Tuesday, March 25, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) in June 2002 the former Liberal government received a report from the Child Welfare League of Canada containing 15 recommendations regarding services for children in care of the Yukon government; and
(2) a number of these recommendations relate to the policies of the Government of Yukon and the relationships with staff and care providers;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that people, whether they be professional staff, children in care, or families in crisis, should be an immediate priority of the Yukon Party government; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to act immediately to provide the policy changes and resources necessary to ensure
(1) regular case file reviews are conducted;
(2) reviews of complaints and critical incidents are conducted on a regular basis;
(3) foster family satisfaction levels are monitored and regular interviews conducted; and
(4) exit interviews with staff and foster parents are considered standard practice.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any ministerial statements?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Electrical rate relief
Mr. McRobb:Many Yukoners are feeling the pinch at this time of the year and the situation has been worsened by skyrocketing fuel prices, job layoffs and, for seniors in particular, this governmentís refusal to increase the pioneer utility grant retroactive to last fall.
The Yukon Party government promised to bring back its previous rate relief program but has done nothing about it. If it had lived up to its promises, Yukonersí power bills would be eased up to $40 per month right now.
Can the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation tell us why he hasnít done something to help Yukoners now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre working on this, and we are concerned on this side of the House as much as they are on that side.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, obviously the government isnít working hard enough or weíd have results by now.
Many people were expecting a reduction in their electricity bill because the Yukon Party promised to implement a year-round rate relief program. Unless this is another broken promise, the minister will have to act very quickly. This program ends at the end of this month until next October. Will he assure us that the rate relief program will be continued year-round as promised?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre definitely looking at our options on this, and we will be addressing it in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: There seems to be a problem of getting answers in this House, but that is nothing unusual.
The other aspect to this is that voters expected the Yukon Party to have acted on this program by now in that the clawback feature of the program would be eliminated. That would have put money in the pockets of Yukoners who are forced to live with electric heat or those who have large families. Had the minister acted sooner, those Yukoners would now be getting a break of some $40 per month on their electric bill. There is no justification for this delay, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister commit to ending this clawback today?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This was a policy put together by an NDP government, followed through by a Liberal government. We are looking at our options here. We want to put something together that will work, and so we are looking at it and will address it in the near future.
Question re: Electrical rate relief
Mr. McRobb:I would like to follow up on this matter, Mr. Speaker, because the minister obviously is unable to tell this House of anything substantial done to date by the Yukon Party government.
This government cries poor and blames cutbacks on that terrible trajectory, yet in cases where itís proven thereís no shortage of money, the government still does nothing to help Yukoners. The only trajectory here, Mr. Speaker, is this governmentís increasing reluctance to help people in need.
Now, the Yukon Development Corporationís audited financial statements for the year-end 2001 indicates that itís swimming in cash. Thatís the funding source for this program.
I can assure the minister that expanding rate relief wonít compete with the governmentís agenda of building seniors facilities in Dawson and Watson Lake, or a bridge in Dawson, or a road to resources in southeast Yukon.
Will the minister commit to bringing in the full program right away so Yukoners will get a break, starting on next monthís power bill?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We on this side of the House are committed to making the right decision. Thatís where weíre committed. Weíre not committed to being pressured into any kind of thing that isnít the right decision. Iím telling the people across the way there that we are going to come up, weíre going to work on this, weíre concerned about it, and weíre going to come out with a policy that works.
Mr. McRobb: I submit that thatís ridiculous and thatís an excuse for work that could have been done by now. The government campaigned on restoring the previous rate relief program. What decision needs to be made? Either itís a go or it isnít. They donít have to go back to the drawing board. Theyíve already committed to bringing back this program.
Whatís this talk about a policy? There is no need for a policy here. Whatís needed is for this Cabinet or this government to make a decision to extend this program and end the clawback. I would like to ask the minister then: what are his timelines for doing those things?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, we, in our campaign, promised certain things. We are going to follow through with our campaign promises, so we are going to work on this issue. Iím not going to put a timeline on it. Iím saying itís going to be sooner than later.
Mr. McRobb: What was not good enough for the Yukon Party in opposition is all of a sudden fine for them now that they are in government. We hear no commitment, no timelines. We hear no action so the people of this territory who are having a tough time paying their bills can get a break right away. This government simply is not doing its work. The money is in the bank. The Yukon Development Corporation is swimming in cash. With a stroke of the pen, this government can help those Yukoners. We are talking residential, business and municipalities. Can the minister tell us, will this rate relief program, when it comes in, include the elimination of the clawback and the summer aspect of the program? Again, when will it be implemented?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can tell the member opposite that the NDP had a thing in place, followed by the Liberals. We donít think thatís good enough for Yukoners. Weíre looking at a new policy, and we will announce it as soon as we can.
Question re: Tourism department cutbacks
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Department of Tourism and Culture.
Since the Yukon Party tabled their budget on March 6, Yukoners have learned about the many cuts that have been made to social programs. What is now coming to light, Mr. Speaker, are the cuts to economic programs that create jobs in the private sector. Yesterday we talked about a $10-million cut in highway construction ó over 100 private sector jobs. Today letís talk about tourism.
Tourism is a key industry in this territory. It employs hundreds and hundreds of Yukoners. The Yukon Liberal government recognized the importance of tourism and increased the marketing budget each year until it reached $7.1 million in our last budget.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party promised in its election platform that a Yukon Party government would work with the tourism industry to enhance marketing. That means more money, Mr. Speaker. In this new budget, in fact, the Yukon Party has cut tourism marketing by eight percent. Will the Minister of Tourism explain that cut?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I absolutely concur with the member opposite that tourism is a very key industry. It is a major generator; it is the largest private sector employer in this territory. We value its importance and are working very closely with the industry, with all the partners, in particular with the Tourism Industry Association Yukon.
As you are aware, we had to make some difficult decisions. What we have chosen to do is to reallocate funds to other programs within the marketing budget. The Welcome Alaska program, which I believe the member opposite is probably referring to, was not working and not effective, so we feel that we could use worthwhile money elsewhere.
With respect to gateway cities, weíre continuing with that initiative to work with the gateway cities of Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary. Weíre continuing the stay-another-day initiative. As well, we are working with industry. Weíre going to be hiring a full-time product development person. We have also instructed the department to explore initiatives such as ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member conclude her answer, please.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for agreeing that tourism is important. We agree on the point that the tourism industry employs hundreds upon hundreds of Yukoners ó private sector jobs.
The fact is that the tourism marketing budget has been cut by eight percent, and with all due respect to the minister, she didnít answer the question, Mr. Speaker. Why cut marketing when it is proven that marketing works? We have seen the results of marketing. We saw increases in the marketing budget up to $7.1 million from the last Liberal government, yet it is down and cut by eight percent. So of all the cuts and choices that the member opposite had to make, why cut marketing when it is proven to work?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I just want to refer to a news release that was issued by the Tourism Industry Association earlier this year. From the president, it says that this is a tremendous success for TIA Yukon in our advocacy efforts. She was referring to a number of initiatives that we have agreed to embark on. She also said that they need to send sincere thanks and accolades to the minister and her government in taking the leadership and having the vision to work in partnership and collaboration with industry.
For the first time in many years, Mr. Speaker, I concur with the member opposite that marketing is very integral, but it is more important to use the dollars in a worthwhile way ó where you are going to get the best bang for your buck ó and I believe we are doing that.
Ms. Duncan: Well, letís talk about one of the programs that the member opposite mentioned ó the gateway cities marketing program. That program alone brought $1.3 million of new money into this territory and hundreds of visitors, and yet the minister has cut that particular program and its funding by 60 percent, and the marketing budget has been cut overall by eight percent. The Welcome Alaska program that the member mentioned earlier as not working was a partnership with the private sector, and we could see that in fact it was working because of the increases in retail sales that occurred for months until the Yukon Party took office.
The minister has still failed to explain why she has cut the marketing budget by eight percent. Why cut the successful program, the gateway cities program, by 60 percent? It is proven to work, so why cut it?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will continue to reiterate, as the member opposite just doesnít seem to get it. We certainly value the very importance of marketing and the very importance of this industry in the territory right now. Weíre working very diligently and closely with industry, as she well knows.
With respect to gateway cities, we are indeed continuing with that program. I happen to concur that it is a good program. It involves partners such as Air North, Yukon First Nations and many investors. We are very sincere in our commitment to continue that very program.
With respect to the level of commitment, I might remind the member opposite that, when this program was first embarked upon, much of it had to do with inaugural events ó kicking off the new airline. Of course, people are very well aware of the airline and of what we have to offer here, so we are continuing those efforts.
Question re: Schools, replacement of
Mr. Fairclough:Before I address my question to the Minister of Education, I would like to table a letter the minister referred to yesterday, Mr. Speaker.
The ministerís answers yesterday were less than satisfactory. The minister said that the citizens of Carmacks asked the government not to build on to the existing school. What he failed to say was that the community was asking for a new school. Itís right there in the letter, Mr. Speaker.
The community also wants to be part of every stage of the planning. The letter is dated January 10 ó plenty of time for this government to have included planning money in their budget. Why is there no planning money for a new Carmacks school reflected in the present budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. Again, I will confirm that we did get a letter from the people in Carmacks, and weíre honouring their request.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, they have a strange way of honouring their request, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday the minister said the request was not to build on to the school, but in fact it is to build a new school. If theyíre honouring their request, why isnít it reflected in the budget? The minister failed to answer the question again.
There is a priority list for capital projects that the Yukon Party could have followed, yet they have chosen to ignore it, and they went ahead and did their own thing. After the school in Pelly Crossing, Carmacks school was next on the list. Then it was F.H. Collins. It is important for communities to have some certainty about when their outdated schools will be replaced or renovated. Will the minister take the Premier and sit him down with the Village of Carmacks, the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and have serious government-to-government discussions to get planning monies for a new Carmacks school into a fall supplementary? Would the minister at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I beg to differ with the member opposite on what he is presenting as his position in this House. I would like to confirm again that we intend to honour the requests from the people of Carmacks and, to the best of my knowledge, that request was to have further discussions with the Village of Carmacks.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the minister again didnít answer the question, so hereís a third question ó three questions the minister has to answer this time.
The minister doesnít seem to be following any plan at all, so weíd like to help him out. This morning, we heard one of the ministerís officials suggest that the holdup on F.H. Collins was something to do with the Canada Winter Games. Apparently, the minister thinks itís appropriate to leave his officials hanging out to dry, because he wonít give interviews on what is clearly a political matter.
If the minister canít or wonít make decisions, will he at least summon the school council chairs and ask them to come up with a five-year capital plan for school replacement, completions and renovations? Will he at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will say to the member opposite that we, as a government, will hold to the commitments we made to the people in the Carmacks riding. We intend to have these discussions with the people in Carmacks. Some of the requests that were made by the people in the Carmacks community are somewhat out of the ordinary and are going to need a little investigating. Itís not going to be a decision that could be made in a matter of two minutes. According to the requests, quite possibly there are going to be some lengthy discussions on what weíre going to do with this project. The project is still under consideration.
