I was in opposition ó and the member opposite, if he stands up and gives me another quote, which I am sure he will do, because he rarely listens to what individuals tell him. When I was in opposition ó and I will repeat it for the fifth time ó we did not have the Anglin report. We did not have the Child Welfare League of Canada report; that wasnít there. All we had was the Childrenís Act. At that time, I asked, many times, the Minister of Health at the time to work on the Childrenís Act, in a hope that would improve the lives of children in care ó the lives that the person who was the Minister of Health at the time was responsible for. Now, that Childrenís Act was the only tool that we had. Now we have other tools ó tools that were started by the former Minister of Health ó such as the Anglin report and the Child Welfare League of Canada report.
Those are important tools to improve the lives of children in care now, and I will always go toward improving programs and services first ó and also work on legislation, but that would be a second priority for me, and that will be a second priority for our government. Thatís why the Anglin report was originally done, if the member opposite will recall. It was to improve ó one hoped ó the lives of the children in care in the Yukon, and the programs and services needed to be improved. That was recognized by our government, and thatís why we did the report.
At that time, we also knew there were problems with legislation. Nevertheless, a choice was made by the former minister that programs and services were more important than doing the Childrenís Act, because the member opposite had the opportunity to review the Childrenís Act when he was the minister. Clearly, the former minister and myself have made the same decision ó we would rather improve programs and services for children first, and then work on the legislation, which is also necessary and also has to be done. But we have limited resources, so they have to be marshalled properly.
Chair: I wasnít interested in breaking in on the member, but I would ask members to ensure that we do not make personal comments here. Comments like, "the member opposite does not listen," is certainly not a policy or even a descriptive part that can be of any use to debate except to incite more debate and argument, so we would ask comments to be kept to a policy level.
Mr. Roberts: I beg to differ with the member opposite. When I was the minister, I actually had this brought forward. It was left in the hands of the current minister, who has now obviously dumped it. Now, I canít see why we canít work on both of these issues at the same time. The minister did say, "Well, we are, but itís not a priority." Yet, when that member sat over here, it was very clear that legislation was very important, because that rules the day. We have many partners out there who want legislation, because they know thatís what guides programs.
Now, Iím very pleased to hear that the minister wants programs ó yes, thatís very important. But why do we have so many of our partners concerned about the legislation? Because we have First Nation agreements that are now basically giving them the responsibility to bring down child care? They donít want to do that; they want to work with us.
One of the issues for many of our First Nation governments is basically reviewing the Childrenís Act. They very much want this to be updated to modern-day terms. If the minister is saying that itís going to cost millions of dollars to review the act, then the minister is wrong there ó I donít think thatís true. The quote I had received at one time is that it could be anywhere from $200,000 to $300,000 for two years ó over the two years for each year. Now, maybe thatís true; maybe itís not, I donít know, but itís a good guess that thatís what it costs.
What did the Education Act review cost? Wasnít that important? I think it was ó I think it was very important. Where is that going to end up as the legislation comes forward, we hope, during this session? Yet we had no problems doing that one.
Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board ó that legislation will be coming forward, hopefully, or the review of the legislation will be coming forward in the next year. I donít know, maybe not ó I hope it does.
I quote: "There are 30,000 people in the Yukon. How many Yukoners have to tell the minister that they need to look at some of the issues around children in the Yukon, particularly issues around the custody of children while they are in the departmentís care?"
Iím asking the minister ó these are the ministerís very words when that member sat here ó does the member have an answer to that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, for the sixth time, when I sat in opposition ó I actually sat in opposition in almost the chair that the member opposite is sitting in ó the only tool that we had to improve programs and services for children in care was the Childrenís Act.
The Anglin report had not been completed or started, neither had the Child Welfare League of Canada report. Therefore, at that time, I advocated for a review of the Childrenís Act. And, Mr. Chair, now that I am the minister, that review is ongoing but it takes a lesser priority than implementing the recommendations from the Anglin report.
The member opposite talks about this being an issue of finances, but we are now estimating that recommendations from the Anglin report will cost this government over $4 million, so the resources we have have to go to those recommendations first because they will have the most immediate impact on the lives of children.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite says that perhaps we should do the Childrenís Act because itís important, similar to the Workersí Compensation Act or the Education Act. Well, both of those acts have a mandated review period. Every 10 years they have to be reviewed, and I can tell the member opposite, as I am also the minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, that the review of the Workersí Compensation Act will start on January 1, as mandated, although that has absolutely nothing to do with this debate.
Mr. Chair, Iíll go through it a seventh time. When I sat in opposition, there were no other tools available to me, as a legislator, to improve the lives of children in care, to improve the quality of the programs and services available to those children. In an attempt to get the government of the day to pay attention to that, I advocated on numerous occasions that the Childrenís Act should be updated and reviewed, even though I knew that it would be two to three years ó possibly four ó before the lives of those children would actually be affected, but it was the only tool I had. I couldnít ask the government ó well, I did ask the government, actually, but I couldnít get the government to start a report like the Anglin report or the Child Welfare League of Canada report. The only thing I had available to me was the Childrenís Act, and therefore I advocated for an update on that Childrenís Act, and today we are still doing the policy work that is required for the eventual updating of this very outdated piece of legislation.
The member opposite is quite correct. It is 17 years old and it doesnít adequately reflect the attitudes and beliefs of Yukon people.
And particularly, it does not adequately reflect the fact that we have almost settled all of the Yukon land claims, and that is a dramatic shift in the horizon. That is a complete change in the way that Yukoners are governed, and therefore the legislation does have to be updated.
Currently, the Yukon First Nations that are going through the process of ratification for their memoranda of understanding are putting all of their resources toward that. I know that I am going to have difficulty ó and the department is going to have difficulty ó going to those communities ó particularly over the summer, I might point out ó trying to get input on the Anglin report and the Child Welfare League of Canada report. We can further split our resources and retention by looking at the Childrenís Act at the same time. And there is no saying that we donít need to do that; we do need to do that as well. But first of all, we need to look at the Anglin report recommendations and the Child Welfare League of Canada recommendations that are going to be coming at the end of June, and to work with First Nations on those, as well as other Yukon people.
So I will say to the member for the eighth time that my priority as the minister is to immediately, or as soon as possible, improve the lives of children in care by looking at the programs and services that affect those children every day. The way I can do that is by putting every resource that I have available toward the Anglin report recommendations, as well as the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada report. I would rather do that, and minimize the other resources on the Childrenís Act, than do it the other way around. I would like to affect childrenís lives immediately or as soon as possible in a better way. The best way I can do that is to look at the recommendations from the Anglin report. I would like to do that now rather than four years down the road when legislative changes from the review of the Childrenís Act would take effect. By that time, most of the children who are in care today will no longer be in the system.
The member opposite is probably familiar with the problems of being the Minister of Health. The member opposite will probably stand up again and talk about how, in the past, I advocated for a review of the Childrenís Act. Iím still advocating for a review of the Childrenís Act, and we are doing that slowly; however, itís not a priority.
Mr. Roberts: How things do change when one moves to the other side. I would like to challenge the minister to be creative. The minister actually came up with the answer herself. We have to go out for the Anglin report, out for the Child Welfare League report ó go out for the Childrenís Act review at the same time. Do it all at once, and continue to do things. We know that, when reports are being done, the departments are immediately working on solutions. We know that. Itís not a mystery. We donít have to wait until the report is in our hand before we do something about it. We know that the people involved in these various departments get right out there and start changing the way they do things and how they deliver services. Iím just encouraging the minister to be creative ó do that. Get out there and do it, because youíre going to have a lot of support ó I should say the minister will have a lot of support.
Iím just going to close off with another kind of quote: for all the things as they unfold as they should, perhaps weíll look at the Childrenís Act. Iím not going to belabour this ó weíre not getting anywhere. Well, I hope we got somewhere. These are the memberís words, by the way, when the member was coming up against a former Health minister, who sat in that very chair.
I really believe the minister can do it. I believe the minister has the willpower; I believe the minister has the understanding; I believe the minister can go right ahead and move very clearly on this. I hope weíre not belabouring our discussion here. I hope this discussion was worth the words that came out, because I know the minister wants to do the right thing.
Thatís why I think government can work very collaboratively, work together, because we can learn from each other.
I have a few other questions regarding the First Nationsí involvement in the health secretariat, if you want to call it that. We know that the Anglin report made a number of comments about the issue of First Nationsí participation, and actually my understanding from the Child Welfare League report, the part that I do have, the First Nations part, is that there is a lot of suggestion in there that we move very quickly in trying to work with our First Nation partners. What movements have been made so far in trying to bring that together? What initiatives have taken place since the Anglin report, which has promoted more First Nationsí involvement in the process of involving our partners in the health care of our young people?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, weíre working with the First Nations Health Commission on this issue, and thatís the issue of the First Nation child welfare secretariat position, which we have funded to the tune of $60,000 with the Council of Yukon First Nations. Now, that position needs to be fleshed out. There needs to be a terms of reference for that. There needs to be a better understanding from all the Yukon First Nations about what that position should be doing. Our direction with that position, from our perspective, is to work with Yukon First Nations on the recommendations of the Anglin report, as well as the Child Welfare League of Canada report.
The member opposite continually refers to the list of comments that he has that were given from the Child Welfare League of Canada back to Yukon First Nations, and suggests that thatís part of the Child Welfare League final report, and it certainly is not, Mr. Chair. I have not been given that report. That report is not complete; it hasnít been written. It will be on my desk, theoretically, at the end of June. Now, Mr. Chair, the list of comments reporting back to the stakeholders who gave those comments is not the report. It is merely a collection of comments that the consultant is taking back to the groups that made the comments and checking with them to be sure thatís what they said.
And I am glad that we are doing that because that will make for a better report. But the report and the recommendations that come out of the report are in no way complete and have not even started.
Mr. Roberts: I donít think I said that the report was in the hands of the minister. What I referred to was that hopefully the summary of First Nation issues was in the hands of the minister because I have a copy of it right here. So I would hope that the minister has read it. There are some very good comments in there. One of the issues around First Nation development is the building capacity. Does the minister believe there is enough money in the secretariat position, if you want to call it that, to really move down the path of building this as a solid position for the future, when it takes close to $100,000 to set up an E position that government hires? I was wondering what the ministerís views are on that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite continually refers to the summary of First Nationsí comments that was given back to First Nations, and that was the purpose of that report ó it was to go back to the people who made the comments, which were Yukon First Nations. The purpose of that report was not to give it to the minister. That report, or that summary of comments ó it is not even a report ó will become part of the Child Welfare League of Canada report, and the recommendations will come out of that.
The member opposite says that I should at least have a copy of the report. Number one, it is not a report; it is a summary of comments. Number two, the summary of comments was to go to Yukon First Nations, not to the minister. And number three, I already have the summary of comments and I have read it.
The member opposite knows that I am a voracious reader and I read everything I can get my hands on ó usually when I am in the House and listening to the fascinating dialogue from across the way. The member opposite is advocating, I believe, for the government to spend more money on this position. That is clearly what I am hearing from the member opposite. The $60,000 figure was the figure that the member opposite was advocating when he was the minister, so I am a little unclear on the change of position.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the amount that was presented was the amount the department put forth. It wasnít an amount that I advocated. Iím just clarifying for the minister that that wasnít something I was supporting. You have to have all the partners involved in the process, so I wasnít out there championing this as being the final amount. That was a negotiated process and, if thatís what they arrived at, they did it after I left.
Mr. Chair, a desire for increased responsibility is one of the main goals of First Nation responsibility for taking down or looking at family and childrenís services. Itís all part of the evolving self-government initiatives among the Yukon First Nations. How does the minister believe that weíre going to work in partnership with our First Nations to achieve this goal?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it may or may not be the goal of any individual First Nation to take down those responsibilities. It is up to that individual First Nation to decide what they want to do and where they want to spend their resources and their energy. In the meantime, we will continue to work with Yukon First Nations on family and childrenís services issues.
Mr. Roberts: What are some of the plans, or what are some of the processes, in place to ensure that we currently have a system of what we call checks and balances in our health care delivery, for example, with our group homes, with the contractual group homes? How do we ensure that services are being delivered? Are there monthly reports, weekly reports, every six months, whatever? Are we doing the job? Is the government doing the job that weíre contracting for, or are the services being provided by government? We provide a number of services that we pay directly for. How do we ensure that weíre delivering the services that are needed?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Obviously it depends on what the service is. The contract registry is filled with hundreds of services the government contracts for. I believe the member opposite is not talking about health care services, heís talking about social services, and he is referring to group homes. I have a letter that I have prepared. I just finished signing it today and, through the wonders of the internal mail system, the member opposite should be getting a copy of that, perhaps by the end of the week. He will know that there are a number of different regulatory positions that the government has when they contract with a group to do, for example, a group home.