Question re: Music and arts funding for schools
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education, and itís a very simple and straightforward question: does the minister recognize the important role that music and arts play in the lives of students, or does he consider them a frill?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question, and the government does support arts education in our schools, and we do take it as a serious thing.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, once again, what this government does contradicts what it says. The minister admits that music and the arts are important, yet he cuts back the funding in the area without any consultation with the people affected. On page 7-20 of the budget, thereís a 39-percent reduction to the arts contribution. Why did the minister choose to deprive the Yukon schoolchildren of the valuable experience of hearing first-rate classical musicians in their school for the sake of saving $12,000?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I feel the answer to that question is fairly simple. This government is going to focus its spending on core curriculum.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, what the minister says is he has a plan, and thatís why weíre seeing reductions in the Department of Education. Weíd like the minister to table those plans. The minister must know that students who are involved in music and arts tend to do better in school than other students. This is a very short-sighted decision, and it was made without the courtesy of informing the people at Whitehorse Concerts who have been providing these performers. This could affect their ability to bring musicians to the Yukon, but they had to learn about this cut on the radio. Will the minister now reverse his short-sighted decision and restore the arts contribution to its original amount so that Yukon students can continue getting this enriching cultural experience? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I think the answer to this question is fairly simple. The answer is no, we will not reverse the decision. As arts are an important part of our school system, I have directed the department to address arts education in the departmentís education strategy. There is only so much money in the budget, and I want to ensure it is being spent in the best way to have quality education.
Question re: Shelter for the homeless
Mr. Hardy:Iíd like to roll back the clock and give the Minister of Health and Social Services another chance to do the right thing on some outstanding social issues. Yesterday I asked about the pending closure of the new Salvation Army shelter. The minister laid the blame on the federal government and said his department is doing its bit.
I have some difficulty with the minister just washing his hands of a very real social problem. The economy is a mess; more and more people are losing their jobs; and this government is stuck playing the blame game.
Will the minister now reconsider his answers from yesterday and provide a guarantee that homeless Yukoners wonít be met with a locked door when they turn to the Salvation Army for shelter after next month?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our government has the utmost respect for the shelter being operated by the Salvation Army. To that end, we are contributing $40,000 this year to its operation. We have committed to the Salvation Army to provide that funding up front, at the beginning of the fiscal period, and weíve committed to the Salvation Army to join with them to lobby the federal Liberals, who are responsible for the reduction in funding to this organization.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, weíre all familiar with the problem of Ottawa starting things and then bailing out of the programs they start. Thatís a very common practice in the Yukon. It has been going on for years.
The real question is: what is this minister going to do to address a growing problem on his own doorstep?
This shelter has been operating almost at capacity ever since it opened. We understand eight to 10 beds have been filled almost every night. It also provides a welcome space for people with serious emotional or mental problems. Thereís a huge need, so let me put my question another way.
If the minister believes there is a need for a homeless shelter in Whitehorse, as he said, what steps has he taken to get ongoing support for the Salvation Army shelter from his governmentís federal counterpart?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I thank the member opposite for the question. It is indeed a very good question.
Let me share with the members opposite what our government is doing. We are joining with the Salvation Army. Weíve recently met with their head of operations here in the Yukon. Weíre going to be going in lockstep to the federal government, and I encourage the opposition and the member of the third party to join with us and lobby the federal government for additional funding for the Salvation Army in the Yukon. In addition to that, there is a coupon initiative that our government is paying for the printing of, which will allow people to make a contribution to the Salvation Army every time they purchase food. These are just some of the initiatives that are underway.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, guess what? We are joining with the Yukon Party government because we are asking them to do something. We are asking them to do something beyond the $40,000.
The minister talks about the $40,000 that his department is putting into this project. It makes me wonder why he would even bother doing that if the project wonít be continuing, as we heard today on the radio from the administrator of the Salvation Army.
So either the minister believes the federal government will come through or else weíre looking at another YTG commitment that could be on the chopping block.
Now, in a week or so, the Yukon is in line for an infusion of health care dollars that could be in the neighbourhood of $12 million this year. This would take some pressure off the ministerís budget; we recognize that. We also understand that Ottawa is planning a new homelessness initiative for the fall. Weíve heard that from the Salvation Army itself.
Will the minister at least agree to provide bridge funding to keep the shelter open until ongoing federal support for this program can be negotiated above and beyond the $40,000?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is exactly what our government is doing. That $40,000 that is provided to the Salvation Army is going to be front loaded, not like the previous governments have done, spacing it out over a period of time or based on usage of the facility. Weíre going to provide that total amount of money up front. Then we are going to join with the Salvation Army ó and I accept the offer from the official opposition to join with us in lockstep and go to the federal Liberal government and lobby them to restore the funding that theyíve indicated might be on the way.
The member opposite might just recall the time he spent on the radio earlier today ó and the Salvation Army ó where it was clearly indicated by the Salvation Army that the funding cuts were federal, not by our government. We are going to do our level best to ensure the continuation of this much-needed facility operated by the Salvation Army.
Question re: Program cancellations due to budget cuts
Mr. Hardy:Unfortunately, I canít bootleg onto this to respond to what he just said, otherwise weíd have a great dialogue on this subject.
But I do have a follow-up question for the same minister. It is kind of tied together. Iím reluctant to give the minister an opportunity to go back to his well-worn spin about how none of the cuts that are going on are his fault.
Yesterday, the minister also blamed Ottawa for the fact that the youth Outreach van may be out of business soon. Again, a program that is meeting a real need in Whitehorse could soon be lost. The ministerís blame game wonít save this program. Action on his part will.
Will the minister agree to provide bridge funding for the Outreach van until new ongoing federal support for this program can be negotiated?
Speaker: Before the minister answers, Iíd ask the leader of the official opposition to refer to the minister as "the minister", not as "him" or "his". Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, once again what we have here is that the Yukon Family Services is an extremely beneficial organization. They have some very extensive programs. They are completely within their range and scope of undertakings to lobby other agencies and governments for funding. They have done so effectively with the core funding provided by the Yukon government. They have obtained federal funding and have expanded the programs, and these federal boutique programs have come to an end.
Once again, our government is being asked to pick up the slack. We only have so much in our budget window. We have done our best. We have fully funded the Yukon Family Services to the same extent as they were funded last year.
Mr. Hardy: The minister is just throwing up his hat and saying thereís nothing he can do about it; itís all up to Ottawa. Well, apparently it depends on where you live. In the Premierís home town of Watson Lake, federal funding for a youth intervention counsellor apparently runs out in May; but in this case, the Yukon Party government has acted by putting up enough to keep the program going for almost a year. Same situation. Now, thatís a good thing. We applaud the minister for that, but why the double standard? Will the minister now reconsider and provide the necessary support for both the Outreach van and the Salvation Army shelter to keep those programs alive until new multi-party funding agreements have been negotiated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Speaker, this is an initiative that was funded in large part by the federal government. The federal government has backed out. The Yukon Party commitment is to the same level as per previous, and I encourage the members opposite to join with us. Letís go after the federal Liberals to put in place a whole program that will address these needs, because the feds have a wonderful way of flying into the Yukon, announcing a program, the funding is for a very short period of time, and after they bail out of that, the Yukon government is left holding the bag and being requested for funding. Thatís not fair; thatís not reasonable. Weíll do our level best to restore the funding and to lobby the federal government to restore this funding.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the Premier often talks about this as being the third largest budget in Yukon history, so obviously thereís money to be spent. Itís just a matter of choices and priorities, and we always see where the priorities are going. Itís hard to get a handle on this ministerís attitude toward non-government organizations. Last December 17, he was telling CBC radio what a great job they were doing, how cost effective they were and so on, but in the same interview, he was musing about silos of administration and the need to coordinate efforts and find cost savings. We saw his approach to cost savings at the Dawson City womenís shelter, Mr. Speaker. He broke a written contribution agreement and cut $50,000 from the shelterís budget ó the governmentís contract registry, the 11 service agreements between his department and non-government organizations that each have another year to run. What other NGOs with multi-year service agreements already in place can expect to have their funding reduced by this minister?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There must be a void of questions on the official oppositionís side given that, once again, we have the same question. With respect to the Dawson womenís shelter, the $50,000 was for double staffing. There is not a need for double staffing. The need was at Kausheeís Place and $50,000 has been added to the budget at Kausheeís Place. That is the reality of the situation. Our government is committed to addressing the needs where the needs exist. Where we have previously had funding and if there is an initiative that the feds have bailed out of, we will do our level best to find an opportunity to go after the Liberal government to restore the funding to these initiatives and these undertakings in the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. McRobb:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, March 26, 2003: Motion No. 67, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3) I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, March 26, 2003. They are Motion No. 65 and Motion No. 8.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Clerk:Motion No. 19, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 19
Speaker:It is moved by the government House leader,
THAT the hon. members Dean Hassard, hon. Peter Jenkins, Brad Cathers, Haakon Arntzen, Todd Hardy, Gary McRobb and Pat Duncan be appointed to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges;
THAT the said committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods;
THAT the said committee review, as necessary, such Standing Orders as it may decide upon;
THAT the said committee, following the conduct of any such review, report any recommendations for amendment to the Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Motion No. 19 agreed to
Motion No. 20
Clerk:Motion No. 20, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the government House leader
THAT the hon. members Brad Cathers, hon. Peter Jenkins, Lorraine Peter and Pat Duncan be appointed to the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments;
THAT the said committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods;
THAT the said committee review such new regulations as it may decide upon;
THAT the said committee review such other existing or proposed regulations as are referred to it by the Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Mr. McRobb: I have one question on this motion. Can the minister responsible advise the House when the last meeting of this committee was?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll get back to member opposite with a response.
Motion No. 20 agreed to
Motion No. 21
Clerk:Motion No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the government House leader
THAT the hon. members Todd Hardy, hon. Dennis Fentie, hon. Peter Jenkins, Patrick Rouble, Eric Fairclough and Pat Duncan be appointed to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts established pursuant to Standing Order 45(3);
THAT the said committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the committee.
Motion No. 21 agreed to
Motion No. 22
Clerk:Motion No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the government House leader
THAT the hon. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 45(2), be appointed Chair of the Membersí Services Board;
THAT hon. Dennis Fentie, Todd Hardy, Pat Duncan and hon. Peter Jenkins be appointed to the Membersí Services Board;
THAT the board consider:
(1) budget submissions for the following votes: (a) Legislative Assembly, (b) Ombudsman (including Information and Privacy Commissioner), (c) Conflicts Commission, and (d) Elections Office; and
(2) policy questions concerning matters such as: (a) space allocation, (b) staffing, (c) caucus funding, (d) media gallery House rules, and (e) Hansard; and
THAT the board fulfill its statutory responsibilities, including those in the Ombudsman Act, the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act.
Motion No. 22 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Do members wish a 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will now stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 2 ó Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Chair:We will continue on with the Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, with Vote 15, Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Weíll begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this request is for funding costs that have been incurred across the department for various initiatives.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions in regard to this department, Health and Social Services. We have a very large increase in the dollar amount in the supplementary budget. We on this side of the House would like to know when some of these increases in dollars for different line items were requested. Was it when the Liberals were still in government, through special warrants? We would like to know how much of a difference there is between that time and the special warrants that came in through the Yukon Party government ó if we can ask the minister to provide that information.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This vote request is across the entire fiscal period. We donít have a breakdown as to what costs were incurred pre-Yukon Party government coming into power and being sworn in on December 4, but we will provide the member opposite with that information.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that information coming forward. If the minister doesnít have any of the numbers before the Yukon Party was in, can he give us a breakdown of what the Yukon Party introduced through their special warrants?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the department was doing, Mr. Chair, was projecting to year-end and to the actual breakdown of what was incurred pre-Yukon Party government and after Yukon Party government. That information we will have to provide. We can indicate that some of this was contained in the subsequent warrants that were sought to allow for spending authority, but a lot of it was incurred prior to the Yukon Party coming into power.