One of the things that we do is regular inspections, like the on-site inspection, which is once a year. There are also fire inspections, health inspections and a series of building inspections, if need be. In addition to that, there are regular visits two or three times a week, in most cases, by group home social workers who do regular inspections of the programs that are being delivered, as well as the physical plant of each group home. So there are regular inspections and regular checks of what services are being offered.
Thatís relatively recent. I remember, under previous governments, that oftentimes the contract would be let and that was it, and there was very, very little interaction with the department, as clearly was pointed out in the group home review done by the NDP government. There were changes, at that time, to the process to make sure that there were more regular checks on what was actually happening in the group homes. There were safety issues at the time, if I recall ó personal safety issues for people who were staff in those group homes. There were also issues, at that time, on the lack of cultural programming ó total lack of cultural programming. There were other abusive situations for the staff by the management, and those things all came out as a result of the group home report that was done by the NDP government.
We have moved along the path, being very mindful that that may be a problem again when we work with private operators. We are ever more vigilant of those possibilities. Because we are responsible for the best interests of each Yukon child, and particularly those who are in our care, so we regularly monitor those contracts.
Mr. Roberts: We know that children are not only in the care of the Health department, but they are also in the care of the Department of Education. A number of children are involved in Justice. Some of them are involved in a variety of other cross departments, and I was wondering, from the ministerís point of view ó we know that, in the past, sometimes communication among departments hasnít always been fairly clear as to how they were working together. I guess Iíd like to know, from the ministerís point of view, how is the minister promoting interdepartmental collaboration in an ongoing way? How are we building for the future? We know that, quite often ó I know a lot of the individuals working in the departments meet on a periodic basic, but how do the ministers collaborate? How do they work together to ensure that they have a good handle on the issue so that, when decisions have to be made, it is not going to be sort of a knee-jerk one, but itís going to be a collaborative one? Maybe the minister would give me some idea of what they are doing?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite, I believe, when he was talking about how officials work together, was talking about the inter-agency working committees that are in place, for example, between the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Education. Out of that working committee came the permission slips that foster parents could sign, for example, for the kids who were in their care who were also in the education system. So those inter-agency committees work.
And we talk about protocols; there are protocols in place between departments, but they mostly speak to the issue of privacy and security for the children who are in care, and they donít often have anything else to do with the good working together of those two departments ó say, for example, between Education and Health and Social Services.
So thatís why these committees have been put in place. Obviously, they work sometimes, and they could work better at other times. It depends on what the challenge is thatís given to each committee. As for how the ministers talk to each other, we talk to each other all the time. Despite the fact that we donít have a caucus any more, we have caucus meetings.
At that time, we do regular updates on what each of the departments is doing and what policy work weíre working on in each of the various ministries. Those are very productive meetings now. Theyíre actually quite pleasant. On more than one occasion, because we have that regular dialogue with each other, we have found there are ways we can work better together.
I remember just dreading going to those meetings in the past, and they have actually been quite enjoyable lately. They have been productive in the sense that we have been able to talk about a number of different issues and about where we want to go, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.
We hear from non-government organizations at those meetings, we get presentations from other departments and other levels of government ó theyíre quite productive, and we share information that way.
Mr. Roberts: Well, thatís very good. I would hope that itís not just sort of casual talk. I would hope itís very directed, because we know that casual talk quite often doesnít lead to any action. I know how busy ministers can get. Ministers get very busy, and they also become "siloed" very quickly because of the amount of pressure put on them by a variety of people. So, I would like to encourage the minister to ensure that the ministers donít become "siloed" because thatís what has happened in past governments.
Itís a bit of advice, just from my own observation. I would believe that there are other ways of doing things, traditionally or historically, but we donít always have to go down that path. We can use that history to help build a better trap. So, when it comes to children and families ó what weíre really trying to do is make some significant changes, and itís important that we look for out-of-the-box ideas. It seems to me that Iíve not heard that, other than sort of casual talk, but Iíll leave it at that.
One of the areas that I think, in my experience ó and again Iím saying that it has been very limited when it comes to being government. But even in my experience as a former educator, I have found that quite often there was a duplication of responsibilities, a duplication of roles. And we have come forward as independents with some views on how we might be able to look at out-of-the-box ideas. One of them was the idea of hiring social workers in communities who could serve not only as social workers but also as family counsellors in the school. Does the minister have any views on that? I think itís one of those areas that may be novel but, for many of our small communities, it might be very essential.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Iíll go back to some of the comments made by the member opposite about the fact that casual conversations do not lead to policy development or decisions, and clearly, at caucus, one does not make decisions. That is not the purpose of caucus meetings. Caucus meetings are to discuss issues. Decisions are made at Management Board and in Cabinet. There are vigorous discussions there ó vigorous discussions, as the member opposite will recall ó and decisions are made at that time.
The member opposite talks about ó and I remember this from when the member opposite was the minister and, quite frankly, I had forgotten about it. Maybe the member opposite can give me an idea of how far down the road he had gone with this issue with the Department of Education and maybe give me an idea of what ground does not need to be covered because it has already been done.
Mr. Roberts: The comment has been made quite often from this side that we donít answer the questions; we ask the questions. So Iím very interested in the ministerís views, but I have to comment on the fact that, once again, the minister shows a disdain for caucus by saying that caucus doesnít make any decisions.
Chair: Order please. This is a reminder to all members that we are trying to keep this on a policy level, and not go into a personal level. Thank you.
Mr. Roberts: The problem is that I think caucus is a very good way of trying to flesh out policy issues for the government. A lot of good views and a lot of good ideas come from caucus. I know that Management Board makes the final decisions, but they are not the be-all and end-all. They really affirm that the policies probably started with the communities and people. So I think that is what I was trying to get at, Mr. Chair. I donít see that as hopefully a negative comment; I see it as a positive comment. That is why we have caucus is to work for the betterment of everyone.
In the area of quality and making sure that we are doing the job as we see it being done, how does the minister see ó I know the minister made some comments that they will be doing some community visits and looking at the Anglin report and Child Welfare League of Canada work. Maybe the minister received a bit of promotion to do a little bit on the Childrenís Act as well, possibly. I am not sure communities want to hear more about what they want. They have already told us what they want. I think the communities and partnerships want action. I am asking the minister this: is there some action here in the sense of demonstrating that we are definitely moving down the path of changing how we deliver our services? Because I think that is what the concerns really are out there ó whether it is through the act, or whether it is through the way the department operates with policy. Obviously there is a lot of concern out there because of the response that was received from both these reviews about how things are done.
Can we ensure that there is going to be some action in the next while, at the same time as trying to flesh out where the other issues are? Because I think that people, after awhile, get over-reviewed and so on, and I know that maybe works against the Childrenís Act, so that is why I believe, even if you move down the path of looking at the review of the Childrenís Act, it is not going to be a long process because people have been well-prepared for it.
I guess Iím concerned about what weíre doing today. How can we assure that the services that the department is providing are of the top quality, and we are making sure that weíre going to continue to move, even doing more flexible things to build for the future?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite may recall that Iíve been doing my summer visits of the Yukon Territory for the last six years. I used to do them with the individual who is now, of course, the principal secretary. On the road we would go, and that will continue. And I would pay for those out of my own pocket, too, by the way.
The member opposite was speaking about the idea or the notion ó and Iíve heard it many times before ó about over-consultation. In the Anglin report, one of the very first recommendations under First Nations was that the Yukon territorial government must ó must ó consult with individual Yukon First Nations on an action implementation plan so that weíre not going out to the communities to consult about consultation; weíre going out to the communities to build that action plan. That action plan came out of the recommendations of the Anglin report as well as the Child Welfare League of Canada, which is more of a technical report.
The member opposite also speaks about the act regulating programs. Well, the act doesnít regulate programs, and it doesnít usually start programs. It is policy that starts programs, and policy also goes toward development of legislation, and you donít build programs that donít make sense for people, like if theyíre illegal, for example. So when weíre looking at our programs, they will be within the terms of the Childrenís Act but, quite frankly, there is very little that would be outside the purview of even the very outdated Childrenís Act that we have right now.
The member opposite is making the plea, and I have heard what he said about going and talking about the Childrenís Act at the same time, and itís a fair point. What I donít want to do is dilute the message. What I want to speak to communities about is this action implementation plan, and that actually has very little to do with the review of the Childrenís Act.
Mr. Roberts: Well, again, I would beg to differ with the minister. I think theyíre interconnected ó anything to do with children and families. Theyíre all related. I think if the minister went down that path, I think the minister would find there is a lot of crossover and connection. To say that theyíre not related, Iím not sure that is something one could find ó I think the communities, as the minister said, want action. I believe thatís very fair in making sure theyíre involved in the process, but they also want to see the plan. I think there is a lot of evidence there right now that has promoted the plan. The problem with communities, and the problem with a lot of us who walk the streets, is that we donít have the time to put this together. Thatís why we have huge resources in the department that can put the plan together and sort of bring it out from all the evidence that has been presented so far. I think thatís what communities want to see. We know this could be another delay tactic by any government to say, "Well, itíll come after the next election," or "It may never come at all."
To me, I think people are fed up with that kind of approach. They want some action. So I encourage the minister to keep those options open, build on whatís there and develop what I think ó I firmly believe that Yukoners want to see harmony in this House, instead of refuting everything that comes forward. Suggestions that come from this side are not even accepted. I think itís very important that we try to work together, because I think Yukoners are fed up with politicians. Theyíre fed up with all of us, because of how we display our inability to work together ó and the adversarial approach doesnít work.
Iím just trying to help the minister move down the path. Hopefully, Iím not making the minister defensive. I just believe there are some good ideas out there ó lots of good ideas.
The important part for all of us is to work together.
There has been a lot of discussion on FAS ó or what they call FASD now, and Iím getting used to that new term. Itís a tough one because the old term has been long in use, and I believe the new term does follow through on trying to build for the future.
One of the main issues ó and I know the minister is very passionate about FASD, and I am very passionate about it, because I really try to ensure that Iím up to date on what is going on in the world, if you want to call it that, by taking in the recent conference we had here in the Yukon, which was a great conference. I believe we can learn from some of the things that took place there. One of the main issues there is looking at the fact that we do have a serious issue here in the Yukon with many of our young people afflicted with this real, lifelong condition. And I think itís important for us to really try to put as much as we can ó and I applaud the government for finally moving ahead on the drug and alcohol money. I would be very happy if I were sitting in the ministerís seat right now with the fact that $700,000 has come forward. I would be elated because I can tell the minister and tell the House that when I was sitting over there, there was no money. So, for the government to finally realize that there is money and that they need to go down this path, I am elated. I donít care how it got there. At least we know weíre dealing with something that the minister and I can feel very confident is going to be put to good use.
I really applaud the minister for keeping the pressure on, because I can tell the House that this wasnít an easy thing to do.
One of the questions we have is about this whole area of diagnosis and assessment. How is the minister going to move forward in trying to build on what weíre hearing is happening in Alaska, Washington, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta with the diagnostic assessment process? They really believe that this is the way you have to start setting your programs. Is the minister going to be moving fairly quickly in this area, or are we going to wait until alcohol and drug programs sort of flesh out everything? We already know from the working group that came forward and said very clearly to the government that we need to go down this path. Now, are we going to wait any longer or are we going to get on with it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The FAS working group has met once on this issue and, at that time, there was an agreement from the members on the working committee that the assessment and diagnostic team should be looking at more than fetal alcohol syndrome. It should be a team more similar to what they have at the Child Development Centre. Therefore, there should be an emphasis put on diagnosing whatever disability the person has, whether itís autism, FAS, Downís syndrome or whatever it happens to be and, with that diagnosis, those individuals, through assessment, could receive the services that are available for that particular person with a disability.
Now, because this is a dramatic change in the direction the government was moving in ó because the only message that the group was given previously was that they were to work on an FAS diagnostic team, which is similar to the one they have in Alaska ó there needs to be other work done. Iíll give the member opposite an example of that.
We have heard from grassroots organizations that perhaps the medical person who is on the team doesnít have to be a doctor, that perhaps it could be a nurse. There is a checklist for diagnosing FAS, for example, and autism and a number of other fairly common disabilities, and that can be done by a nurse. Thatís a less expensive option, because nurses do more work in the communities quite often than doctors do ó more prevention work and a series of other roles and responsibilities ó and that person who is the medical body on the team could be used for other parts of the assessment process.