Mr. Fairclough: What I want to get from the member opposite is ó I know the Yukon Party said they were not in favour of special warrants. They basically spoke out against it when the Liberals brought it forward. Now they bring one forward and this is what we are dealing with. It was money that was not debated and spent by the departments. The Yukon Party made all kinds of promises to the general public. I would like to know which of those promises have been committed to in these special warrants in the Department of Health?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It must be pointed out for the member opposite that, whether it is a supplementary or a special warrant, neither of these are debated before the expenses are incurred. The authority and the debate on the supplementary are after the expenses have been incurred. The same holds true for a special warrant. But with respect to what was covered under the special warrant, we have agreed to provide the member opposite with that information and we will do so.
Mr. Fairclough: I would have expected the Health minister to be a bit more prepared in this department to show figures that he felt so important to put in his special warrant ó that is, monies that are not debated on the floor and spent by the department.
I would like to ask the minister this: how soon are we able to get those numbers and that breakdown?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have before the House the entire supplementary for the department, and I am prepared to debate any aspect of this supplementary that the member wishes and will do so.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I can see that the minister opposite wonít be making much progress on some of these line items. He didnít answer my question about when we would be able to have a breakdown. We on this side of the House would like to know. Iím sure the minister would like to know what the real numbers are.
I would like to ask a couple other questions if the minister is not prepared to go into any detail in regard to the special warrants that they brought forward and weíre dealing with here today.
In regard to alcohol and drug services, the minister opposite promised that this is a top priority of the Yukon Party government. We have seen some immediate action by the minister in firing the chair of the alcohol and drug services secretariat and the dismantling of the secretariat. Now it has moved into alcohol and drug services. I would like to ask the minister what the new structure is and what new plans the minister has in place.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we currently have in place for the alcohol and drug services is a manager of that section, and that manager reports to the director of social services.
Now, there have been a number of areas where weíve streamlined the administration, and we have a community liaison position rather than three individuals tasked with that responsibility. We have one, and that individual, of course, reports to the manager.
Now, the programs that were previously delivered in that wing of the department continue to be provided, and they are now part of the alcohol and drug services, as they were before. What we have not created, as we indicated earlier, is another stovepipe of administration and another position at approximately the same level as a deputy minister.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to ask the minister if he can give us more detail on what he sees as streamlining services ó basically outline one. Can the minister give us more detail on all the services that have been streamlined in this department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Under the Yukon Party governmentís budget that is tabled and that weíll be debating soon, a complete outline of the programs as envisioned by our government is clearly laid out under the O&M in the main estimates. If the member opposite wishes to debate those at this juncture, we can provide him with the information and deal with it later on in debate, Mr. Chair.
But the programs that were up and running have been enhanced, have been developed, and are operating. There are some we will be expanding upon, and we will continue with the broad range.
Weíre going to concentrate on program delivery, Mr. Chair. Weíre not going to be concentrating on setting up another administration. The exercise is to serve the needs of those afflicted with difficulties with drugs and alcohol.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister please tell me what services will be streamlined? Iím asking the question because this is a budget brought forward by the Yukon Party and there were promises in the campaign, and thereís a huge increase in the Department of Health and Social Services.
Iíd like to ask the minister if he can provide that to us on the floor of this Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it would appear that the member opposite is somewhat confused. What will be streamlined is the administration of these programs. The programs themselves will continue to deliver the services that are needed and required. Thatís where weíre going to concentrate our efforts, and the streamlining is on the administration side. I hope that addresses the confusion the member opposite has on this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Iím not confused about this. Iím asking follow-up questions on the answers that the minister has provided on the floor. The minister did say that they were streamlining two services, so I asked the question. If weíre changing now to say that the savings are going to be in administration, then maybe the minister could lay out just how that is going to take place.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, two of the examples of changes in the administration that will have a profound effect on the cost of operating the drug and alcohol services are the elimination of the executive directorís position at a deputy minister level of remuneration. In addition, there is the communication policy office that is right under the executive director, and that has been revamped and streamlined so that the responsibilities for that area are being addressed elsewhere in the department, and the position has been revamped into another initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: Weíve got some answers out of the minister. The Premier, in his response several times in this House along with the Minister of Health, said that the alcohol and drug secretariat was a waste of money, and weíve seen some changes, a firing of one person and itís now under the alcohol and drug services. Can the minister tell this House how much money went into forming the alcohol and drug secretariat?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That occurred under a previous watch. Iíll ask the department to assemble that information for the member opposite. That was dealt with by the previous Liberal government and not under our watch, but we will get that information for the member opposite and provide it in due course.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to see the accurate number to that. I would like to ask the minister if he can give me a ballpark figure of how much money we are really looking at.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, under the Liberal watch there were quite a number of studies undertaken. There was the recruitment of the executive director, the relocation, the salary costs, the office costs and the reconfiguration of a number of offices for that position. We will get the total cost for the member opposite. I am aware of a Management Board submission of some $700,000 for this initiative. Just how much was lapsed, I canít recall.
Mr. Fairclough: I would appreciate that information coming forward to this side of the House. Can the minister tell us why he felt that the secretariat did not work? It was in the beginning stages and just formed, and communities were dealing with the secretariat. Can the minister tell us how and why he felt the secretariat did not work, or would not work or could not work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, nothing could be further from reality. We never said that the alcohol and drug secretariat would not work and could not work. What we said was that the cost of this direction was exorbitant. There are better ways of addressing the needs than this stovepipe of administration. Thatís the issue.
But in all likelihood, the alcohol and drug secretariat had the potential to work, but the question that the member should be asking is: how much would it cost to get it to work under that scenario, vis-à-vis under the current scenario?
I believe that down the road, once the member opposite sees the cost comparison as to what it could have been and what it was going to be, and what it will be down the road, and looks at our governmentís initiatives to concentrate on program delivery, he will be well satisfied with the services that alcohol and drug services in our government is providing.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister probably would not have made that statement without knowing what the cost of operating the secretariat would be. So I would like to ask the minister: how much would it have cost the government to run the secretariat? Rather than sending us details right here, maybe the minister can elaborate a bit and show us some numbers, and we can make up our minds for ourselves.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, under the Liberal watch, the initial amount that went forward for Management Boardís consideration was $700,000. There was a further $1.3 million requested to complete the alcohol and drug secretariat and its establishment.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that answer, Mr. Chair. This is to get the secretariat up and going, but the minister said that if we saw the cost of running the secretariat, we would be amazed at the increased cost versus what we have right now and that we would come up with the same conclusions. Can the minister give us a ballpark figure of what the cost would be to run this secretariat?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I canít give the member opposite a ballpark figure of what it was going to cost to run the secretariat. I know what the Liberal government had requested by way of Management Board submissions and what the Liberal government had budgeted for through the secretariat to come forward at a later date. It was $700,000 and then a further $1.3 million for this initiative. But at the end of the day, the position that our current government takes is before the Legislature in the main estimates for the O&M and capital for the department. What itís going to cost to run the alcohol and drug services under our watch is clearly defined.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if it were clear, Mr. Chair, we would have some clear answers. Iím sure the minister would not have made that statement if he didnít have the numbers in front of him.
I wonít go on about the alcohol and drug secretariat at this point.
Iíd like to ask a couple of other questions. In regard to addiction workers in the communities of Watson Lake, Dawson City and Haines Junction, these positions were advertised and later taken down. What happened to these positions, and where are they going?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, they were three positions that, yes, were advertised. They were cancelled. There was a serious concern and reservations about overlap with existing programs and a duplication of services.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to know how these positions came about. I know the reasoning for the ministerís cancellation of these positions was that it would add confusion to the communities.
Did the minister not think these positions would be an asset and would help communities in their efforts?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it was all an issue of how these three individuals would plug into existing programs primarily offered and funded by the federal government through the First Nations. There are NNADAP and the wellness workers.
But all of this is quite hypothetical, Mr. Chair, as to whether they would have worked or not worked, because thatís under the previous Liberal watch. The previous Liberal watch obviously believed that it was going to work and they were prepared to spend upwards of $4 million on this initiative in subsequent years.
That said, I believe, when the member opposite looks at our budget for this next period of time, it will be clearly spelled out how our government is going to provide alcohol and drug services through an existing envelope. Weíre going to do it with less administration and less overhead costs and weíre going to concentrate on programs and program deliveries.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, in getting back to the alcohol and drug services, I was wondering if the minister could table whatever structural change that his party is bringing forward in this section in the department? I know he may not have it in front of him, but can he table the structural change and what he sees as the cost-savings or additional costs to this government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíve already agreed to provide the new structure, and the new costing of the new structure is contained in the mains, which weíll be debating in due course before this House.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Iím asking for the structure. Iím asking for information so that we can speed up the debate when we come to the main budget thatís before the House today. Iím asking for additional information from the minister, and if he wants to wait, well, weíll go through this whole thing again. Weíll be asking for the information, and the minister says, "Well, weíll table it, but we wonít get the information until after the department gets debated." So weíre asking for the information now. The only right thing for the minister to do is to ask his officials to put the information together and bring it forward to us here in the opposition, to both parties, Mr. Chair. I would like to ask the minister this: during the campaign they committed to increasing social assistance rates, so why was this not included in this supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, itís an area that our government will be looking at and exploring, but we are committed to addressing the needs in a number of areas. We canít do it all in a supplementary, nor will we. Our mains next year are set, and during the course of next year, we will be examining the rates, which havenít been changed under the previous Liberal watch, the previous NDP watch. We go back to the early 1990s before these rates were last increased for SA. There was a small increase under the Liberals but, by and large, there have been no major increases, and this area hasnít been addressed.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít the question I asked. I asked why the minister didnít act like he said he would in the campaign. He had an opportunity to bring forward a supplementary budget, and here it is through special warrants. This could have been addressed, the same as with the pioneer utility grant. They failed to do the increase and now the winter has gone by and people will not be seeing the increase in SA rates. The minister said that this has to be looked into. Increases to rates is a very simple matter to me and the general public, so how much time is needed before we can see an increase in the SA rates?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we are debating here is a supplementary budget. This is money that has been spent. Why we are debating something like an increase in SA rates at this time, I do not know, but wouldnít that debate be left for the mains and policy review at that time when we get into the main budget and the main estimates of this forthcoming fiscal period?
Mr. Fairclough: There is no reason for the minister to avoid this question. We are in general debate on this department. We can ask questions about the spending of this Yukon Party government, what their action plans are in the supplementary budget, why it wasnít reflected in the supplementary budget, what isnít in it and what is in it. We feel that it is perfectly in order to explore different areas in the Department of Health in general debate. Can the minister answer that question about SA rates?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite mentioned that we have failed on our promise for the pioneer utility grant, that we have not done what we said we were going to do. Thatís incorrect. We have addressed the pioneer utility grant. Because of certain areas of the pioneer utility grant that required legislative change, it has been brought before the Legislature, and it will be debated in due course. It will firmly demonstrate our governmentís commitment to the pioneer utility grant, honouring another Yukon Party pledge.
With respect to the SA rates, the SA rates are changed by regulation. This is on the agenda for our party, our caucus, to look at and to examine. We will be doing so in due course.
As I said earlier, there hasnít been a major increase or fine tuning of SA rates since, I believe, 1991 ó I could stand corrected. So we go over a number of different watches and it begs the question, if there was an initiative there, why didnít the Liberals change it? Why didnít the NDP government change it? Now that there is a Yukon Party government in power, everything has to be done instantaneously in the first several months of our watch. We are making best efforts to examine those areas that must be examined immediately, and we are in full knowledge of those areas we have committed to, and we will be following through on all of our campaign commitments, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister said they would be following through. He committed to the general public to do this immediately, and this could have happened through the special warrants. We know the pioneer utility grant is going to be increased. We see the paperwork. We know what questions to ask.