This has become a much bigger issue than what it was in the first place, so what I have done is asked the working group to look at the model of the greater diagnosis and greater assessment and come up with a cost for that team.
That may be, I am led to believe, quite a considerable cost. However, I have asked the group to look at efficiencies and other ways that we could deliver the assessment and diagnosis ó perhaps through the tele-health program; that might be an opportunity; or through professionals who are already available in the various Yukon communities.
Because there has been a change in focus and direction, that work may take more time than originally anticipated. As the member opposite knows, nothing is going to get done over the summer. That is normal operating procedure for the entire Yukon. People have lives and want to take advantage of the good weather, if it ever gets here. I would imagine that I will be able to have a model available for review maybe by the fall, and a costing perhaps available at that time, maybe a little bit earlier.
What I have also asked the group to look at is options. I donít want to see, "This is it, this is the ark, this is the only choice you have, minister, and if you donít do this, the whole world will fall apart" ó because that actually happens fairly often to ministers, and it isnít productive. I will be asking the group to come up with more than one option for us to examine, and we will go from there.
It is not going to happen quickly. It has been many, many years in the offing, and I can tell the member opposite that there are two positions that will become part of the alcohol and drug secretariat, and I hope that they are also part of the team in some way. There are also other positions within the new model that should also interact with that diagnostic and assessment team. It is very, very complicated and involves a tremendously large number of people, and we are aware that it will be very, very expensive, but we are looking at all the efficiencies possible. As I say, it is possible that everything might come together by some miracle by the fall. That is my hope and expectation.
Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question. I appreciate the fact that the minister has realized that this is not rocket science and that we can move ahead. Also, I would agree with the minister that, yes, a lot of things can happen to ministers over time, things that sometimes one doesnít even know until they happen.
I have one more question, one final question here. I know I said I might have three or four days of it, but Iíve decided that maybe weíre starting to get some answers here, and I think that, to me, is something thatís very important.
One of the issues when the member was sitting on this side of the House was the idea of trying to establish guaranteed annual incomes for people with profound and long-term disabilities. I know this was a very strong concern of the minister. Where is the minister at now with this view? Does the minister still believe that we must move down that path, or is this off the table, too?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, as mentioned earlier in the debate, and Iíve talked about it also in Question Period, I have restarted the anti-poverty strategy. This was something that was started by the previous government. Out of that came some very good, practical suggestions from people who lived in poverty. One of those suggestions was the kids recreation fund, for example, which is oversubscribed, to this very day, and it allows children who would not have had the opportunity to take part in cultural activities and sports activities. Itís a really good program.
Being aware of those good recommendations that came out of the anti-poverty strategy, I have started that process again. I have asked officials who are going to be interacting with the anti-poverty group to look at two things. The first one is the national child care benefit clawback, and the other one is the issue of a guaranteed income for persons with severe and profound disabilities. Not only is it on the table, but itís being actively investigated, and I expect to get some recommendations back.
The member opposite may be aware that the federal Liberals, as well as the territorial Liberals, have taken a position that this is something that they want to explore and have happen. There are models that we can look at in other jurisdictions. Newfoundland is one of them, and thatís part of the work that weíre doing as a department.
I think it only makes sense. It doesnít make sense for someone with a profound or severe disability to go out and do a job search every month. It seems like a waste of resources in many, many ways. The initial costings I have gotten back from the department have been absolutely outrageous. I have asked the department to go back and take a look at that again, in light of some of the savings they will make because they donít need the extra personnel working extra hours with those individuals to no end.
Mr. Fentie: I just have a few quick riding-specific questions for the minister.
There is a bit of a concern in the community around the possible shortage of caregivers ó nurses, nurse practitioners, what have you. Iím not going to enter into a debate with the minister, but I wonder if the minister would commit to undertake to look into this matter at the Watson Lake cottage hospital and provide her findings. I think itís a proactive approach to things ó where weíre at today, what it looks like for the long term, and if we should take steps now to ensure we donít run into a shortage of caregivers.
I think thereís an important issue here when it comes to Watson Lake specifically, because there are a number of other communities surrounding the community of Watson Lake, and their only access to medical services is the Watson Lake cottage hospital and/or the clinic and community. Some of these are out-of-territory jurisdictions, but I know we have some sort of reciprocity agreement with the Province of British Columbia and so on. I think it would just be good to have that information available, so I can pass it on to any constituents who have voiced concerns. If the minister would undertake to do that, I would be very appreciative.
The other question is around home care. Would the minister explain to me the departmentís program revolving around home care for the community of Watson Lake, as it relates to the overall home care programming and how that integrates with what is already there, which is being delivered by the Signpost Seniors?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Okay, Iíll go through it one at a time.
The first thing was about the shortage of health care professionals. There is a worldwide shortage of health care professionals. Fifty percent of the population are baby boomers, people the age of the member opposite; 50 percent of the population are ageing and requiring greater and greater services. I believe the oldest baby boomer now is 58 or 59, so itís coming up to a time when one requires even greater health care services than one did in the past. There is not the number of people coming out of the professional institutes to service such a large population with all those needs, so there is a worldwide shortage.
The member opposite may be interested to know that we are working with the Watson Lake hospital to do some training or upgrading of nurses so that they can become nurse practitioners. That is being done at the Watson Lake hospital and we are grateful for that partnership.
The member opposite is clear that the Watson Lake hospital is also a regional hospital. Yes, there are actually five communities, I believe, in that area and it services all of them. Of course, the other challenge for the Watson Lake hospital is that some of those communities are in B.C. and some of them are in the Yukon, so there is this constant problem about who pays and who goes where. That is, I know, a thorny issue and Iím familiar with that problem.
Now, I will be doing a tour, as I do every summer, of all Yukon communities, and Iíll be going into the Watson Lake hospital and personally speaking to some of the staff there, finding out what good ideas they have.
There are doctor shortages as well as nursing shortages, physiotherapist shortages, technician shortages, nutritionist shortages ó there is a shortage of everybody who is in that field. I am working in one way with the Yukon Medical Association, but Iím also working with the nursing advisory committee, and Iím hoping to do some travel around the Yukon with one representative from that committee or at least have the committee talk to people in the rural areas about the specific challenges of each community. Every community is different. Every community has different challenges and things that would make them saleable to individuals looking for that type of lifestyle. Watson Lake is quite a lovely place, and I know that, given the opportunity, there are many people who would want to go there and experience the lifestyle ó ski right out your back door. I mean, you canít beat that for a lot of people.
Like I say, Iíll definitely be working with the nursing advisory committee at least on nursing recruitment and retention issues, because itís not just recruitment, itís retention ó keeping the nurses that we already have.
As mentioned earlier in the debate, we did a little bit of a survey around Canada and found out that there are probably about 300 nurse practitioners in Canada who are available. We have 16 of them, so weíre doing fairly well for such a small jurisdiction. We also deliver health care services differently in our rural communities. In some ways thatís a model for the rest of Canada ó they want what weíve got, so we need to keep that. There are shortages of nurses in just about every community. The member opposite is quite correct and there will continue to be a shortage. Itís our challenge to try to mitigate the impact of that.
The member opposite wanted to know about home care in Watson Lake, and I can give him a brief report. If he wants more detail ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is saying that heís fine with it coming over. Iíll send him a detailed letter on this issue about home care in Watson Lake and the many different types of home care services that are available within Watson Lake.
If the member opposite has concerns that he wants to talk to me about, when we get down to Watson Lake, Iíd be quite happy to come to his house for tea and we can have a discussion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite has said that Iím allowed to come to his house and have tea so that would be great.
Mr. Fentie: Well, at the risk of being mischievous, I would point out to the minister that the memberís Liberal cousins in B.C., through their deep cuts to health care, are probably going to solve somewhat of the shortage here. I think there may be some caregivers out of work in British Columbia. The minister might want to look in that direction.
One of the long-standing issues in the community of Watson Lake ó and it goes back many, many years ó is the seniors facility. I know there is some confusion around what exactly that means, whether it be an extended care facility or some sort of multi-purpose facility. This facility would house seniors who require different levels of care throughout the day, make their daily lives somewhat easier because theyíre housed in a complex that has certain amenities or certain equipment in it that allows their daily lifestyle to become just that much easier. Some of these seniors are having much too difficult of a time on their own.
Although they donít require the 24-hour-a-day care that you might receive in an extended care facility, but there is certainly a good reason to give serious consideration to this in Watson Lake. Again, pointing to those surrounding communities around Watson Lake, and bringing on board the other governments that are responsible for those jurisdictions, we may be able to come up with a very workable plan, because the population, as the minister pointed out, is getting older, and they are staying. Yes, I am looking for a spot ó a room with a view ó I am getting older.
Seriously, in all these communities ó whether it be Lower Post, Good Hope Lake, Watson Lake or the villages near Watson Lake ó the population is ageing and the needs are increasing for this type of facility. We do have, I think, a very feasible option in property that is right next to the hospital. It is vacant property and could certainly serve the bill, and it is close to the hospital, which makes it that much more attractive.
That is all I have on that matter. I would like to ask the minister if she would undertake, when in Watson Lake, to sit down with the Signpost Seniors, doctors and with any other person who may want to provide insight on this issue for the minister, and I would thank her in advance if she would do so.
The last issue I have is regarding the First Nation dental issue. I know that this issue just came up on the news recently; however, going back a number of years when Watson Lake did have a resident dentist, there was a problem at that time, and it was very similar to what the dentists here are pointing out in Whitehorse about how it is very difficult to deal with the federal government on these issues. At the end of the day, what is happening here is that First Nation children, especially, are not receiving a standard required level of dental care. That is only going to compound our problems in the future, should their dental health deteriorate and move into other areas of health problems.
I would urge the minister to somehow get the federal government to come up with a sensible approach to this, to deal with this issue. I think itís a win-win for everybody, especially for First Nation children who are in the most need for this type of dental care.
With that, thatís all I have, Mr. Chair. The last one is merely suggestion. If the minister wants to make contact with DIAND and offer any options or possible options toward this issue, I would be pleased if the minister would forward to me any responses from DIAND.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite may or may not be aware of the fact that my background is in gerontology, which is the normal process of ageing, and that I worked with seniors for many years in non-government organizations prior to my political life. So Iím aware of many of the issues around seniors and health issues and social services issues.
The supported independent living service is lacking in the Yukon Territory, not just in Watson Lake but in all Yukon communities. Itís there for some people, but there still seems to be a gap in the service that was identified in one of the last Yukon Housing studies, so that a person goes into seniors apartments, and then the next step seems to be into a relatively high-care facility. There seems to be very little in-between. So what the governments have done over time is develop these home care services, and thatís a really important service, so that you donít go from living in your house by yourself to going into a level 3 care program. It doesnít make any sense to be doing that.
So weíre actively working on the supported independent living model and ways that we can improve that.
And weíre looking in other jurisdictions and what they do as well.
Now, speaking of other jurisdictions, one of the problems that Watson Lake has is that it does, of course, have many jurisdictions. I remember that when I was in opposition I was looking at this, and the biggest problem was that the Watson Lake hospital always has problems getting DIAND or the Province of British Columbia to pay for individuals who use the services of the hospital. The province, at the time, just flatly refused to pay for extended care programs delivered out of the hospital. They just wouldnít pay, so people had to go back to British Columbia, even though they spent most of their daily life in the Yukon. That didnít make an awful lot of sense, but thatís what the policy was at the time.
Now, itís my understanding that the municipality of Watson Lake and the Signpost Seniors conducted a survey of needs in Watson Lake, and Iím still waiting for a proposal from the municipality as well as the Signpost Seniors, and Iím hoping that that happens soon so we can examine some of those issues and challenges with the funding. Because that is going to be the biggest challenge in developing any sort of supported independent-living model or even an extended care facility. And itís not just for seniors. My understanding is that there are other age groups that could use that type of facility in Watson Lake, although there is no waiting list right now and we havenít had any recent referrals from Watson Lake.
So, like I said, Iím waiting for that proposal to come to government, and when I do come down to Watson Lake, Iíll certainly speak to the Signpost Seniors, if thereís someone around, and the municipality, as well as the local doctor. That makes an awful lot of sense.
As for the issue around the First Nations dental program, thatís a long-standing problem. Iím not saying that it canít be solved, but people on all sides have to be willing to work on it. Sometimes the federal government has been less than understanding of local concerns. However, that doesnít mean to say that theyíre not interested in working with our government, as well as with Yukoners, on these issues.
The idea that people have to pay first before they can access services clearly puts a lot of people out of the picture for getting anything more than emergency care for dental.
I have actually been thinking about contacting the federal government on a political basis ó politician to politician ó about some of the concerns that I have, and I will be working with my officials to identify other programs where there are health care problems or social services problems.
The member opposite knows that the new Dental Profession Act actually expands the scope of practice for the dental therapist, who offer the childrenís dental program in Watson Lake, and that has been on the floor for debate already. Hopefully that will pass Legislature this time, and that will allow dental therapists to do more work between dentist visits, which are sporadic at best. We will see where we go from there. If the member opposite needs anything else, he knows how to get hold of me.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps it would be easier if we take off from where we left off. There is quite an issue surrounding the provision of health care to First Nations, and the cost being incurred and, like the provision of uninsured benefits by Indian Affairs to First Nations ó i.e. the dental program ó there appears to be a reluctance on the part of the federal government to meet their obligations and pay the bills. What is the current status of the Government of Yukon, specifically the Department of Health accounts receivable, for services provided to First Nations?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I was remiss in my previous conversation with the Member for Watson Lake. What I didnít mention to him is that it is politician to politician to politician about First Nations health programs. Chief McGinty has been assigned by the Council of Yukon First Nations elders as the chief who is responsible for First Nations health issues in the Yukon Territory. I will be working with her, as well as my federal counterpart, on a political level looking toward solutions on some of the problems we are having in the delivery of First Nation health programs in Yukon by DIAND.
Now, the member opposite, and I know I have certainly been hearing about this for the last six years, talks about the lag we have with us giving services to First Nation individuals, uninsured health programs, and the payment that we get back. Usually, there is a huge difference between what we bill and what we get. We have had some success, although it is limited. The recoveries from the budget this year are $1,207,000, as the member opposite is aware. One moment ó I just need to clarify that figure.
I was right; it is $1.2 million. Thatís the previous yearís recoveries, so weíre coming up slowly but surely. The member opposite knows that thereís a problem, as he has always pointed out to the Health minister of the day. He is also aware of the fact that we try regularly to get some of the back payments. There was a significant change in the back payments about three years ago, when there were some outstanding debts, I believe, back to possibly even as far as the 1960s. That was cleared up under the previous administration, under the NDP. It wasnít cleared up to our satisfaction, but we did get some money from that process. DIAND refused to pay more so we literally went back and took what we could and are endeavouring to come up with a system that works better in the future because weíre not getting paid for the services that we deliver to individuals who are their responsibility.
Mr. Jenkins: Perhaps I could ask the minister to provide where we were at on March 31 ó the end of the Yukon governmentís last fiscal period? What is the total amount that is outstanding and due to Government of Yukon from Department of Indian Affairs for all categories of health care services provided by the Government of Yukon to First Nations? Thatís what Iíd like: Health and Social Services, medical, the whole gamut. Because the total amount that was outstanding was reduced from about $40 odd million odd down to $20 something million something, but thereís still a lot of work to go and a lot of range to go.
The previous Minister of Health indicated that there were arrangements made with the federal government for payment in specific categories. Just where are we at, negotiating those arrangements? Are they ongoing or have they been concluded, or what has transpired, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, we have made considerable progress in some areas with health programs. We are still having problems with some of the social services areas. Extended care is another example. What I can do is get a detailed analysis of that for the member opposite so that he can get a better picture of where weíre succeeding and where weíre not.
Mr. Jenkins: Has someone been appointed within the department as lead on addressing the recoveries of these funds? Is there someone who is addressing the issues across all the Department of Health, and does that individual have a policy directive from this government as to what to do and how to do it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There is an individual who is assigned specifically to recoveries. That person reports to the financial administrator for the department and, yes, thatís what that job description is. Like I say ó does the member want a job description for that individual? No, heís not interested in that. But I can say that there is a specific individual assigned just to recoveries.
Mr. Jenkins: No, what I was looking for is that there is one individual in place to deal with recoveries and not each area of the Department of Health dealing specifically with the federal government ó that itís all funnelled into one individual for their attention.
What Iíd like to know is what have been the write-offs in the Department of Health for non-recoverable amounts? Letís just go over the past three years. I know the minister wonít have it at her fingertips, so she can send it over by way of legislative return. Itís an important area and I want to ensure, like everyone else in this House, that all members of the Yukon receive the best possible health care and dental care thatís available. I believe we have an obligation as a government to do what we have to do with the federal government to ensure that they address their responsibilities.
If you really look at the whole issue, itís basically the Department of Indian Affairs not addressing their responsibilities and wanting to pay the amount that they deem appropriate, not the amount thatís billed. Based on what, I donít know, but the bottom line is that Yukoners ó whether they be First Nations or otherwise ó are having a hard time, and a number cannot put the money up front to obtain the services and then recover it through the uninsured health benefits. I know that a lot of my constituency work is dealing with the federal government, specifically Indian Affairs and the uninsured health benefits, and attempting to assist those members of the First Nation who appear to be, well, treated unfairly by the program and the policies that the federal government has in place.
Iíd encourage the Minister of Health for the Yukon to assist wherever possible and to lean as heavily as possible on the federal government to recover the money thatís due to Yukon.
Mr. Chair, the recruitment and retention of health care professionals is an issue that our community, and indeed all of Yukon, is faced with. I really havenít seen much going on in this area as of late. I know that in my community, the staffing levels appear to be whatís available in the way of nurse practitioners, not what the community needs. Is there an actual document in the Department of Health that sets out how the staffing levels are going to be determined, what they should be, and what they currently are in each of the outlying nursing stations?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Actually, there isnít any document. We basically offer the services as we have in the past. Although the member opposite is trying to make the point that we arenít offering services they have in the past, there also hasnít been a worldwide shortage of professionals. Thatís why we see that there are shortages of health professionals in many, many Yukon communities.
Now, whether in fact other people would come to the Yukon and see that as a shortage is an entirely different story. Clearly, weíre interested in offering the best coverage we can to Yukoners, but we cannot make people appear out of thin air. We try very, very hard to upgrade the qualifications of the individuals who are working with us. But one couldnít take a nurse from emergency or an operating room in downtown Vancouver and plop that person in Beaver Creek as a nurse practitioner. It just doesnít make sense ó itís not a nurse is a nurse.
Different doctors have different skills, different areas that they want to work in, different things that they want to do. We try to get the best fit we can. It doesnít always work, and itís something that weíre trying to work on with the professional groups themselves. I have also spoken to the tech association, for example, at the hospital, and they have been very clear with me that there is a shortage in that area, as well, which is even greater than the shortage for nurses. What things can we do to bring Yukoners along in those areas, what training can we offer, what practicum positions, what co-op positions, what summer placements can we offer in order that we can get Yukon people coming back and delivering those health care services to Yukoners? Because we know that they want to come back here and they want to live here, so half the battle is done as far as recruitment. We donít have to sell the Yukon to people who are from here. They want to be here. So thatís an area that we are really working on, as well as retention issues that we work on with not only the Yukon Medical Association but also with the nursing advisory committee, and now weíre starting to work with the tech association, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I was trying to explore with the minister is, is there a document that spells out the staffing level that each of the nursing stations should have on staff? Because I havenít been able to locate one, Mr. Chair, and we have a situation where the staffing levels are determined by whatís available in the staffing pool. Now, thatís not reasonable, and thatís not an appropriate way of dealing with the delivery of health care. It should be population driven, and it should be historically driven by the use in that respective area, and it should be staffed accordingly. It should be well known and understood when the staffing levels arenít up to the appropriate levels. Now, all I have to do is look at my community, and Iím told that there is supposed to be this many nurse practitioners at the nursing station.
I know that, for most of the time in the summer, they will be understaffed, and considerably understaffed, Mr. Chair. Thatís not fair. The minister isnít doing her job. What it means is that the nurse practitioners at the nursing station in my community will not be allowed to admit anyone if theyíre sick or injured. They are told ó and I am sure the instructions will come down forthwith ó "You shall package and ship." So, weíre into a package-and-ship program ó no admissions. And that leads to all sorts of other problems.
I donít know how many of my constituents have been medevacíd in the last couple of years out of Dawson; they go to emergency over here at the Whitehorse General Hospital; they are seen by a doctor because this minister has failed in addressing her responsibilities to have on-call fees negotiated with the doctors in Dawson; they are admitted to emergency; they are seen by a doctor here in Whitehorse; they are released; they are told to go downtown and get a hotel room ó and thereís a contract in place with one hotel or something or other and thatís where they should go. And then, hopefully, they can be put on the bus the next day or put on the airplane. But many, many times the airline is full or there are no seats on the bus and they are here for several days, and just going back and forth. In a number of cases, they have family at home. This is not the way Yukoners should be treated.
Now, there is a solution to the problem, Mr. Chair, and Iíd encourage the minister to sit down and have her officials negotiate on-call agreements with the medical doctors in Dawson.
That will not preclude every medical emergency and the need for medevacs, because there will always be a need for medevacs, but what it means is that there will probably be a lot fewer medevacs, and those individuals will be admitted to the hospital here in Whitehorse, by and large, and have the care of a hospital facility.
When will the minister come to realize that an overview of the medical situation in Yukon is needed, specifically in rural Yukon, and that what should drive the staffing levels are the needs? A staffing level should be set for each of our nursing stations. Does the minister not see the need for that kind of approach? It is kind of a commonsense approach, so I can understand where the Liberals might have difficulty with it, but that is the way most businesses operate. If there is a demonstrated need to a certain level, you staff to that level.
Total emergencies and major catastrophes canít be anticipated or staffed for, but we have to have a backup plan as to what to do. All too often, the staffing levels at the nursing station in my community are significantly less than what they should be and, very often, a nurse practitioner is pulled out and sent to another community where they have had a critical situation arise in that community, so the staffing levels we have are further eroding, and the burnout level is rising, and thatís not fair.
Iíd encourage the minister to go back and ask her officials how much the doctors in Dawson earn in a year and divide it over the three doctors who are there. Then, further to that, find out what some of these nurse practitioners earn in a year as a consequence of overtime. Itís quite a comparison ó quite a comparison indeed, because the doctors have a whole lot of additional costs to pay, staff to pay and services to pay for, whereas the nurse practitioners donít have that added financial burden. The biggest financial burden they have is paying Revenue Canada, and the amount they send that way is very, very significant, primarily because of the overtime that they must put in because they feel they must.
Now, the minister is going to have to attend to this responsibility that she has and address this issue. When are we going to see something happen, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís look at quite a few of the issues that the member opposite has brought forward. The first thing is that there is a float nurse who is based out of Dawson City, so it is the role of that float nurse to go to communities where there is a shortage or where thereís a problem. The member opposite refuses to acknowledge that there is a worldwide shortage of nurses. Nevertheless, in the Yukon, we have 16 nurse practitioners. There are only 300 in Canada who are available. We are quite fortunate. Nevertheless, there is a problem ó there is a shortage at just about every one of the health stations; there is a shortage throughout the Yukon. The member opposite is suggesting that we should come up with some formula to decide how many nurses should be in each community.
Iíd like to suggest to the member opposite that, if we did do something like this, we would do it with health professionals in the community, including the doctors, the nursing advisory committee that looks at the whole Yukon, as well as the nurses who are there. It is quite likely that that committee may decide that there need to be fewer nurses in Dawson City because the figure of six, for example, has been based on past practice and data, and that might end up being what we have to do.
Actually, I think that, out of all the things the member says, that one actually might make sense. The reason I say that is that then we can at least have a standard so we can decide whether there is a shortage or if itís just a perceived shortage.
You know, once every five or six hundred comments, the member opposite does have some very good points, and that was a very good point. The member opposite talks about resolving the on-call issue in Dawson and how it is my responsibility to resolve that issue. That issue has been ongoing for many, many years. Now, the payment for on-call was negotiated in the settlement with Yukon physicians. Dawson and Watson Lake physicians who provide on-call services are eligible to share an annual payment of $100,000 per community. That is a significant amount of money. Nevertheless, it still doesnít seem to be adequate for the services that are being provided by the physicians in Dawson City. We are continuing to negotiate with them, and that issue will be resolved.
The level of medevacs from Dawson City ó letís be clear ó has not increased in proportion to the increases in other communities.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is indicating that now ó heís saying that the medevacs are actually going down. Only a few minutes ago, he said that they had actually gone up. Itís hard to keep track.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite should be aware that we are working with the nursing advisory committee to come up with some new and practical solutions on nursing recruitment and retention, but there is a problem. There is a huge problem, and itís worldwide. I actually quite like the idea of going back and coming up with a formula.
That makes a lot of sense. What I donít want to do is end up getting a solution thatís an outside solution. It sounds to me that thatís something we would need to work on with the local people who understand the local issues in each of the communities, as well as some sort of national standard for whatís normal, because we do have to get realistic at some point.