The fact of the matter is that this minister has failed to do it at the earliest possible opportunity. I would like to ask the minister this: in regard to nurses and doctors, and recruitment and retention, again this minister thought this was a very important matter, a top priority that this Yukon Party wanted to deal with, and itís obviously an issue Yukon will be facing for awhile yet. Weíre in a very competitive market, and others are attracting nurses and doctors, and bringing incentives forward to bring them to their provinces, and we are competing with the rest of the provinces, the territories and the United States. Many Canadian nurses and doctors are heading south.
This problem we have will only get worse. I would like to ask the minister what immediate plans he has to address this situation.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll share with the member opposite what weíre going to be doing in that area, but let me just back up a little bit to the member oppositeís previous statement and set the record straight with respect to the pioneer utility grant.
There was no commitment by our government to implement these changes immediately. We moved at the earliest opportunity to amend the legislation for the one change that was required. We have subsequently amended the regulations and, for this forthcoming heating bill, for this winter to come, our seniors will be eligible for an increase of $150 and, in subsequent years, it will be indexed for inflation.
That is honouring a commitment. It is honouring a commitment and a pledge that we made as a party, and the member oppositeís spin on this that we could have done this immediately, Mr. Chair, is incorrect. We could have done regulations but we couldnít have done the legislation. I guess the member could say we could have had a special sitting of the House to amend the legislation but, at the end of the day, our commitment is firmly on the record and has been honoured and respected.
I submit that our government has the utmost respect for seniors, and we will continue to do whatever it takes to keep seniors in their homes for as long as we possibly can with various types of assistance and programming.
And thatís self-evident, Mr. Chair. We will address that need. We have addressed that need. We will continue to address that need. That, I trust, sets the record straight.
This was an issue that was raised by the official opposition and the third party in the papers late last year, to no avail, because the record firmly indicated what our commitment was, and we are honouring and respecting and fulfilling our commitment.
It must be pointed out, Mr. Chair, that the NDP didnít look at the PUG. The Liberals put a one-time $100 increase on it but then bailed out of the initiative. Our government has fulfilled its commitment, its election platform, and increased the pioneer utility grant and indexed it for inflation and also lowered the age of eligibility for a surviving spouse to 55 years of age. That said, weíre also working on initiatives for the attraction, recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses to this area.
One of the best ways we can attract RNs and nurse practitioners and doctors is with a work environment that retains them, and weíre concentrating on that area initially, and we are looking at various other ways we can fulfill this requirement to recruit and retain health care professionals. Itís not just nurses and doctors; itís a full gamut of health care professionals. Itís a number of others coming from other areas.
If you want to look at some of the programs we have underway, we have the Yukon Advisory Council on Nursing; weíre following up on their recommendations. Weíve provided funds to the Yukon Medical Association for recruitment and retention. Mr. Chair, this is in this supplementary. Weíre working with the Yukon Hospital Corporation on joint recruitment. It makes no sense for two or three different arms of government to go out and recruit similar types of health care providers.
So weíre working on a collaborative effort and initiative in this regard. Weíre attempting to be more flexible in the recruiting. Weíre looking at permanent, seasonal; weíre looking at job-sharing. Weíre looking at a whole series of areas that will attract these individuals whom we so desperately need. And the member opposite is absolutely correct. Weíre in an international market for these health care providers. What we have to offer is a job environment that is going to attract them and a salary and benefit package that is commensurate with industry standards.
If you want to have a look in the newspapers, there is a revised advertising package. It is more in step with what we are attempting to do. We are advertising in more sites, so we have gone the extra yard and we will continue to do so, because we know how valuable these health care professionals are and we know what it takes to recruit them and we will be doing so.
Mr. Fairclough: That minister sure took a long time to answer that question. He gave us a song and dance. He reminds me of Caillou, a little whining included.
Chair:The characterization is unparliamentary. Caillou?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Does the member wish to debate with the Chair?
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The minister said that he is working on making improvements in the work environment. The minister said there are items and action plans identified in this supplementary. Can the minister break that done for us to see where these improvements to attract nurses and doctors are in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are some of them in health services, Mr. Chair. There is $180,000 for the Yukon Medical Association to provide additional recruitment and retention initiatives. Those are just a couple right off the top of my head.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to ask ó the minister appears to be caught in the difficult position of bringing forward a previous governmentís budget of special warrants and his own ó whose initiatives are these? Were these the Yukon Partyís or the Liberalsí initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The last agreement between the YMA was an agreement between the Government of Yukon and the YMA.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, Mr. Chair, who was in government at the time?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will have to determine that for the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the minister not know what initiatives he is bringing forward in this supplementary budget? I find it shocking that the minister couldnít answer that question. Maybe the minister can debate with his officials ó who are beside him ó and come up with a little clearer answer of exactly what the Yukon Party initiative is for the recruitment of nurses and doctors in this supplementary budget.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have already outlined for the member opposite the initiatives that are covered off in this supplementary for the recruitment and retention of health care professionals.
Let me share with the members opposite another initiative that our government has embarked upon. Nurse practitioners ó we have one in the Member for Kluaneís riding, who only wanted to work seasonally. The position was built around that individualís request to only work seasonally.
Weíre trying our level best to recruit health care providers to some of the smaller centres. Itís no deep, dark secret that weíre having serious difficulties in doing so, so weíre having to explore all different avenues in order to attract these health care professionals to some of the smaller communities.
Mr. Chair, weíre having to become very flexible in this regard, always being cognizant of the collective bargaining agreement, always being cognizant of the fact that our government must continue to provide these services. In order to do so, weíre having to examine all different ways of delivering the services, like having seasonal, like rotating individuals, and weíre going to be successful at the end of the day. Itís not going to be without difficulties or without problems.
Many of these initiatives are for recruitment and retention, Mr. Chair, and theyíre going to be part of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, so Iím loathe to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement on the floor of this House. I canít go there; I canít do that. But I can share with the members opposite that we are making best efforts to enhance these positions and to be as flexible as we can and to provide a very comfortable work environment in these rural settings where weíre having difficulty recruiting and retaining health care professionals.
Itís not just in the rural settings; itís right here in our capital city. Weíre making best efforts here also, Mr. Chair, as exampled and witnessed by the funding to the Yukon Medical Association for the recruitment and retention of health care professionals there.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, through all of that, Mr. Chair, the minister didnít answer my question. I asked the minister a very simple question. The Yukon Party has initiatives to recruit doctors and nurses and so did the Liberal Party. Theyíre both reflected ó or weíre told anyway ó in this supplementary budget. Which ones of the dollar amounts in here are for the Yukon Partyís initiative to attract nurses and doctors to the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíve agreed to provide a breakdown of this supplementary as to what components of it are from before our government and which took place after our government. There are a lot of expenditures that were realized and booked and approved by Management Board by the previous administration and carried over to our watch.
So, in some cases, itís pretty hard to slice the hair right down the middle, but weíll make best efforts to clearly identify what took place under the Yukon Party watch and what took place under the previous Liberal Party watch, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister talked about splitting hairs. I would think the minister would know what his own partyís initiatives are and what they brought forward in this supplementary budget. That should be a given. The Yukon Party should know what their initiatives are and what theyíre bringing forward and what theyíre telling the general public. Iím very surprised that the minister does not know that ó very surprised. He lists off a couple of initiatives ó one in health services, which was $180,000 ó yet this minister doesnít know whether theyíre the Liberalsí or the Yukon Partyís initiatives.
I guess in time weíll have to sort that out, Mr. Chair.
Iíd like to ask the minister this and move on, not continue on this because weíre not getting anywhere. The minister has offered to provide information so weíll wait for that information.
I would like to ask the minister this: those patients who are sent outside the Yukon receive $30 a day for expenses on the fourth day that theyíre there.
I would like to know how the Yukon Party is going to improve this.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the initiatives that our government is undertaking here in the capital city are to provide as many services as we can locally and more services locally. Weíre looking at an internist in Whitehorse; weíre looking at a second gynecologist; weíre looking at other initiatives and equipment so that fewer people have to travel. I guess the exercise is to reduce the amount of travel, which has a high cost associated with it, and which also places an undue burden on individuals who travelled under the previous administrations. The $30 a day didnít kick in until after they were absent for three days. It kicked in on the fourth day, save and except First Nations, who are covered by the uninsured health benefit plan, and most of these ó if not all these costs ó are recovered through an agreement that the First Nations have with Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I realize where the government is going in trying to keep our patients here in the territory. That has been the initiative of the Liberal government and the previous Yukon NDP government at the time. We have a very good facility here. Weíve got improvements to our equipment, like the CT scan, for example. These will keep people in the Yukon Territory, but Iím talking about what the Yukon Party intends to do to improve things for some of the patients who are and have to go out of the Yukon for medical treatment, whether or not there are going to be improvements in that $30 a day ó which is not much ó thatís offered to them on the fourth day that theyíre gone. Is the Yukon Party doing anything to make improvements in that section?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The improvement that we will be making in due course is not so much for individuals who are required to leave the Yukon for medical attention but with respect to expectant mothers required to come to Whitehorse and to live here in Whitehorse for up to two weeks or more preceding the birth of an offspring. There is undue hardship being placed in that category. It is our governmentís intention to address this and have something in place for the next budget cycle.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister basically said that the Yukon Party is not doing anything for the patients who are going outside of the territory to make improvements to the $30 per day on the fourth day. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We are not at the point where we are examining that area. We will be doing so under the primary health care review, but it is not an area that has been picked up by our government as a high-cost driver. We recognize there is a need for those being sent to Whitehorse to await the arrival of a newborn, but with respect to those being sent out for medical attention, we are looking at providing as many services as we possibly can at the Whitehorse Hospital. With respect to the additional equipment, kudos have to go to the previous NDP administration that was instrumental in starting on the CT scan. Unfortunately they left office and the next government waffled on that position and basically changed gears before the initiative was brought to fruition, but the CT scan is in place. It is functioning to save moving individuals to other centres for CT scans, and it is saving the resulting costs and the turnaround time is much quicker. It is a piece of diagnostic equipment that is very much benefiting those in need here in Yukon. So that said, Mr. Chair, we are looking at enhancing and the Hospital Corporation is exploring other areas for other pieces of equipment, diagnostic equipment, that may be purchased and put in place to reduce the amount of travel out of Yukon for medical purposes.
Itís a very, very high cost to the government to move someone to another centre for medical attention. The bed costs and the physician costs are very, very high and they are constantly increasing, let alone the difficulty in finding a bed in some of these major centres for the required services that are needed. To get a bed in some of the major centres, in Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton, is sometimes extremely difficult for us. The more we can undertake here in Whitehorse, the better off we are and the less need to move patients to these other centres.
So we are addressing this area from a number of angles, and at the end of the day we hope to provide more services here in Whitehorse and not have the need to move patients to other centres for medical attention to the same extent as we have done in the past.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said that this will be reviewed ó that the $30 a day on the fourth day that patients are travelling outside the Yukon will be reviewed or be included in the primary health care review. So I will leave it at that and ask questions at the appropriate time under that section.
Here is an easy one for the member opposite because this is an initiative by the Yukon Party on the FASD action plan. I would like to ask, first of all, how much money is in this supplementary budget that is going toward initial plans for this five-step plan?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There wasnít any. We used existing staff; we identified the primary health care transfer fund as where this funding would come from in the future; and this is where we are going to draw down the funds for this area in the next fiscal budget. That is contained in the mains that are before this House, which we will be debating in due course, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is it a separate initiative, an action plan, or will it fall under the alcohol and drug secretariat ó the FASD?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no alcohol and drug secretariat.
Mr. Fairclough: Sorry, Mr. Chair ó alcohol and drug services.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our action plan is under the primary health care transition fund, and thereíll be contribution agreements with the Child Development Centre and FASSY for this initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: I was not clear on the fund this minister just said in the House. Could he repeat that, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís the primary health care transition fund.
Mr. Fairclough: We have seen some additional dollars in the supplementary budget that are going toward the alcohol and drug secretariat brought forward by the Yukon Party. Can we expect to see a savings now that the secretariat is dismantled? Since the last budget, there is $155,000 of new money directed at the alcohol and drug secretariat. Whatís happening with this money? Is it spent now? Upon taking office, the minister dismantled the secretariat but we see it reflected in a supplementary brought forward by him.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The sum of $700,000 was approved in the supplementary ó a previous Management Board submission under the Liberals, Mr. Chair ó and a small amount of that will lapse because of recruitments that we did not proceed with as a government. In addition to that, the savings will come in that there will be no more funding going to the previous alcohol and drug secretariat. The $1.3 million that was requested wonít be spent, so there will be no further request. Thatís where the savings will come in. We wonít be going where the previous government was headed. Weíll be delivering programs. We wonít be setting up another stovepipe of administration.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is asking the members of this House to approve an additional $155,000 in this supplementary for the secretariat. Is this money spent, or is this going to be lapsed money? Iím talking about in capital.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this was in capital. This was creating the office space and other initiatives for the drug and alcohol secretariat, and it has been spent. There may be a small amount that will lapse.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like more details on this capital, whether all of this is spent or whether there are some savings that are going to result from the alcohol and drug secretariat. It wasnít long after taking office that the secretariat was dismantled, so I donít believe that all of the monies that have been requested here in this budget will be spent. So if the minister can give us that information, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, the spending was being incurred over the course of the summer for the capital undertakings, and it was basically to revamp office space and design it to create a boardroom, things of that nature ó signage, stationery, things of a capital undertaking associated with creating a new Liberal stovepipe of administration. But at the end of the day, that has been stopped. We now have gone back and reverted to a drug and alcohol service reporting to a director.
Now, at the end of the year, there may be a small amount of funds in the capital side that lapse. I havenít got the full details there, but I will provide the member opposite with those details as to what will lapse in this area.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that, because there was $50,000 voted for in the budget. Then this supplementary is asking for another $105,000. Upon taking office, I would think that there would be considerable savings there.
I want to go back to the FASD action plan that the minister is bringing forward. I know that the minister is going to be working with different groups across the territory. I would like to know approximately when the minister will have this plan in place.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our target is to have the contribution agreements with the Yukon Medical Association, with FASSY and with the Child Development Centre out sometime in April. When they do come out, we will provide copies to the members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: The contributions would be in place by April. Is the minister giving a deadline of when he would like to see this action plan put together so the public can see it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am sorry, itís very difficult to get tied to a specific date for this initiative. We are making progress. We are making best effort. The funding is contained in the next fiscal yearís budget envelope, and we are moving forward as we move into the next fiscal period, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said that itís a pretty high priority to focus governmentís attention on this action plan and that there will be financial contribution agreements in place by April. We know this is in the next fiscal year, so are we expecting a plan would be in place at the end of the year? At the end of the summer? I am just wondering ó there is a dollar amount to it and obviously there will be some direction that comes out of this action plan that the minister can move on. I am just wondering ó obviously the Yukon Party has talked about this for a long time, so I would expect that an action plan would come fairly quickly. By fairly quickly, I mean by the end of the summer. I know that there is a lot of work to do and that we have some of this action plan kick-starting throughout the fall and winter months.
I am just wondering if we can get a little more accurate answer from the member.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our governmentís focus is on programs and program delivery. What the member opposite is asking me to concentrate on is the whole structure and, I guess, the administration side of the equation. Weíre more focused on putting together the professionals who will be addressing the need ó the Child Development Centreís board, FASSYís board and the YMA, which are into the program for testing newborns for FASD. This is our concentrated initiative and this is where weíre headed.
Now, to come up with an action plan, the action plan is stated in the Yukon Party platform and is being implemented. Iíll provide the member opposite with a copy of the Yukon Party platform with respect to the action plan. Itís spelled out there, and what weíre concentrating on now is implementing that plan. Weíre hoping to have results and deliver the services that any government should be mandated to deliver. Concentration is on the programs, not setting up more administration.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itíll be interesting to see how this minister does that, Mr. Chair. Iím looking at the action plan. I have it right here in front of me ó the five-step action plan. My questions are directly related to that.
There are five steps pointed out, but the Yukon Party canít tell us, on this side of the House, that that is their action plan. Itís stated right in there that they will be working with stakeholders to come up with an action plan, I suppose, on these five points, and thatís what Iím concentrating on.
The Yukon public would like to know how itís going to start, who is involved, and who is on the team. I know the member opposite named a few people who will be working ó he didnít say on the team, but I would expect that it is a team heís bringing forward and that this is the action plan.
I know that thereís going to be a lot more work that has to be done. The member opposite talks about a wide range of services involved in this action plan, and it doesnít go without putting together steps that this party has to take over the next year or so.
So thatís what Iím asking for ó some dates and some structure ó if the member could focus on that too.
Iíll talk about administration and costs a bit later.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the member opposite kind of has the cart before the horse. In our next fiscal cycle, commencing April 1 of this next year, we will have an advisory committee in place. Itís being set up now and it consists of the Child Development Centre, which does the assessment and diagnostic services, to a degree ó itís a team, itís a coordinator ó we have FASSY, which is on the prevention side of the equation, and we have the Yukon Medical Association, which will be providing the meconium testing for newborns. So, this is the initial stage. Itís being set up in the next budget cycle. Very little of it is reflected in this supplementary, if any. Any work that has been done has been done within the existing budget envelope. A lot of consultation has taken place, and I have personally met with all the groups involved.
Weíre moving forward on this initiative. Itís not a big, deep, dark secret, and weíre making best efforts to show some progress. But the funding for these initiatives is in the primary health care transfer funds, and itís in the next fiscal yearís budget, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: I am looking at where this Yukon Party is going with their five-step plan to address the FASD in the territory. I was surprised that the minister didnít say that any of the communities were involved, that any First Nations were involved in this advisory committee. The very people who are affected the most are not even being talked to at this point, so I am wondering where this whole thing is going to go. The minister said there was a lot of consultation that took place already. Maybe he can table some of the meetings he has had with the communities.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member well knows, I havenít had meetings with the communities on this initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: Then I guess it is easy enough to say that there hasnít been very much ó if any ó consultation that took place with communities. I am quite surprised this is where we are at this juncture. I would like to ask the minister this: the minister said there was an action plan already put together, a five-step plan. I donít know if there will be any more details coming out of this, but I certainly hope so. Does the minister have an idea of what it would cost annually to implement this plan?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, Mr. Chair, FASSY has a First Nation component in it and they have done quite extensive consultation with First Nations on the issue of FASD, and their board makeup is very broad. I am not going to pre-empt any of the NGOs that are providing valuable services to the government and have broad representation from Yukon. With respect to the five-step plan and what it is going to be costing, at this juncture we know what costs we are going to be incurring, and they are reflected to the best of our understanding in the budget that will be debated in due course. We are into the mains of the O&M of next year.
But Iím sure there may be additional costs that will probably have to be addressed by our government.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím sure the Yukon Party has a bit more detail on what it would cost this government to implement the five-step action plan. The minister said that he will not duplicate services. Heís looking at streamlining administration. Iím very interested to know what the cost would be.
The minister must know what the start-up cost would be for implementing this action plan. I know itís not reflected in this supplementary budget, and I donít know if all of it is reflected in the next budget that weíre going to be dealing with in a matter of days. Weíll be asking those questions, of course, but I would like to know in a bit more detail what weíre looking at for a dollar amount to implement the five-step plan.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, for the record, the five-step action plan of those parts that were developed is not contained in this supplementary. They were done within the existing budget envelope of the department.
What the member opposite is wanting to debate at this juncture is the mains for next year, and Iíd encourage him to have a look at the mains, and when we get into the Department of Health and Social Services for the forthcoming fiscal year, we can debate that area thoroughly. But at this juncture, this supplementary does not cover any of the costs that we have incurred by setting up what we have set up to date for the five-step action plan to address FASD. So the questions are rather moot.
Weíre in general debate, and I understand the questions can be broad-ranging; but that said, Mr. Chair, this is the initiative for the next fiscal period, not for the supplementary that we have before us.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll just leave that alone. Obviously the minister doesnít have an answer, and Iíll just turn it over to the leader of the Liberal Party.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask the Health minister to put on the record how much of the financial supplementary that is before us was approved when the Member for Watson Lake was the Chair of Management Board. The member has indicated that, of course, a special warrant has to come before the House and both special warrants are contained in the Department of Health and Social Services, as are the Management Board variance reports that are submitted by departments and approved. The Financial Administration Act dictates that special warrants have to come before the House at the first available opportunity, so thatís what has happened ó the supplementary has been tabled.
But it also includes monies that are approved in the variance reports. I would like a breakdown from the minister as to what was approved in which variance board reports.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre tilling the same ground that was explored by the member of the official opposition in previous questions. I would encourage the leader of the third party to stay tuned to the debate, because this was the same question that was asked by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun previously, and I committed to providing that information to that member, as well as to the third party.
Ms. Duncan: I have the question on the record, which is what I set out to do and which is the role of the third party. I have the ability to ask questions, and I intend to do that.
The additional $5,963,000 in operation and maintenance funding that was contained in the special warrant passed by the Yukon Party government on December 23 ó is that the period 5 variance or would it be up to 6? The Finance minister has indicated that the supplementary includes up to period 8. I am wondering if the special warrant on December 23 is period 3, 5, or which one it is.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: You know, that question is not a question for a Health and Social Services minister. Iím in no position to respond to that. That question should be directed to the Minister of Finance, Mr. Chair. Thatís where the debate on this area should be. As to what fiscal period this pertains to, I am here to explain the supplementary budget that is before the House and not how it correlates into the Department of Finance. If the member opposite could save her questions for the Minister of Finance, it would probably be a better use of the Legislatureís time.
Ms. Duncan: For the member oppositeís information, variance board reports are signed off by the minister responsible for them, and the member also sits on Management Board, according to the order-in-council, so it was a perfectly appropriate question as to which variance board report was signed by the minister and contained in the special warrant.
Of the $5,963,000 in operation and maintenance spending, some of it would have been legislated ó as is required ó because part of it is medical travel, and some of it would have been discretionary spending ó the government made a decision to increase funding or not. Does the minister have any idea what would be legislated expenditures and what might have been discretionary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Drug programs would be one example in my portfolio, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I understand which programs are legislated and which ones are not. What Iím asking is how much of the almost $6 million would have been legislated. The government has virtually no choice in paying that. Some of it is discretionary. Does the minister have any idea ó ballpark; Iím not asking to the precise nickel ó how much of it is legislated and how much of it is discretionary ó in the additional money approved?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am advised that it is approximately 60 percent but, again, it is a ballpark figure and I donít want to be held to it. The member opposite asked for a ballpark figure and that is the best I can do.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that. Of the $6 million, about how much would the government have no choice on? About 60 percent? Fair enough.
The other question I would like to ask is around this legislated and discretionary funding. Additional funding such as $50,000 to Kausheeís would have been discretionary. The government made a choice about that. When was it approved?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The exact date for the approval ó I will get back to the member opposite with that date.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I would just request that that date come by legislative return and, if possible, could the minister have that before the end of session or prior to getting into mains? I would appreciate it. Thank you.