The member opposite has constantly said that Liberals donít know about common sense, but considering weíre over on this side of the House and people with common sense are the ones who get elected, Iíd like to suggest that Liberals do have common sense, as do the members opposite, and occasionally they exhibit that. And this was one of those times. It was rare, but it was enjoyable, and I will take the memberís suggestion to heart and start working on it. That makes a lot of sense.
Mr. Jenkins: The other issue of attraction and recruitment of health care professionals, specifically nurse practitioners, for our community, can be dealt with if, number one, they have a wage and benefit package and some security that theyíre going to be offered a permanent job in the community. That was very, very hard to do and very, very hard for the last two individuals to obtain.
The other area is adequate housing, and we spoke on this at length with the minister responsible for Yukon Housing.
The other area that can be looked at is to encourage these individuals to become permanent residents in the community and buy their own home, but what itís going to take in light of the economic conditions that this government has helped create, maintain and support ó which are very, very poor; thereís no housing market outside Whitehorse ó is to increase the buyback from the dismal $68,000 to double it to a level commensurate with housing costs that are currently in place today ó provide an incentive.
I donít know what the problem is that this minister has with head-on meeting the tasks. But first of all, when you are running a department, the basics are to determine what the needs are and how to meet the needs. So, number one, we determine what the needs are; number two, how can we meet the needs? And what we have is a situation where the minister has the cart pushing the horse, and it ainít going to work, and it is not working. So, determine the number of nurse practitioners that are necessary ó and it will fluctuate. There will be more needed in the summer months in my community, and if industry ever comes back ó if we can get the Minister of Environment off of creating nothing but parks in the Yukon and allow industry to grow and get the mining industry back to what it was in our area ó there is going to be quite an added need for health care. Because not only is the added population going to add to the baseload, we then get into the need to address accidents, which we know will occur ó hopefully on less of an amount and less of a number, but accidents, although preventable, still occur. I would encourage the minister to move forward, provide a decent wage and benefit package, get with the program and provide some decent housing, encourage these people to reside in rural Yukon, and offer them some incentive with a buyback program.
But start making some of these people an offer, Mr. Chair, because those offers, by and large, are not there, which brings us to the next problem we have in a lot of rural Yukon ó our health care facilities. What are the timelines for a new extended care facility, or a facility in Dawson ó that was for Watson Lake? Dawson could use a new seniors residence of a higher level than what we currently enjoy. Itís usually full, and when the level of care needed is beyond a certain level, what do we do? We package and ship, send these seniors to Whitehorse so that they can die in Whitehorse ó a very, very nice way that this government treats our seniors, Mr. Chair.
Iíd encourage them to move forward on facilities in rural Yukon, specifically in the two larger communities of Watson Lake and Dawson, because thereís a demonstrated need, and itís growing, Mr. Chair. So Iíd like to know the Minister of Healthís timelines for addressing this growing need for an improved seniors residence and a new health care facility in Dawson?
It must be noted that about the only facility in our community that the government owns and operates that has full climate control, with all the bells and whistles, where the temperature is maintained beautifully year-round, spring and fall and summer and winter ó in the winter thereís a heck of a heating system; in the summer thereís a heck of an air conditioning system. You know what that building is? Itís the liquor store.
Itís the liquor store. None of the other buildings ó specifically neither the hospital nor our seniors residence have full temperature control.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite was talking about the different types of housing options available to the many nurses in our communities, and indeed I have spoken to nurses in a number of communities and each one has an individual problem or challenge that they would like to have addressed. The type of housing available in each community is of course different. Some nurses want to buy; some donít want to lay down those types of roots, they would just prefer to have housing provided to them. So itís dealt with on an individual basis.
The type of housing is as important. In some communities, the housing for the nurses is in the nursing station, and this makes for a very disruptive lifestyle. Thatís the sort of thing that weíll be working on on a community-by-community basis.
The issue of deciding about what the levels should be as far as staffing is also a collective bargaining issue. Thatís something that we would have to deal with at the same time.
Now, there was a federal formula that was used years ago and we based our staffing on it. I guess these were before phase 2 of the health transfer in the communities. Maybe we need to go back and review that formula for the staffing because I know itís old, and I donít know if it makes any sense any more.
So the member opposite has brought up a point, and I also need him to know that there have been formulas developed in the past ó whether they make sense any more is hard to describe.
The member opposite is making the case for the development of a new seniors facility in Dawson City, possibly to replace McDonald Lodge or to increase the level or type of services available for seniors in Dawson City.
And I hear the message that he is giving. Right now we are focusing in on Whitehorse and the facility that we have built. It is also bringing us huge O&M costs along with the facility. As the needs change and emerge in each community, we will of course address these needs, study them and try to provide the best services we can for each community. A lot of it is based on population. Although Dawson City has been pretty constant over the years in the winter, something that we are obviously going to have to look at in the future in a number of Yukon communities is the increased need for services to seniors.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister aware of the current occupancy level at McDonald Lodge? It is full and the last time a vacancy occurred was quite some time ago, and there has been a number of seniors relocated from McDonald Lodge to Whitehorse just this year. There is a shortage of space currently that this government is not addressing. There is a shortage of all the services that this minister provides, by and large, in my community, and I would encourage her to go back and look at the federal formula. I am somewhat familiar with it because I recall negotiating with Dr. Walker when he was head of the medical services branch for the federal government here in the Yukon and operated the nursing station in Dawson City as to the staffing levels that were necessary at that time. I can tell the minister that there has been a considerable deviation downward from the staffing levels at that time with less population.
Itís not what it currently is at. Itís less today, attempting to serve a larger population. Iíd encourage the minister to go back and have a look at that formula because it spells it out.
The area surrounding the health care professionals and the housing ó thatís a major issue with health care professionals and attracting and recruiting them to rural Yukon. Itís not an issue thatís going to take much to do, given that Yukon Housing Corporation has the mandate to deliver staff housing for the Government of Yukon. The stock and quality of the housing units is not what it should be or what it could be. I will encourage the Minister of Health to go to have a look at housing units and the new housing stock that the RCMP are building in rural Yukon. Itís way above and beyond ó and they have been through all of the hoops. They have been through the trailer stage, the double-wide, the small modulars. Now, theyíre into a stick-built home thatís encouraging the members to stay.
Now, the minister can go out and reinvent the wheel or she can look around at what other departments of the government are doing, and thatís one I suggest she look at. I know that even in the field weíre in, the provision of staff accommodations is very, very important. At any given time, we have upwards of 18 to 20 of our employees in a small firm in staff accommodations that are quite heavily subsidized.
Thatís what you pretty well have to do to attract, recruit and retain employees, and thatís in a very competitive marketplace. So the minister has the tools at her disposal, but I havenít seen any movement on this issue for quite a number of years. I encourage her to have a look at it and do something with it, because I know she can. Unlike the Minister of Environment who just wants to see the Yukon depopulated and created into one big park, I think there are some very outstanding intentions of the Minister of Health to address the health care needs, and Iíd encourage her to move forward.
One of the other issues that has been brought to my attention, Mr. Chair, is with the devolution transfer of health care to Yukon, and indeed weíre going to experience it in quite a number of other areas. We seem to omit the inclusion of a requirement for service in both official languages. Now, thatís an issue that has been brought up, brought to my attention on a number of occasions. Just what is the governmentís policy and position on both official languages and the use of them within government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I need to remind the member opposite that, when he was talking about housing for nurses in the communities, that is actually a collective bargaining issue. That is one of the points that we need to deal with during the collective bargaining process.
I can give the member opposite some information about French language services and health care in the Yukon. First of all, representatives from the department met with representatives of l'Association des franco-yukonnais, or líAFY, as recently as March 28 to hear their concerns. The department is looking at options and opportunities to respond to their specific concerns, including addressing the need for French-speaking reception in emergency services at Whitehorse General Hospital and services in French at the Whitehorse Health Centre.
The governmentís position is that French-speaking services at both the hospital and the health centre are a Health Canada responsibility, and since that responsibility was not devolved in the health transfer in 1993 and 1997, it still remains their responsibility. There are a number of front-line, bilingual positions throughout the department and they currently deliver services in French when they are requested. The department is willing to work with the French-speaking community, the hospital and the federal government to find a solution to this issue.
There is also a federal/provincial/territorial working group that is working on this issue on a national level, and we are part of that group.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, weíre just seeing the beginning of this service in both official languages, given that there are a number of other federal departments that are going to be devolved to the Government of Yukon in due course. There appear to be no provisions for the provision of services in both official languages in these departments that are going to be devolved to Yukon. Thereís a cost associated with that but, I guess, in our haste to see these transfers take place, the government has been remiss in addressing the responsibility that all Canadians have for addressing issues in both official languages. Iíd encourage the other ministers who are going to be taking over these new departments to have a serious look at this area before taking on the responsibility.
Mr. Chair, I have a couple of other issues Iíd like to explore with the minister.
Group homes ó under the governance of this Liberal government, there were a number of independent group homes operated specifically by Gibbs Group Homes that this Yukon Liberal government has basically forced into receivership, and they are going the way of the dodo bird.
There are cancelled contracts with them, and it has made it less and less profitable for them to operate, so they have had no option but to pull up stakes and move on. They have left the government in the position of having to operate and take over the responsibility for group homes.
What I would like to know from the minister is, who is now monitoring them? It used to be that the Government of Yukon monitored the independent contractors who provided the service, and there was a lot of information that flowed back and forth and a lot of insight as to what was going on. Today, the only ones who are voicing any concerns are some of the members of the group home. They are not allowed to say anything, and we arenít supposed to be able to listen to them, but I guess in our role as elected officials, we end up listening to them.
I would like to know from the minister who is monitoring the situation, now that the group homes are all in-house? We know there are still a lot of problems. We know the occupancy loads are still very high. I look right out my front window and down the street, and the frequency that the RCMP show up at this one place is still quite numerous. I know the problems have not gone away. So who is watching the watchers? Is there a reporting system in place, and how is that being monitored, and who is overseeing these group homes now that they have been taken in-house? The majority of them are now in-house, operated by Government of Yukon.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is under the misconception that the Yukon government has taken over the group home contracts, and thatís not what happened, and not even close to totally.
I will give a chronology to the member opposite about what happened with that particular contract failure. I will also tell the member opposite that I will be sending him a detailed listing about who and how the monitoring is done on these contracts, just as Iíve sent to the Member for Porter Creek North. This has come up a number of times in this debate, so I wonít repeat it. We try not to do endless repetition within the debate, but I will therefore forward the information to the member opposite, and I will give him a chronology now of what happened with that contract.
During the week of March 18, 2002, Yukon terminated all four remaining contracts with Gibbs Group Homes. The action was taken because of the failure of Gibbs to pay staff wages on March 15. Three of the four contracts provided needed residential care for eight very disabled children. None of these children can live in a normal family setting, and they must be supervised 24 hours a day.
Yukon negotiated a new one-year contract with another Yukon company so that continuous care could be given to seven boys in two of the homes. Interim arrangements have been made for the remaining boy, while negotiations are underway for a new contractor.
While our first concern in this series of events has been the disabled children, I should also mention that about 36 employees were personally affected by Gibbsí failure to pay the wages. In accordance with the requirements of the contracting regulations, all contracts will be tendered at the conclusion of their current term.
Mr. Jenkins: What steps is the government taking to ensure that all the former employees have been paid?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Because this government was proactive, most of the Gibbs former staff will be paid for the final two weeks of March, and they have been paid. They cannot expect to be paid for the first two weeks ó and this was done on the advice of Justice. We have already paid for that month, and we paid again for those wages. Termination of the contracts has cost Yukon an additional $85,000 in the 2001-02 fiscal year. Gibbs and her accountant advised the government after Christmas of a possible cashflow problem in March. Their efforts to obtain a loan were unsuccessful and, in fall 2001, a formal and full audit of all of Gibbsí contracts in the fiscal year began. The audit was carried out.
I cannot give further information to the member opposite beyond the detailed answer I will give him about the monitoring of the contracts ó these issues are before Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess there are two issues here ó two very important issues: number one, we all want to see the children in care looked after and looked after extremely well; and number two, we want to see the previous employees compensated and receive the full value of the wages due to them. I guess the minister is hiding her hat, saying she canít do it and itís in the hands of the Department of Justice, and sheís hanging her hat on that.
So I would assume that labour standards have been brought in and ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I know the staff goes to labour standards, and Iím sure there is contract value that the labour standards can attach, and remaining value in the contract that labour standards can attach to pay out these wages.
Can the minister assure the House that all avenues have been explored to ensure that these former employees of good, good, Gibbs Group Homes get the full value of their wages, vacation pay and holiday pay due to them? Because there is a big issue here.