In the supplementary that is before us, there are a number of increases. There are also a number of decreases and one of the decreases is in the uptake on social services. So in the operation and maintenance expenditures, there is $397,000 less in social services. I am anticipating that that is a decrease in the number of people and cases seeking social assistance. Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member is absolutely correct.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister advise how many of these SA clients left the territory or how many have subsequently been employed and are no longer on SA, or is it that their option for collecting SA was time limited and they were simply no longer eligible for those benefits? Why the decrease? Did they leave? Did their benefits run out? Was there an issue? What happened?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the exact reason for them not continuing or whatever happened ó weíd have to conduct an analysis of the SA clients and provide that information to the member opposite. It would probably take us quite some time to detail that information. Iím curious as to the relevancy.
The member opposite, under her watch, was responsible for the downturn of the economy here. The tremendous exodus of Yukoners, for one reason or another, has decreased the demands on the social assistance programs. They have decreased. There are 4,000 to 5,000 fewer Yukoners across the board and jobs are scarce and hard to come by. If you want to look at the government that was responsible for maintaining and continuing with the downward trend here in the Yukon, the member opposite only has to look into the mirror to see the individual responsible.
That said, Iím curious as to the relevancy of this detail as to why people are off SA. We all know that there have been fewer demands on the SA system over the years across the Yukon, and we also know that the population is heading to an all-time low. There is a continued exodus, and itís our governmentís position that weíre going to do our level best to restore investor confidence that was destroyed by the previous two governments and create an economy here again and, at the same time, maintain all the social nets that exist without any layoffs to government positions or staffing.
We know that thatís our task and itís going to be a difficult task. I believe our government is equal to that task, and we will probably prevail. Weíre going to give it our best efforts, Mr. Chair, and Iím confident that we will prevail and that the Yukon will be once again restored to its robust, vibrant self.
As to the relevancy of the details as to why these people have gone off SA and where they have gone to, I was hoping the member opposite could share her reason for requesting that detail because it does place a considerable burden on the department to assemble that type of detail.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I did not ask the department to assemble the detail, nor will I ask the department. Iím not expecting that level of detail from the department; Iím not expecting a legislative return on that. My point in asking the question was a sense from the minister, but apparently this minister finds it particularly appropriate to deliver lectures to the members on this side of the House similar to the ones he delivered when he was over here himself. His disdain for his colleagues in this Legislature knows no bounds.
Chair:The phrase "his disdain for his colleagues" is quite unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Chair, I will gladly withdraw that.
Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: Consider it withdrawn from the record.
Perhaps the member opposite will, in his future answers, give credit where credit is due in recognition of good work and good initiatives that have been undertaken, and also cease to assign the blame as he did in his answer. Iím asking that we stick to the discussion of social services, which is what we were on, as opposed to the lecture I received from the member opposite about the previous government. My purpose in asking the question with respect to SA clients is that thereís a noticeable decrease ó almost $40,000 ó in the health care budget. Thatís a noticeable decrease, and perhaps the minister had some information, perhaps heíd spoken to some front-line workers, perhaps he had listened to and asked the question himself. That was the purpose of my question. As we are elected to do, and as we do on this side of the House, we ask the questions, as it is our right to do. The purpose of those questions is up to us.
As I said, perhaps, if the minister had chosen to ask and had ó Iím sure those Social Services workers have a gut instinct. People have left. Itís a $400,000 difference in the expenditures of this territory. The minister did say on his feet that the Yukon Party intends to maintain the social safety net. Well, thatís a very good question because the Yukon Party has quite a tradition with respect to that social safety net, and not a tradition that those who are in the unfortunate position of collecting SA would look forward to a return of.
The social assistance clients that I met with in my former capacity have repeatedly said that the problems are not the rates; they are the rules and the way SA is administered. Situations like when a single mother is required to return to work, for example ó our government dealt with the rules on that particular issue. Our government dealt with a number of different changes to the rules, as was requested by the community.
The minister has said that they intend to, as a party, maintain the social safety net. As the record clearly indicates, the Yukon Party has a tradition of changing the rules.
We have seen a substantial decrease in this supplementary. Is the minister also anticipating a change in the regulations surrounding the collection of SA?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Under the previous administration, an amount for social services was budgeted. It would appear that their estimates were high, because what weíre seeing and what the trend is today is that the expenditures for SA are basically the same this fiscal period, in total, as compared to the last fiscal period, in total.
So, under the previous ministerís watch, there was an overestimation of what they were going to be spending in SA ó a simple explanation to that: $7.6 million was expended in the last fiscal period. That appears to be what will be spent in this fiscal period, and there will be a decrease from the budgeted estimate in the mains that were approved last year.
What the mains were last year was more or less a look backward rather than a look forward, and I guess, at the end of the day, we have to recognize what has transpired and, yes, there is going to be a lapse. With respect to the rules, it hasnít been brought to my attention that there are extreme difficulties with the rules. In fact, there were a number of changes made under the previous administration and, by and large, there is quite an extensive amount of interpretation.
If there were changes that were necessary ó you know, it fails me as to why our government, having just taken power, has to make all these changes immediately, as the leader of the third party and the official opposition are requesting. A number of these initiatives are underway or being looked at and examined, and we are making best efforts to address the needs. But our government position is firm: we will maintain the safety net that exists here in Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didnít ask the minister to change the rules immediately. I asked if there was an intention to change the rules. I would appreciate an answer to that direct question. As I said, itís our role to ask the questions, and itís the ministerís role to answer the questions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There has been some policy work done on potential changes, but theyíre still in the system and they havenít gotten up to my level, as yet. Iím sure they will but, at the present time, there havenít been any changes. There may be down the road.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister is saying ó down the road there may be changes ó is cause for concern. I will investigate the governmentís intention in the mains in general debate.
Iíd like to deal with the issue ó prior to getting further into recoveries ó of alcohol and drug services. The Health minister indicated that the primary health care transition fund was going to be paying for the infamous five-point plan. Would the Health minister outline how much the primary health care transition fund is? The figures are not necessarily in the supplementary; however, the Health minister has made reference to the fund before, so I would just like to follow up with him on how much it is, who applied for the money ó it would have been applied for, previously ó how much it is; if it is permanent money we can look at and discuss in the mains; if it is more of this boutique programming the member referred to. How much is it, when is it, and where is it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, itís not in this supplementary; itís in the mains for next year. We should be debating this area in next yearís mains.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, itís interesting how the memberís perspective and view has changed as to whatís eligible for debate.
The alcohol and drug secretariat has an additional $630,000 voted into it. For the record, the alcohol and drug secretariat was established following an extensive review and with support from members in the House. That extensive review into the addictions faced by Yukoners and the counselling and programming that they were able to receive recommended the establishment of the alcohol and drug secretariat. There is additional funding put into it here.
However, one of his first actions upon taking office was for the Health minister to fire the ADS director, although she is recognized as the best in her field in western Canada. Iím not asking the personnel question of how much this cost, but Iíd like to know if this dispute has been resolved.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, this extensive review that was carried out by the previous Liberal government cost $30,000, and it was undertaken by the individual who was subsequently hired by the previous administration to oversee the alcohol and drug secretariat. The extensive review also contained the job description as an addendum for this position. So what we had was the previous administration conducting an extensive review utilizing an individual who basically wrote her own job description, and at the end of the day, there is no dispute, because as the member opposite knows full well, this individual was hired at a deputy level, as conforms to section (m) with respect to deputy minister and serves at the pleasure. There isnít a dispute, Mr. Chair.
DMs, the member opposite knows full well ó she probably terminated more DMs under her watch than any government previous. But that said, our government recognized that we were creating another administration stovepipe that was going to cost a further $1.3 million on top of the $700,000 that the previous Liberal administration had already approved at Management Board, and the effort should be concentrating on program deliveries and services, not setting up more administration, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the member opposite for his lecture to me as to how the alcohol and drug addiction research report and review was carried out. In actual fact, there were two individuals involved, not one. There was a public review, a Public Service Commission panel for the hiring, and this competition was open. I thank the member opposite for recognizing that the individuals involved in the review ó in what is the Yukonís number one problem, aside from the economy, which has gone steadily downhill under their watch.
Iím glad the member finds that humorous. Iím glad the member finds that humorous. The 100 jobs cut in the private sector under the Department of Highways, the hundreds under Tourism, the steady three-month decline in retail sales, are not because of the previous government. They are absolutely not.
But weíre dealing right now, Mr. Chair, with the issue of alcohol and drug addictions in this territory. Itís a major, major issue. It is raised at every level of government ó First Nation governments, municipal governments, hamlets, the territorial government, the federal government.
We all recognize that this is a major issue and there are costs associated with it.
The previous government hired among the best in western Canada, if not the best in the field. I asked the Health minister, given that he chose to fire the individual, if the issue had been concluded. The minister has indicated yes, it has. Iím not convinced he knows that answer. Itís not unheard of, even if an individual is at a deputy minister level, for there to be subsequent court issues. I want to be clear that there are not. The issue is concluded. I am asking a simple question. Has the matter been fully concluded?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the matter is a Public Service Commission issue, as all personnel matters are. The advice I had from the Premierís office was that the matter has been resolved. Thatís where it stands. The member opposite knows full well how procedures work and who is responsible for what. This is an area of the Public Service Commission domain and it remains there.
Ms. Duncan: There were a number of counselling positions, although the member opposite goes on and on and on about silos of administration. In fact, there were counsellor positions filled. There was programming being delivered. The minister himself stood on his feet and said that there were a number of recruitment initiatives for counsellors. Some competitions Iím sure had closed; others were still in progress. How many addictions counsellors were not hired by this government as a result of the ministerís action?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is referring to the community workers. Whether they were actually defined as counsellors or not, I donít recall, as that occurred under the previous watch. They may or may not have been, but there were objections raised by a number of the First Nation groups and the programs were brought in-house. One position was created out of three, and the needs are being addressed.
Ms. Duncan: It was the member oppositeís reference to counsellors that I followed up on. The member opposite has stood on his feet and said there was no programming going on, and now has stood and said programs were brought in-house. Will the minister responsible say how many counsellors were scheduled to be hired under the alcohol and drug secretariat and were subsequently not hired? How many counsellors; and what programs have ended as a result of the firing of the ADS director?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I believe three individuals were not hired. That is subject to confirmation after we go back and look over the situation but, at the end of the day, we are not going to be setting up another bureaucracy, another stovepipe of administration. The exercise is to deliver programs. The programs that were being delivered by drug and alcohol services still remain there. There was very, very little in the way of transition back from a drug and alcohol secretariat to drug and alcohol services. The most visible signs were a change in the name and not needing a further $1.3 million, and it looks like we are probably going to lapse some of the $700,000 that the previous administration approved for this set-up of the drug and alcohol secretariat.
So at the end of the day, our government is delivering very good programming with fewer administration costs, and thatís the exercise, Mr. Chair. Itís an administration exercise; itís basic management.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís also basic management and basic responsibility to deal with issues and to ensure that the programming thatís required and that will meet a need is being addressed. What I have heard from the member opposite is that they donít like that plan, donít like that review, so off with the administration and theyíre going to do it their way. And what the Health minister has said is that the alcohol and drug secretariat ó well, hopefully we wonít be spending all that money. There are three fewer jobs in the Yukon dealing with an important issue, a societal issue that crosses all levels of government and throughout Yukon. Instead, the Health minister has said that, no, weíre going to do it our way. Weíre going to use the primary health care transition fund, but we canít talk about that until next yearís budget.
So weíll move on, and he can rest assured that we will be talking at length about it in next yearís budget.
The supplementary before us contains additional funding for recruitment and retention of doctors and nurses. How much of the supplementary is dedicated to the recruitment and retention of doctors, and how much is for nurses?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave the issue of alcohol and drug services and what has transpired under that, Iíd like to put on the record what actually transpired. Yes, there were three individuals who werenít hired ó they werenít needed, Mr. Chair ó but what the department has done is put that money into community addiction initiatives. So weíre making the best use of the money and the programming end of it, and it doesnít take an Einstein to see what weíre trying to accomplish here. Weíre trying to put as much money as we possibly can right where itís needed.
There is an area I do share and agree with the member opposite on, Mr. Chair, and that is that we do have a serious problem with drug and alcohol addiction here in the Yukon. We do have a serious problem, and itís our governmentís game plan that is on the table here and will be in the next budget. Itís not in this supplementary.
We are going forward with implementing that initiative to serve the needs of those afflicted with FASD, with a whole series of programs that currently exist and some that we can enhance. This group weíre putting together, for the record, consists of YMA, FASSY and the Child Development Centre. We have met with all three groups, and they all bring to the table a tremendous degree of expertise in this field. Weíre working cooperatively with these groups and, in the primary health care transfer fund for next year, the funding will be identified. But thatís in next yearís budget.
The funding for these groups is in next yearís budget. What we have here is the supplementary, and as to the question that the member opposite asked with respect to what weíre spending on recruitment, there was an increase of $180,000 to the Yukon Medical Association for the attraction and recruitment of health care professionals.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it doesnít take an Einstein to figure out that itís counsellors who meet the needs of individuals who are coming in, and itís counsellors who deliver programming. And it doesnít take an Einstein to figure out that there are three fewer jobs because thatís what the minister just said.
He goes on and on about the future programming, although he doesnít want to talk about it until next yearís mains, and goes on and on about this great plan that talks about the Child Development Centre and FASSY, and I have absolute respect for those organizations. I also know thereís a tremendous need out there for youth ó a tremendous need ó at the high school level and at the junior high level. It has been an issue for a long time and the issue is access to counsellors. Thatís one of the issues. And three fewer counsellors means I donít know how many more teens who go without services.
The member can speak with laudatory words of his programs in the future all he likes. The fact is that there will be a lengthy discussion about this governmentís intentions in the mains on ADS, and the fact is that there are three fewer counsellors, and itís a result of this government.
The member has mentioned $180,000 in additional funding in this supplementary for recruitment that has been paid to the Yukon Medical Association. The initiatives were recruitment and retention and they were for doctors and nurses.
Could he outline the amount for recruitment and retention of nurses throughout the territory? The additional funding is reflected in this supplementary. Perhaps the minister would care to advise whether or not the initiatives will continue?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the question about the amount of funds that were transferred to the Yukon Medical Association, that was specifically for YMA and for doctors. The nurses and the bonus is not in this supplementary; itís contained in the mains, as the member opposite knows full well.
Ms. Duncan: So, in other words, there is no additional recruitment and retention money for nurses in the supplementary; itís only for the doctors. Thatís what the minister has confirmed. In other words, upon taking office, there was no additional funding directed to that.
In June of this year, the Government of Yukon received a report from the Child Welfare League of Canada. There are a number of recommendations they made, and the former government was working toward implementing them. One of their recommendations is that there be information systems set up in family and children's services ó explore the information systems used by other jurisdictions. There is additional money for systems development of $152,000 in Health and Social Services. Is this systems development part of the Child Welfare League recommendations or is it something else?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I feel it is important to set the record straight with respect to the bonuses for the nurses, that there is not any additional funding in here. The nurses are covered by a collective agreement. That collective agreement spells out the terms of their bonuses and their recruitment and retention. Thatís under the purview of the Public Service Commission. Itís not an area where we get into a supplementary unless there is a new collective agreement, unless something has to be enhanced in the program. The member opposite knows full well that that is the case.
On another matter with respect to these three ó what the member refers to as community workers or addiction workers or counsellors ó the member says there are three fewer people in alcohol and drug services. There are three positions that were requiring an additional $1.3 million to impart staff in that area, among other things. That additional funding was not provided. The member is incorrect when she says that that there are three. There is only one fewer person in the staff complement over there and that was the head of the alcohol and drug secretariat.
So thereís one less person. There are other positions that were not filled and were not budgeted to be filled. Thatís the issue.
Ms. Duncan: The issue is that the member opposite chose not to deal in a very real, concrete way with the issue of alcohol and drug addiction. The member has just decided that he knows best and that leading individuals in their field donít know anything ó the member opposite knows best. So the government wonít staff those positions. My point was, as a result of not staffing, as a result of not putting money in, that although there is additional money in the supplementary, there is not the money for the counsellors, and the member himself admitted that. And thatís an issue, because there are hundreds, if not thousands, who are going without services because of the choices made by the minister.
I asked the question and didnít receive an answer. The money in systems development in this supplementary is a result of the Child Welfare League of Canada recommendations, or is it something else? And perhaps in considering his answer, the minister could advise which recommendations of the Child Welfare League are included in this supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís $67,000 for implementation. Thatís the amount thatís identified in the supplementary.
Ms. Duncan: Thereís $67,000 identified in the supplementary for implementation of the Child Welfare League of Canada recommendations. Would the minister advise which recommendations are being implemented?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That was to look at the planning, the planning for how we could look at phasing in what appears to be an additional $8 million in costs. We are not a government that just throws money at a project. We have to carefully consider all the areas, and the planning exercise that is underway will identify how best to address this need.
Chair: Order please. Do members wish a 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with the Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, with general debate on Vote 15, Health and Social Services.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to resume general debate on the additional supplementary funding being sought by the Department of Health and Social Services.
I did have an opportunity to briefly review my notes from the discussion earlier today, and I would like to recap briefly if I might, so that weíre clear on what legislative returns we are waiting for out of the initial part of the debate. My understanding is that the minister is providing a legislative return with respect to the details of when the approvals took place for the additional expenditures in Health and Social Services. The minister is also going to confirm, by legislative return, for the record, when the additional funding was granted to Kausheeís.
Although the side opposite has taken credit a number of times for this additional funding, they are going to confirm the actual date of the funding approval by legislative return.
And clearly the additional $50,000 for Kausheeís Place is in this supplementary; the $50,000 reduction in funding to Dawson is for next year, so we will debate that in next yearís mains.
The minister also confirmed that he fired the head of the alcohol and drug secretariat who was hired under a previous administration. He confirmed there was no outstanding lawsuit and he also confirmed that the severance paid out by the Yukon Party government is consistent with the deputy ministers severance policy.
The minister also went on at great length about administration and that they would be ending the administrative silos in alcohol and drug services and focus on programming. I would like a precise answer from the minister now that he has had a chance to look at his notes. What programming is provided under the alcohol and drug secretariat ó what programming and what programs were offered by the previous administration and what is being offered now and contained within the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I can provide the member opposite with a list of the programs we will be providing and what was provided under her watch. Weíll go back and assemble that information for the member opposite. For the record, there is the issue of the removal of Corliss Burke as the head of the alcohol and drug secretariat, and that is an issue before the Public Service Commission and has been dealt with, to the best of my knowledge, in the manner prescribed. In a discussion I had with the Premier, whom the deputy ministers report to, he confirmed previously that the areas that he is responsible for had been resolved. If there are some outstanding matters, they are between this individual and the Public Service Commission. But, to the best of my knowledge, I am not aware of any outstanding situation.
Mr. Chair, we have agreed to provide to the members opposite information by legislative return as to the timing and where the approvals stem from, from this funding and the supplementaries, and we will be doing so ó the same legislative return to both the official opposition and the third party.
Ms. Duncan: So for the record, actually thatís two legislative returns ó one is on the breakdown of funding and the other is the date of approval for the additional funding for Kausheeís Place. Although the government has taken credit for approving that additional money, I would like to know the date when it actually was approved.
I find it interesting that the member opposite has a tendency to duck responsibility ó I believe thatís parliamentary ó shed himself of the responsibility. Mr. Chair, Iím looking for some guidance here.
Chair: We have already ruled that "shed responsibility" is out of order.
Ms. Duncan: Okay. The minister has said that the firing of the alcohol and drug secretariat at the deputy minister level was the responsibility of the Premier. It wasnít his. He said that in his response to me. Thatís correct. So he is saying that that wasnít his responsibility. And he has confirmed that it is the Premier to whom deputy ministers report, and that there is also a former Yukon Party government leader put in place ó the deputy minister of severance policy ó and that that policy was applied in this case.
I find it interesting that the Health minister fully expected previous ministers to know precisely what programs were being offered in their department and how much they cost. He asked that question at great length on a number of occasions. I find it unfortunate that the minister has not made himself aware, in preparation to come in and defend this supplementary, of what programming is being offered under the alcohol and drug secretariat and how much it costs. Could I please have that precise answer? The member expected no less of others. We expect no less of him.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I do not have a problem with providing that information to the member opposite for the upcoming budget, which we have put together and we have addressed. Now, what has taken place under the previous governmentís watch, I will have to go back and assemble that information for the member opposite.
When we get into the mains for our area, I will be quite prepared to provide the member opposite with a complete rundown of the entire range of programs provided by the Department of Health and Social Services.
What transpired under the previous governmentís watch, under that previous Premier, Iíd have to go back and put that together, ask the department to assemble it ó but if thatís what the member wants, we can do so. I would have thought that the previous government leader would have had the ability to understand what programs were offered under her watch. Obviously that doesnít appear to be the case. If thatís not the case, weíll assist the member opposite and we will provide that information in due course.
Ms. Duncan: I find it interesting that the member opposite has a discussion about abilities in the House and canít tell us ó he has had five months ó which expenditures he signed off as minister and which expenditures he didnít sign off as minister. He has the responsibility, and he expected no less of other individuals in this House, the ability to defend the supplementary. So Iím asking ó heís gone on at great length that we had to end this silo of administration in alcohol and drug services ó we had to end the administration silo, because thatís what was needed in alcohol and drug programming. That would meet the need ó get rid of the administration and just do programs. So there is additional money; where are the programs? What are the programs?
Why doesnít the minister have an exact answer? I am sure he has the ability. He has had six years of asking questions ó asking others why they didnít know the precise dollar amount and what the program was.
We can get into the number of lug nuts on grader debate because it has happened before in this House, but right now we are focused on alcohol and drug counselling.
The member opposite has responsibility for the supplementary and has responsibility for the statements that we donít need administration in alcohol and drug programming, that the alcohol and drug secretariat is not needed because resources have to be put there. So what are the resources? What are the programs? How much do they cost? What programs are they? I am sure he has the ability to answer that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am so glad the record will reflect that the minister canít or wonít answer. I was sure he had the ability; however, I guess not.
The member has said that the primary health care transition fund will be discussed and the money will be booked next year. He has made an announcement about it already and there has been an application made under this budget year. I am curious, if we have confirmation of the money as the minister announced on March 6, 2003, as to when we might see the supplementary, because the money has been confirmed. So is the money only applying and flowing as of April 1, 2003? He saw fit to announce it on March 6, 2003. Would the minister just confirm that the $4.5 million is booked for next year? It is not booked in this supplementary; he has confirmed that. Is the money being booked in 2002-03 or in 2003-04?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It will be booked in 2003-04, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: There are a number of recoveries in this, and we have, of course, had a discussion about the alcohol and drug secretariat. The minister was unable to confirm the programming although heís had five months in the job.