The government has taken it upon itself to cancel a contract, and thereís an obligation associated with that. Thereís a reason for cancelling any contract, but once the government goes that far, it doesnít spare any mercy at any time, it appears. To make sure that the employees get paid is of paramount importance, along with the care and looking after the individuals in care and control of these group homes. Thatís what Iím looking for the ministerís assurance on ó that all possible avenues are being explored and will be explored to ensure that these wages are paid.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have paid those wages twice, for at least two weeks in March. This government didnít have to do that, but we did, and it has cost us $85,000 in the process. We did that because we wanted to keep these group homes open and continue these services.
Now, I have sent the issue to Justice twice and have received the same response twice. We have done as much as we possibly can. Anything additional to this, we have been advised against. I can tell the member opposite we have gone above and beyond what normally is the case when a contractor defaults.
I need to tell the member opposite that the deputy minister has contacted all former employees with the message that we have tried every legal option known to us. For some of them, we have been unable to pay them their complete wages, but there is an avenue for them to recoup those wages, and thatís through labour standards.
I know from personal experience that that actually works. I once worked for a company that went under, and I managed to get back wages on a personal level from that company. In the letter, we will be encouraging staff to go that route and telling them how to start that process.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure there is not just the issue of wages due, Mr. Chair, but there is the issue of withholding taxes and CPP and EI remitted to Revenue Canada and the employeesí share of it, which, even though it might be an incorporated entity, the officers and directors of that corporation are ultimately responsible for it.
So Iíd encourage the minister to lean as heavily as she possibly can on her officials in the Department of Justice to pursue this, because I believe itís a travesty of justice that, number one, the contract had to be cancelled; number two, it has cost the government more; and, number three, we have a whole group of Yukoners who, in these tough economic times, are without their salaries.
Mr. Chair, there is probably about another multitude of subjects that I could carry over with, but in order to expedite the business of the House, Iím going to turn it over to my colleagues, if they have anything more in general debate, or go into line-by-line.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, weíll proceed directly to line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Administration in the amount of $4,011,000 agreed to
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $4,011,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $3,331,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $1,486,000 agreed to
On Child Placement Services
Child Placement Services in the amount of $3,413,000 agreed to
On Early Childhood and Prevention Services
Early Childhood and Prevention Services in the amount of $6,266,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Youth Services in the amount of $3,699,000 agreed to
On Childrenís Assessment and Treatment Services
Childrenís Assessment and Treatment Services in the amount of $7,753,000 agreed to
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $25,948,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $1,714,000 agreed to
On Adult Services Unit
Adult Services Unit in the amount of $11,527,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Continuing Care in the amount of $17,776,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $31,017,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $550,000 agreed to
On Insured Health and Hearing Services
Insured Health and Hearing Services in the amount of $29,882,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $20,678,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Community Health in the amount of $5,148,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services
Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services in the amount of $14,022,000 agreed to
Health Services in the amount of $70,345,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,192,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $942,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Mr. Keenan: May I have an information breakdown on that? I notice there is quite a percentage change there, and Iíd like to get an explanation.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This figure reflects how much social assistance has gone down in the communities and how there are fewer recipients of social assistance in Yukon communities, and thatís why it looks like such a significant difference. Itís a difference in numbers of individuals.
Social assistance costs continue to decrease as employable recipients move from the Yukon. Faro, with a population of 388 when the mine closed, has averaged only 15 social assistance cases. Seasonal work cleaning up the mine has, to date, qualified many residents for employment insurance, and this money has been reallocated to other areas.
Mr. Keenan: Can the minister please tell me if thatís a reflection across the Yukon? The minister used Faro as an example. The minister is nodding her head and saying yes, it is a reflection across the Yukon Territory.
Social Services in the amount of $863,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Regional Services in the amount of $4,014,000 agreed to
Chair: At this time, the Chair would like to ask questions on the alcohol and drug secretariat. Since it is a 4:30 break, the Chair will now call a break for 15 minutes and return with alcohol and drug services.
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
Chair: The Chair will make a brief statement. Rather than recalling the Speaker to the Chair to appoint an acting Chair of Committee of the Whole, the Chair will write his questions to the minister. So we can now proceed with alcohol and drug secretariat.
On Alcohol and Drug Secretariat
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Mr. Keenan: I would like to know if, at any point in time, in the alcohol and drug secretariat ó and Iíll leave it to the minister, if the minister would stand on her feet and explain to me which line captures the wilderness camps or access to the treatment centres.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There is only the one line in alcohol and drug services this time ó the $2.4 million ó but that program is included in this budget. If the member opposite wants detail on what the exact prices are for those programs, my understanding is that weíre still negotiating for them. We have a ballpark figure, but weíre negotiating down. Weíre still in that process, so when I get the final figures, I can send them on to the member opposite with detail.
Mr. Keenan: Agreed.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this big announcement that the minister made on additional drug and alcohol programming, where is that going to plug in? Where are we going to see that in the supplementary this fall?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is assuming that the $700,000 is going to show up in the supplementary budget this fall, and we havenít made that decision as yet. Obviously we have to account for the dollars and give detail on the program again, and it has to come to the House for debate. When we get the detail on that, weíll share that with the members opposite, who are going to be the ones who are going to be helping us debate the figure.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question to the minister is, what line item will that money show up in eventually?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Iím sorry, Mr. Chair ó under alcohol and drug services.
Is the member opposite suggesting that there needs to be more detail in this line, because there really is only the one line? There could be a greater reporting or we could just do it verbally in the House each time. Iím open to suggestions from the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the issue is that we have before us a 2002-03 O&M budget tabled for the Department of Health and Social Services. Earlier in the session, we had an announcement by the minister responsible for this area, announcing a tremendous increase in this area of the budget. I just want to know where this additional money is going to plug in to this budget. Thatís all.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it will go into this line so that next year when we look at the budget, the 2002-03 actuals, we will have the total figure.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to thank the minister for the opportunity to tell the minister what I expect could be in this line item. What I would like to see in this line item, in the $2.4 million, is a breakdown as to what it actually is. If there is $200,000 for a treatment camp, I want to know that and the different components. We will let the minister off the hook if the minister, at this time, canít provide those details. I will accept that, but I will accept that by way of a legislative return. But certainly next year, I would expect to see it in that matter.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: That is a good suggestion, and is well-taken. We will endeavour to provide more detail on this line next year.
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $2,407,000 agreed to
Alcohol and Drug Secretariat in the amount of $2,407,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recovery or revenues?
Mr. Jenkins: On the recoveries, I note with interest that if we look under social services for the Copper Ridge facility, we have come up with a figure that we are going to be estimating to charge the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for their access and use of that facility. That jogged my memory and allowed me to go back to what the minister had said when in opposition on the Copper Ridge facility. It was in the wrong place and it was going to cost too much to run. Obviously there is a game plan as to who is going to pay for what and how it is going to be staffed. I am not going to get into a full-blown debate, but I would like to know how it is going to be staffed, to what level, how weíve determined these recoveries and what they are based on. How successful are we going to be on recovering that kind of money from DIAND given that we donít have an agreement with them on this facility or its use?
It would appear that the agreement we have covers the level of care and is specific to facilities. Now I donít know if it was extended to this or not. Iíd like the minister to confirm that, but Iíd like the minister to table the full-blown game plan as to how this Copper Ridge facility is going to be operated, how itís going to be staffed and what they anticipate the O&M costs are going to be in total, because itís pretty loosey-goosey from what Iíve seen today.
Would the minister agree to provide that information?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Certainly, and if the information that I provide to the member opposite is not adequate, I hope that he will contact me and ask for further detail.
Mr. Jenkins: On that point, is there any move afoot by this government to look at the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation overseeing all of these entities ó all of the facilities currently operated? You know, theyíre in such close proximity that, if we want to look at whatís going on with the hospital and the facility that was built adjacent to it, because the hospital was there ó whether that was a good choice or a good decision, itís going to be reflected in what it costs to operate and provide the services in that facility. So weíre taking the patients from there and moving them to Copper Ridge, and weíre going to get into a lot more transportation back and forth. Is there some move to put the Yukon Housing Corporation over to the entity next to the hospital to see if we can reduce our total O&M costs? Is there some examination being undertaken currently by the government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As the member opposite is aware, weíre moving the residents of Thomson Centre into the Copper Ridge Place, and weíre moving the residents from Macaulay Lodge into the Thomson Centre, so weíll be offering a different level of care than we are currently providing in the Thomson Centre. We will endeavour to take advantage of the efficiency of the physical plant being located with the hospital. Itís a different type of care, though, than we have in the hospital, as the member opposite knows ó than the extended care facility or the Thomson Centre.
If the member opposite wants some detail on the shared services that we have with the hospital, I would be happy to provide that to him.
Mr. Jenkins: No, Iím currently aware of the shared services. I just wondered if there was any change or examination of dovetailing the Thomson Centre into the Whitehorse hospital, and leaving it under the control of the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation, just to facilitate cost-savings.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The hospital is run under the Yukon Hospital Act, and the level and type of care thatís offered at the Thomson Centre wouldnít come under that act. Itís not covered, and it shouldnít be, because itís a different care model. So, at this time, we are not looking at having the Yukon Hospital Corporation run the Thomson Centre.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd just like for the minister to give me a brief explanation of what is meant by third-party hospital care and third-party ambulance, and I notice thereís quite a distinct change.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Iím sorry, I was so lost in the detail, I couldnít see the forest for the trees. Oh, and the Member for Watson Lake isnít here to see that. So, thatís good.
The third-party ambulance fees are for non-residents of the Yukon Territory.
Chair: Are there any further questions on the recoveries or revenues?
Seeing no further questions, are there any questions on the grants or contributions?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I would like to know why the Youth of Today Society is looking at a 60-percent change.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Thatís because we extended the agreement over two years. Basically, weíre taking from one year and adding to the next year. Itís out of one pocket and into another, but itís an 18-month period, which doesnít cover the full two years.
Mr. Keenan: So what the minister is saying is that there hasnít been a reduction. Okay, thank you, I got a nod from the minister on that.
Iíd like to just ask, on the social services portion on the Whitehorse Transit Handy Bus, there is a 14-percent change factor. What would that be due to?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Last year, we offered the City of Whitehorse an increase so they could increase their services to the people of Whitehorse. They declined to increase their services, so we didnít put that money in the budget this year, because they werenít interested in doing that. That explains the reduction thatís seen in the line.
Mr. Keenan: So it wonít be a detriment to people who use the service?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: All this is, is a lack of an increase in services because the City of Whitehorse declined our offer.
Mr. Keenan: Under the Yukon Advisory Council on First Nations Child Welfare, there is a contribution of $41,000, and in the forecast there is no change. Iíve been led to believe that Yukon Advisory Council on First Nations Child Welfare no longer exists, so why are we putting $41,000 toward that? Is that because weíre going to have one last seminar or one last whatever? Can the minister please explain that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, at the time of preparation for the budget, we hadnít ó and we still havenít, actually ó finalized the negotiations on the child welfare secretariat. Part of the $60,000 figure that weíre negotiating comes out of the $41,000 in this line. So itís just a question of a time lag.
Chair: Seeing no further questions on transfer payments, weíll now proceed right to Vote 15.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $137,742,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Department of Finance
Chair: We will now proceed directly to the Department of Finance, Vote 12. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, thank you. I could offer the following comments for the member opposite. The Department of Finance is requesting $4.866 million in operation and maintenance for the 2002-03 fiscal year. The O&M request constitutes a decrease of $34,000, or one percent over the forecast expenditure for 2001-02. The actual O&M request is $617,000 larger than the 2001-02 main estimate figure, and this change is due to the placement of the corporate economic research and planning function in the Department of Finance as a result of renewal.
The transfer of this function increased the departmentís full-time equivalent complement by six and its base funding by $549,000. The placement of the economic research planning function in the department was to ensure that corporate strategies for the economy would be developed and coordinated centrally.
Other than this particular transfer, operations are fundamentally unchanged from the last time we debated them, Mr. Chair.
With respect to revenues, tobacco tax is increasing due to the proposed tax increase of four cents per cigarette. The projections for income tax revenue shown in the estimates have been provided by the federal government based on projections of general economic trends. Federal estimates of these taxes can fluctuate quite significantly over time, as the member opposite and the leader of the official opposition know, but due to failsafe provisions within the formula financing, these fluctuations have a fairly minimal impact overall.
I would be happy to answer any general questions prior to getting into line-by-line debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a few questions in this department. I, too, would like to move on into other departments that I think will take a bit more time in debate.
I would like to ask a couple of questions that we on this side of the House have been asking of many of the departments. Because the budget has changed in the type of materials we have been given, there are certain things that we donít see. One of them is how and whether or not we see a change in FTEs. So, Iíd like to ask whether there is a decrease or increase in FTEs in this department.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The transfer of the economic analysis research and planning unit increased the departmentís overall full-time equivalent complement by six.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe the $250,000 that we see is what we will have to debate in the capital budget. Is that the change, the $250,000 in the capital budget coming over to Finance and we see the change in FTEs? The minister is nodding her head. Are there any changes without adding the $250,000? Are there any changes in FTEs ó none at all?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. Can the minister tell us what the travel budget is for this department for ministerial travel, and whether or not it has increased?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Ministerial travel is charged to the Executive Council Office, and the ministerial travel for this fiscal year was the meetings of ministers of Finance in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and I did not attend. I donít anticipate attending any Finance minister meetings. There is none that I am aware of and I have not been called about any. The only one Finance ministers meeting that I could foresee at this point is the western premiers meeting, the western Finance ministers report, and I also chair that, and that is covered under that travel.
Mr. Fairclough: Most departments know what their travel expenses are. I know they are in Executive Council Office, but the department does know what the travel expenses are and I just wanted to know whether it has increased. Every minister in their departments does keep track of that, along with the Premier who eventually is the one who signs off these travels. I am wondering whether or not if the minister does have that in front of her, and whether or not there is an increase. The other thing I would like to know in regard to travel is whether or not the Premier has any trips planned within the territory with the Department of Finance?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I intend to travel throughout the Yukon this summer, and Iíll be discussing financial matters with the people of the Yukon, as well as other issues that people wish to bring to my attention. That travel will be paid for out of the Executive Council Office.
The travel for personnel in the Department of Finance is just a little over $20,000. In 2000-01, $21,944 was spent. The estimate for 2001-02 was $43,000. As the member can see, they budget more and then spend significantly less, so there is not a great deal of travel out of this department. There is approximately $20,000 worth of travel done by officials. As for my travel on financial consultations with Yukoners, itís paid for under Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, I believe the minister is reading out those numbers for her travel and any supporting officials who may go on her behalf or with her. There is a difference of almost $20,000 between 2000-01 and 2002-03 here. Itís an increase of about $23,000. Is that correct? I mean, those are the numbers that were just given to me here.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps this will help. In 2001-02, the estimate to be spent was $43,000. In 2002-03, the estimate to be spent is $55,000, so there is not a great deal of difference there. The 2001-02 actuals for this department were only $26,000, so they underspent in that particular line item.
Mr. Fairclough: This increase of close to 25 percent for this year over last year ó is the travel that the Premier plans to do public consultation in regard to the capital budget that they will be presenting this fall?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I outlined today and as Iíve outlined earlier in this House, the consultation I plan to do, beginning just as soon as weíve completed with the western premiers on June 6 in Dawson City, is on three key questions outlining the territoryís finances: seeking the input on the capital budget, and there has been a great deal of work done by communities already on that; seeking Yukonersí views on the permanent fund and outlining the Alaska and Alberta models; and thirdly, seeking further input, as the member opposite has suggested, on the economic strategy for the Yukon.
Thatís the consultation. I will be doing that, as I said, beginning on June 6 in Dawson City, and I will be accompanied by other members of the Cabinet and caucus when and where they are available.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister also said that she will be making community tours this summer to all the communities and First Nations. Is that correct? The minister is nodding her head.
Mr. Chair, I have a couple more questions here. When in opposition, the Premier was not in favour of deficit financing, and weíve seen governments have fairly large surpluses in the past and weíre facing one again. Iím wondering why the minister is still continuing this trend, even with a large surplus.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the large deficit that was tabled ó I indicated that this budget that was tabled this year was a trend that could not continue and cannot be sustained, and I have indicated that several times on the floor of this House. Clearly, the government has to, just as we all do ó as individuals we encourage individuals to save and set aside money in the event of eventualities that arenít predictable, and we also encourage people to live within their means, and we all try to do that ourselves as individuals, I recognize, and thatís certainly what we try to do. And the large deficit budget this year is, as I have said before, clearly unsustainable in the long term.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping that maybe all departments can do that. We have seen the Department of Health, for example, spend additional dollars of the budget, and basically that should reflect a decrease in surplus.
With the way the spending is taking place right now, are we going to be seeing the surplus that is before us now decrease? I understand this is a capital budget, but itís going to come out of next yearís funding anyway when itís presented this fall. Itís not going to be reflected in this fiscal year, but the surplus we have in this fiscal year is going to be reduced by some supplementary budget this fall.
What can we expect, and how much of this surplus can we expect to be reduced?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just for the member opposite, it is the goal of the government, of course, to live within the budget that we have presented to the House and hope to have passed by the House. The government has not made a commitment that Iím aware of, or can recall off the top of my head, to bring forward supplementary spending. I mean, weíve been asked, but we have not indicated that that is a foregone conclusion. Right now, weíre trying to live within the budget that has been presented, and the budget that has been presented draws down the estimated accumulated surplus to $25,879,000, so that is certainly the figure that one anticipates.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I clearly heard both the Finance minister and the Minister of Health say that we are going to be expecting a supplementary budget this fall. I donít want to continue down that road. I just wanted to know about the surplus, what we can expect. Itís obviously going to reflect what government brings forward for capital spending next year.
The Premier, in her explanation of the departments, talked about a couple of things that have been reflected in here. One was the taxes, and the increase in taxes, for example, with tobacco taxes. What weíve seen here is a fairly large decrease in corporate tax. I wonder if the Premier can explain ó this large decrease is a 54-percent decrease.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of points that the member opposite needs to be aware of in this particular line item. First of all, these are figures supplied by the Government of Canada, and they are also two years old. There is a two-year lag time, so we have been overpaid in the past, and the adjustment is shown this year. So these are in fact corporate taxes from two years ago.
Mr. Fairclough: What could we expect for next year? I mean, we have seen our economy in a recession and a lot less spending in the Yukon. What can we expect next year ó something similar to the numbers we see reflected here? Itís a fairly large amount ó close to $5 million. Thatís the amount of a new school in some communities.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When I was on my feet and explaining this line item earlier, I should have explained that this is a best guess, as well. There are three factors at work here. One, these figures are old. They are two years old. Itís a best forecast by the Government of Canada. They are also Government of Canada, and there was an adjustment from the Government of Canada in those figures.
So, what can we expect for next year? I would say that the best forecast is the one that the member sees in front of him. So, what we may see in the next year in the actuals would probably be that line item. And where the effects of the current economic situation ó it will take some years because these figures are so far behind, and theyíre Government of Canada and are corporate tax filings. Thatís the reason behind it. So, no one can point to, "Oh, well, itís because of XYZ reasons." There are a couple of reasons for it, and itís a combination of factors.
Mr. Fairclough: I know I am into the line section here, but I do want to ask a question about why things are the way they are. If this is two years old and we have seen people leaving the territory, we do see an increase, for example, in personal income tax, but a huge decrease in corporate tax. I know some of them are directly reflected to this year ó for example, tobacco taxes going up. I will just let the Premier go ahead and give the information.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: How Finance puts this line item for corporate taxes in is that, based on Canadaís numbers, they project what Yukon would collect in corporate taxes in the year 2002. While they are in the process of doing that, the actuals from two years ago came in and there was an adjustment from two years ago.
Let me walk the member through a number example if I could. If Finance, for example, projected in 2002, based on Canadaís numbers, that we were to get $7 million worth of corporate taxes, and then the actuals for 2000 came in and Finance is advised, and they are saying, "no, we paid you too much in 2000," and they lowered the adjustment by $3 million ó that is what can happen, so that is why the projection is that much lower in this particular example.
Just to go through that again, what happens with the corporate taxes is that Finance in Yukon talks to the Government of Canada, they make a projection and then the actual numbers for two years earlier come in and there is an adjustment made. That is why the anticipated amount there is lower. That is the reason for it. I hope that clarifies it for the member.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím still actually not clear about it because I donít fully understand how this works. I would accept a bit more detail on this particular line item. Is this the only tax or revenue thatís being affected in this way with the federal government ó the two years and so on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Itís both personal income tax and corporate tax that are calculated for this line item in this method. If the member would like, I could arrange a more detailed briefing for him with those who do the calculations present.
Mr. Fairclough: If I got the information, that would be fine.
Iím just trying to see what the picture is that is being painted here. Weíve seen an increase in personal income tax but corporate tax is going down. I wanted to know, I guess ó if this is a reflection of two years ago, it doesnít reflect what is taking place today.
Does the Government of the Yukon have a clear picture about what to expect for revenues from corporate tax this year? Is it an increase of what the numbers will be, or is there a projection that the Department of Finance has been working on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, in direct answer to the memberís question, he asked if this was the projection by the Department of Finance ó yes it is, the best projection is the line item in the budget for corporate income tax collection. So that is the best projection.
Just to elaborate, Finance works with Government of Canada on these estimates, and itís not just the Yukon and the Yukon situation that is taken into account, but itís the whole of Canada, so the national averages and so on are rolled into making these projections, and the national aggregates and so on. The Yukon, of course, is a very, very small part of that national picture so, quite often, we can experience things in the Yukon that would skew those figures quite significantly or change them quite significantly ó like, for example, when Faro shut down.
That changed significantly ó corporate taxes, personal income tax. So at that time, again, the Government of Yukon was working on the best projections for the Government of Canada, and it may be that when the personal income tax figures are actually filed, itís two years later, and thatís when thereís an adjustment. So thatís the answer. I see the member nodding.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that. I would like, though, some detail on how those are calculated. This must be an indicator, though, to government about the Yukon and the state of the Yukon and the state of affairs here in the Yukon ó if corporate taxes are going down ó and I believe the government would be looking at how they can address that, because it does impact the Yukon tremendously. Itís $5 million, and, you know, thatís the price of a school, basically.
Is there anything ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Iíll ask that question when we get to other departments, but I will be coming back to that. Weíve seen some slight increases in some fuel taxes, and theyíre both diesel fuel, I suppose. It must be gasoline.
Weíve seen a fairly huge increase in tobacco tax. The whole reasoning behind the tobacco tax was to deter people from smoking and so on. It was not to generate revenue. I see the Premier nodding her head. Will the Premier and the government now be taking those additional revenues and putting them right back into a program, then, for getting people off the bad habit of smoking?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of points I would like to make to the member opposite. First of all, although it shows an increase of 12 percent in the "Fuel Oil Tax ó Diesel" and a decrease of one percent in "Fuel Oil Tax ó Other", these are strictly volume; they are not a raise of taxes by the Yukon government. Itís strictly the volume sold.
The tobacco tax that the member references ó yes, the Minister of Health is looking at increased programming, and there is a five-percent increase overall in the health care budget. The additional revenue generated by the tobacco tax helps pay for that overall, and there are a number of programs that the minister is looking at enhancing in health delivery. We are not simply raising taxes without looking to ensure that our programming is also enhanced to help people kick the habit, so to speak.
Mr. Fairclough: My question wasnít fully answered. I understand about the fuel taxes being basically volume-driven here. I would think that this is a projection of what weíre going to be using over the next year. The minister is nodding her head on that.
We have a 28-percent increase in tobacco taxes, and the Premier said that we will see an increase in the Health and Social Services department to combat the smoking problem we have, but it is not all the increase in the tobacco taxes over last yearís amount and this yearís. Is the rest going to go into general revenue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is correct, Mr. Chair. The amounts raised by all taxes go into general revenue and the government then produces a budget. This government, being responsible, has noted that we cannot raise taxes on cigarettes and tobacco without increasing the programming and helping people kick the habit, so we are doing that as well.
Mr. Fairclough: I would expect that we would maybe see a decrease in personal income taxes with the percentage going down, if this is a reflection of two years ago. Anyway, Iíd like to leave that alone. I got the answer I wanted about the tobacco taxes.
Regarding other revenue, banking and investment, there is a huge decrease in that. Maybe I can get an explanation of why there is such a huge decrease of close to 50 percent in that amount of money ó revenues coming in.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What that line reflects is less cash on hand by the government and also lower interest and rate of return.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a few more questions here. I would like to know about the reasoning for developing the bad debts unit that is now a part of the department. Maybe I could get an explanation from the Premier about that. Itís a change in the structure and organization of the department.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The bad debts expense is the line that has always been in that department. This is the provision the Department of Finance makes for uncollectible amounts. It has been in the department, and the sum is budgeted and a best guess by the department based on past experience.
Mr. Fairclough: Is there a new position developed in this department to address bad debts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, nothing has changed in that particular area.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll ask the Premier then, if she finds out differently, to pass that information on to me, because I thought there was an additional person hired on, and I donít see it on this chart here but, when there were changes from the previous one, there was an additional person added on specifically assigned to bad debts. I just noticed that. I am not exactly sure if it was this department, but I didnít need to ask the question.
Do we now have the statistics branch in the Department of Finance?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In answer to the previous question, I think the member is confusing the bad debt expense that has been in here before with the business loans position that used to be in the Department of Economic Development, and which has been transferred to Finance. That is the difference, and that is the one person.
With respect to the statistics branch, they are with the Executive Council Office still, and the internal audit function in that organization chart. The Department of Finance has the overall financial management, and
the economic analysis section from the former Department of Economic Development has moved over.
Mr. Fairclough: In reading some materials, I wasnít quite sure where it was, either the newspaper or it was a news article on the e-mail, but the Premierís department staff was saying that the Yukonís formula financing probably wonít be affected over the next couple of years, and weíve heard over the last little while about how much we could possibly be seeing the formula financing decrease from Canada. It was, I would say, a month, month and a half ago now, since the Premier brought that to our attention. Iím wondering if now we are seeing a change, or itís the same that we could be possibly be seeing that. If the staff is already saying this, I mean, it has huge implications on our ability to spend more money in capital, for example, this fall.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe the member is talking about the money set aside for the census reserve and whether or not the formula financing would be affected by the census statistics; is that correct? Is that what the memberís referring to? Iím sorry, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, itís basically the downturn in the number of people we have here in the territory. But, in fact, if we see an increase now, it could neutralize, I guess, the decrease in our formula financing, if it were reflected over that number of years. So in reality, we could have no change, no downturn in our formula financing from Ottawa.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We will not have a definitive answer on that, Mr. Chair, until the fall, when we get a better sense of what the undercounts will be in the fall. Yes, and, sorry, itís next spring for the final census numbers now, is what weíre hearing. So we wonít have a sense of whether or not we have been impacted by the 2001 census. And the census will figure on the population between 1996 and 2001, and so the census is a snapshot of the Yukonís population at 2001, and it will go back through the preceding five years.
That our population is starting to increase now is a very good thing, but itís not going to help us with that 2001 snapshot that the census figures took. We wonít know the final figures on the census until the spring of next year.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier had a meeting with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce today and had discussion about the permanent fund. What can we expect now ó if there are any changes in the Premierís mind about how this money is to be spent and used?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím listening to what the Yukon public has to say on the permanent fund. What I can advise the member opposite is that we have paid particular attention to the Alaska and Alberta models and are using those to start the dialogue with Yukoners. In Alaska, there is an independent board set up and the state legislature directs the funds and the Alaskans receive ó and the member opposite is very familiar with this ó a yearly dividend cheque.
In Alberta, itís the provincial treasury, or in the Yukon it would be the case of the Department of Finance, that administers the fund. In both cases, it is only the interest that is spent. In Alberta, it is spent in general revenue, and in Alaska, it is administered by this independent board ó and there are the cheques, as I mentioned.
The other examples we have of this are Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They both received a equalization-stabilization payment. So, like we received a payment of some $42 million ó $36 million it was one time ó Manitoba and Saskatchewan had received a similar type of payment. What they did in both cases was to set the money aside and call it the stabilization fund. They dealt with it in that way. So those are the examples of what has happened elsewhere in the country and Iím going to be listening to what Yukoners have to say on it.
Mr. Fairclough: In Alaska, the permanent fund is way up in the billions, and the interest, of course, can be used and people see a $1,800 cheque every year. In American money, I guess thatís a fair amount. In the Yukon I would think that the permanent fund would have to build up quite high before we could really see some benefits out of it.
I would like to know from the Premier whether or not any of the general public, businesses or the Chamber of Commerce have suggested to government to scrap the permanent fund and use the $10 million thatís in it to address the economy today.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The question I was asked today was, did I prefer the Alberta or the Alaska model? That was the specific question. People are interested in discussing this and looking at the territoryís finances. Thatís what I have heard, and Iím looking forward to hearing what Yukoners have to say over the summer months so Iím not going to prejudge that.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít have too many more questions, Mr. Chair.
I thank the Premier for sending over a legislative return about the process in which capital money can be dealt with through an O&M budget such as we have, through special warrants. And I would like to ask the Premier if she has thought of any ways, other than special warrants, to ensure that departments and government continue to function while we are in the Legislature here? I know that, after the fiscal year, we obviously have to be putting money forward, but what we have seen in these special warrants is a fairly large amount of dollars and Iím wondering what the choices were that the Premier had.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: One of the other commitments we made to Yukoners was a legislative calendar, and that was issued well in advance, and thatís what was done. People knew what time frame we were working within. The other option for government is, of course, the interim supply bill. The member opposite and I were both in this Legislature when the government failed to pass an interim supply bill. That is another option.
Given the situation, the warrant is entirely in order. If the member wishes, I can provide members with a table that indicates the size of the warrant and how and when the warrant was issued. It has been used by every government.
Mr. Fairclough: I realize that the warrants are in order. This is not something the Liberal Party or the Premier have supported in the past, so I would think that this is a change of direction, a change of heart, to support a warrant such as this.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, I donít support having a large warrant and then dropping a writ, as was done. What I believe is that what we have done is operated government as we should do, and, of course, immediately tabling the information so that the matter comes to the floor of the House. And, as the member opposite is aware because I tabled the legislative return, itís entirely within the Financial Administration Act.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, would the Liberal government then take every step necessary to avoid using special warrants?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Special warrants are exactly what the member has indicated they are ó special. The method in which they are used, the reasons for their use, and so on, are very clearly laid out. We have followed those guidelines, as every other government has followed those guidelines, and what I would expect the member opposite to do.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier could have avoided this by bringing the House together, seeking an interim supply and taking a break, because what we needed to do was wait for government renewal. I donít want to go on and on about this, but I would like to read something that was brought forward by the Liberal Party. It was on March 22, 2000, right after the writ was dropped, and the Premier said "Ö 'that the governmentís decision to spend $212 million by special warrant was just another example of NDP arrogance', said Liberal Party leader, Pat Duncan." The warrants were signed on March 17, 2000. Warrants are supposed to be used, and I can table this, too.
Chair: Order please. It is important that we remember that, when naming members, we refer to them as the riding they represent or their ministry.
Mr. Fairclough: Warrants are supposed to be used for emergency spending not for political convenience, and this was said by the now Premier. "If the NDP wanted authority to spend taxpayersí money, it had the option of bringing the Legislature back early in February and getting a proper budget passed."
Isnít this what we just said, and that is why I asked the Premier about the special warrants, because there was an opportunity to bring an interim supply bill into this House. If the message were passed properly and given out to the public, we could have waited for renewal to finish up the work so we could sit, and we could have gone that route. If the Premier really believed that special warrants were used for emergency spending, then she should have followed through with that belief.
I have no further questions.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I do have to respond to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. The fact is that this government indicated clearly to the public what the legislative calendar would be, that the House would be called on April 4, 2002, and October 17, 2002. That was very clearly laid out for the public, and the reasons for that April 4 date were very clear. One has only to look at the school calendar, the Arctic Winter Games calendar and Easter, and one recognizes that there is no point coming in the House, adjourning for two weeks, and then reconvening to merely re-debate and re-debate. So that calendar was set well in advance.
The point I made in the media release that the member quoted was that the special warrant was signed with a writ in progress, and I indicated that was what was cause for concern, and I indicated that in my earlier answers, as well, that there was an election in progress and, therefore, the budget and the amount of the special warrant would be some question and some time before it would come back to the House for debate.
So that was the point of that media release, and the member opposite is well aware of the legislative calendar. We worked very hard to set it and to work with all members of this House in ensuring we were able to establish that legislative calendar, which benefits not only members of the House but every member of the Yukon public who works with us, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I just have a few questions with regard to community bank agencies. Can the Premier tell us what the provisions are in the Yukon government contract with TD Canada Trust? Just to set the stage for this, Mr. Chair, itís my understanding that the Yukon government has a multi-year contract with TD Canada Trust, and this contract allows TD Canada Trust to provide for bank agencies in the communities.
TD Canada Trust then enters into contracts with local area municipalities or First Nation governments to establish those bank agencies. Can the Premier tell us what the provisions are in the YTG contract with TD Canada Trust?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the memberís understanding is largely correct, and itís very straightforward. I will simply send him a copy of the contract. Thatís probably the easiest way to deal with it.
Mr. McRobb: All right, that would be helpful, Mr. Chair.
Just offhand, can the Premier indicate what financial or other support for insurance or security against loss by theft or fraud is provided by the Yukon government to TD Canada Trust?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít have a copy of the contract in front of me, but my understanding is that we guarantee the loss, as the Government of Yukon does. Again, that would be answered in the review of the contract. I donít have it in front of me and will send it to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would presume that, after receiving the contract, we can review the details. I thank the Premier for the response that indicated the government would guarantee the security against loss or theft.
Can the Premier also indicate what financial or other support is provided to the community bank agencies for insurance costs against theft or fraud?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To the best of my knowledge, the extent of the Government of Yukonís liability is that we cover losses against theft or fraud, but again, Mr. Chair, Iím not comfortable with this line of questioning without having the contract in front of me. So, I will commit to the member opposite that I will provide him with a copy of the contract. He can assess this answer and, if there are any additional questions, Iíd be happy to answer them.
Mr. McRobb: I will look forward to receiving the contract, but I would like to ask the question now, and if the Premier cannot answer it, then perhaps she can also get back to me in writing with her answer. My question would be that, if the government does provide financial support to cover loss or theft, then if these provisions do exist, is this government aware that funding support for those items is not transferred to the community bank agencies? Thatís one question.
Now if these provisions do not exist, the question would be why this government is entering into contracts that inevitably set up community bank agencies to bear the full cost of any loss due to theft or fraud when these banks are ill-equipped to bear that financial cost.
If the minister would care to respond at this time, thatís fine. If not, Iíll accept a response in writing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will provide a detailed written response to the member opposite, and I would like the opportunity to review the Hansard and ensure that I have fully grasped the questions. Iíll ensure the member gets a detailed response in writing. I would encourage the member, if the response is not complete or if thereís an issue that has been omitted, to advise me of such.
Mr. Jenkins: I have some issues Iíd like to raise with the Minister of Finance. I notice under other revenues that banking and investment is being significantly reduced and, yet, under O&M expenditures, our banking services are going to increase significantly. Could the minister provide some justification for these dramatic changes? We appear to have an actual in 2000-01 of $7,000, and itís increased in 2001-02 to $8,000. Now weíre going to $50,000 for banking service, page 10B-4, on treasury. In banking and investment, weíre showing a considerable reduction in what weíre going to realize from our investment portfolio.
Given that the interest rates have been down significantly for quite some time, is this because we have amounts on deposit for extended periods of time, or are we using the same practices that have been in place for investment for quite some time?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of points. First of all, itís not very often I agree with the Member for Klondike, but I will agree that interest revenue is lower. In response to the question with respect to the banking and investment revenue, the member asked why it was significantly reduced. That one is on page 10B-8 ó the $450,000. There are a couple of reasons for why that is less. First of all, the interest rates are lower and weíre receiving less money. The other is that we have a lower amount of cash on hand. The surplus has gone down quite significantly.
The second point, with respect to the $50,000 that is budgeted for the banking services, we budget that amount every year, and then the expenditures are traditionally quite a bit less.
Also, the reason for budgeting that amount more than we use is that it is provision for any banking charges that cannot be covered under our compensating balance arrangement with the TD bank. So it covers any overdraft should there be one. It is not likely to occur, but the money is there should it happen. It doesnít usually happen, but the budgeted amount is there. And again, that $50,000 budget item is the same as it has been in the past. We only use, and have only used, $7,000 or $8,000 of it, but the budget item is the same. And again, the interest revenues are down. I think the member said three percent ó or someone said that interest rates are not as high as they were some years ago. There is also a lower rate of Government of Yukon cash on hand at the bank.
I believe that that should fully answer the member opposite question; however, I can also provide a detailed and lengthy legislative return for the member opposite should he wish it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is indicating that he wishes to have a more detailed legislative return on the banking and investment line. I will provide that to the member opposite, and I would assume that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun would like to have that, as well as the House leader from the group behind the member.
The members for Whitehorse Centre, Porter Creek North and McIntyre-Takhini, Iíll provide one to their House leader, as well, and will endeavour to do that for tomorrow at the start of the session on that particular line item.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I would move you report progress on Bill No. 9.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we report progress on Bill No. 9.
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 that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.