There is also an additional recovery from the Prairie Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Partnership conference of $98,000, although there was only an anticipated recovery of $110,000. Can the minister explain that additional recovery?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This conference, Mr. Chair, took place back in May of last year. It was under the previous administrationís watch and the funds that flowed to the Government of Yukon were funds to pay for the conference from other jurisdictions, plus the conference recovered some costs locally. When you add it all up, we had a resulting surplus. This happened under the previous watch. Itís something that happened under the previous Liberal government that is contained in this budget.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister just said is that the successful hosting of the Prairie Northern FAS Partnership conference by the previous Liberal government netted additional funding, more than anticipated. It sounds like good financial management to me.
Participation in the Prairie Northern Partnership dealing with FAS ó the Yukon Liberal government was successful in convincing British Columbia to be part of that partnership and we, of course, also became partners and successfully hosted the conference.
Does the minister intend to continue the participation? Given that there is extra money that we have recovered from this conference, we could pay it as support and use that money toward continued participation. Is that the ministerís intention?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the memberís information, yes, we are. I recently attended what is now known as the Canada Northwest FASD Partnership meeting in Vancouver over a weekend not too long ago. We were right at the table and continue to be so.
With respect to the member oppositeís position that it was good fiscal management that we recovered these costs, on the other side of the ledger are the expenses we incurred. It might be best if I provided the member opposite with a full overview of those costs that the department incurred, as well as those that were recovered, so that the member opposite can get a full and complete picture of this financial undertaking.
I do agree with the member opposite that it is a good partnership. It produces benefits for us here in the Yukon, and we have a very cooperative undertaking with Nunavut, N.W.T., Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I had the pleasure of meeting the ministers responsible for this area recently in Vancouver. The conference was hosted by British Columbia, and it went very, very well.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for the offer of a full and complete understanding. I have that, thanks. Itís the member opposite. The department officials donít need to spend hours and hours detailing the costs of hosting the Prairie Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Partnership conference. Iím quite well aware of them. Itís the member opposite who has the responsibility and has to have a full and complete understanding of his portfolio prior to coming into the House.
In the recoveries, there is also an additional $1 million from DIAND on child welfare. Is this part of the old, outstanding dispute and an unexpected recovery, or is it additional monies that were allocated? In what year did the billing occur that we got the additional $1 million from? How old is it that theyíre finally paying it? Or is it this yearís and theyíre paying more than anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is not any undisputed amount. This is the current billing and the current amount received from Indian and Northern Affairs.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, the logical question is: why is it $1 million more than what we anticipated? Is it a volume issue? And I see nods from over there, so I appreciate that answer.
The federal child benefit is an additional $62,000. Iím going to assume that thatís also a volume issue. Thereís an additional $300,000 recovery from DIAND on transition home funding. Would the minister explain that additional recovery?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, thatís Government of Yukon billing to Indian Affairs for the number of nights that First Nation people reside in care in our facilities, in the womenís shelters.
Ms. Duncan: So, Mr. Chair, what we have, then, is an additional recovery of $300,000. So in the supplementary, the Government of the Yukon receives $528,000 from Canada for transition home funding and yet, on the other side of the ledger, we only saw a $50,000 increase in this supplementary for transition home funding to Kausheeís? I think the minister would probably like to explain that if heís aware of the answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the corollary to that is that there is still in dispute millions of dollars with Indian Affairs on the part of services provided to First Nation people that hasnít even begun to be scratched by the federal government.
And for the record, if you want to look at the programs, the womenís transition home in 1993 had $92,652; in 1994-95, $236,421 outstanding; in 1995-96, $99,033 outstanding; in 1996-97, $153,696 outstanding; in 1997-98, $148,551 outstanding; 1998-99, $167,199 outstanding; in 1999-2000, $240,297 outstanding; in 2000-01, $218,470 outstanding; in 2001-02, $463,089 outstanding; in 2002-03 to the end of November, $361,763 outstanding; for a total outstanding in womenís transition home of $2,181,171 ó $2.1 million, Mr. Chair. If you want to look at the Dawson womenís shelter, back in 1994-95 there was $1,941 outstanding; in 1995-96, there was $4,675 outstanding; in 1996-97, $1,773 outstanding; in 1997-98, $6,101 outstanding; in 1998-99, $13,958 outstanding; in 1999-2000, $4,714 outstanding; in 2000-01, $1,849 outstanding; 2001-02, $185 outstanding. And there isnít anything outstanding in the current fiscal year because First Nations havenít used the shelter in Dawson City ó for a total of $35,197. The total amount that remains outstanding across the board to the end of November is $26,751,188.
Yes, Mr. Chair, we are making some progress with Indian Affairs, and yes, there is from time to time a small amount of money that does flow to the Yukon. But by and large, we are still working at this initiative and we are still trying to recover from Canada the monies due to Yukon on behalf of services provided to First Nations here in Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I am quite familiar with the outstanding debt that Canada owes the Government of Yukon. It took us how many years to resolve the Old Crow fire issue and the evacuation. The minister didnít answer the question. There is $528,000 in recoveries from DIAND for transition homes. There is $300,000 more than was anticipated. Let us start at the beginning for the minister. Is any of the $300,000 related to prior years? Is any of it paying off old debts or is it all for this fiscal period?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This money hasnít been received from Canada. It is booked as a recovery. It hasnít been received as of yet. We anticipate it but it hasnít been received.
Ms. Duncan: Well, it has been booked and, knowing Finance, there is a better than average chance that we are going to receive it, and it is $300,000 more than what was anticipated when the budget was tabled. So we have booked the receipt of an additional $300,000. It is a simple question for the minister. I am sure he knows his department well. Is it anticipated that that $300,000 is paying off old debts, or is it current billings?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is current 2002-03, but it is across the board. It doesnít just relate to one initiative. It is booked. It is anticipated revenues from Canada but, like other amounts booked in prior years, it has not been forthcoming, but due to accounting procedures and policies it has to be booked.
Now, that is what we are going on. What will probably happen at the end of the day is that we will add this amount to the $26 million that is already outstanding. It will probably bump it up over $30 million for the next fiscal cycle, but standard accounting practices dictate that we book. The case that the member opposite is trying to make is that we have this money coming in and we are spending only this amount on Kausheeís Place.
Itís not a hand-in-glove fit, Mr. Chair, in that itís across the board and, in all probability, weíll be waiting for another five to 10 years and may or may not receive this money from Canada on behalf of the First Nations here in Yukon. But our government is committed to continuing to provide the level of services to all Yukoners that we have provided in the past, and we will continue to do so and will continue to deal with those federal Liberals and see if we can get from them what is rightfully due to Yukon.
But weíre having a problem with that, and perhaps the member opposite, with her wonderful connections in Ottawa, can help us here. Thatís just a suggestion, Mr. Chair, because it is a big issue for Yukon to have this much on our accounts receivable. Weíre following through with normal accounting policies. Itís probably going to be difficult to collect a lot of that money at the end of the day, but, that said, weíre making best efforts to do so.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, there is an old debate in Hansard on an all-party motion when I was last in opposition that dealt with these outstanding billings. There has also been a substantial recovery, but thereís still more to go.
Now, the issue is that the government, and the ministerís department, has booked an additional $300,000. They donít book that by saying, "Well, maybe weíll get it; we sent them a bill." They book it on a reasonable expectation, particularly when theyíve already booked $228,000 and an increase of a like amount ó an additional $300,000. Thatís not booked on a whim; itís booked on some substantiation and an anticipation of the payment of the cost.
Now, I appreciate that there are old, outstanding bills. Some of them have been paid. But I know the minister who signed the variance report that showed this recovery must have some idea of whether itís for current billings ó itís a substantial amount ó or whether itís for old billings.
Now, it seems to me that, in thinking back ó and Iíll have to go back and look at the Blues ó the minister said, prior to beginning his comments about the federal government, that this was for the 2002-03 fiscal year. So, itís almost ó well, itís the same amount. We booked $228,000; weíre getting an additional $300,000. The likelihood, given itís booked, of us receiving that is pretty good. So thereís now $528,000 being received for transition home funding, but there was only an additional $50,000 in this supplementary. When could the transition homes reasonably be expected to see some increase in funding, as clearly theyíre dealing with additional clients, because there has been additional funding booked?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I donít share with the member opposite ó and that may come as no surprise ó this leap of faith that the member opposite has that the feds are going to come to the plate and actually provide those funds to Yukon.
Currently, as I stated on the record, there is $26 million outstanding to the end, I believe, of October-November, the fiscal period, to Yukon in this regard. Now, standard accounting practices require us to book what we anticipate is going to be recoverable from Canada. We havenít got it yet. Further to that, Mr. Chair, the additional $50,000 for Kausheeís is booked as another $50,000 expense in our supplementary here.
Ms. Duncan: Iím well aware that the additional $50,000 for Kausheeís is in this supplementary. We had a discussion at the beginning about the members opposite taking responsibility for it and then answering clearly in a legislative return as to who was responsible for the funding decision. So the member opposite is the hon. member and the minister responsible for this. He signs the variance report. He signs his report to his Management Board colleagues that says, "Yep, weíre going to get another $300,000, because itís standard accounting practice to book that." Yet the member stands on his feet and says, "Yeah, but I donít really think Iím going to get it." So which is it? He signed the variance report. Does he believe we will receive this amount or not? If he doesnít believe weíll receive it, why is he showing it in the variance report? Why not be more realistic about it then? There is a full anticipation of receiving that money. There are issues around some outstanding funds from Canada ó absolutely ó and a good portion of them have been resolved over recent years. The money has been collected. Even some of the old disputes were resolved. But the minister has to explain, because I know he knows his department; I know he knows the issues; I know he knows the figures. There is an additional $528,000 total ó $528,000 is anticipated to be recovered from DIAND, but the additional money flowing to transition homes is only $50,000. So the transition homes are providing the service. The Government of Yukon is simply doing the billing and the accounting in this case. Why arenít transition homes legitimately seeing an increase in their funding when the government is anticipating an increase in recoveries? Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I was hopeful that the member opposite would be more aware of the budgeting process than what is evident on the floor of this House. Given that these organizations are NGOs, they are funded; they are funded with an operating grant and over a period of time. On the recoveries side of it, yes, there is a recovery from Canada. The issue is when will we receive the funding. Itís not like, "Your cheque is in the mail."
All of these organizations are extremely dependent ó and in fact in many cases, 100-percent reliant ó on funding from Yukon. Where we have a commitment, that commitment is kept and maintained. Where we have a need, that need is being addressed.
Now the area that the member is trying to dovetail together is that weíre recovering more than weíre spending in this area. Well, weíre booking the recoveries and yes, weíll probably receive them from Canada, but when? Judging by the aged summary listing of accounts receivables from Canada, it might not be for a decade or so. Thatís a major issue ó a major, major issue.
The member is fully aware of this difficulty and this problem. I donít know why the member opposite wants to berate her colleagues in Ottawa. Itís probably something that the member opposite has come to accept as problematic for Yukon ó the federal government has not fully addressed its responsibility to First Nations here in the Yukon, and it hasnít fully funded those healthcare services provided by Yukon on behalf of Canada to the First Nations.
We have some serious concerns with Canadaís position on that. Because the judiciary responsibility is from Canada and it is not just in this jurisdiction. It is all across Canada.
I indicated earlier that I met with my colleagues from the western provinces and from the Northwest Territories in Vancouver, and one of the major issues discussed in casual conversation was the issue in the N.W.T. and in Nunavut that they provide health care services to First Nations and they also deliver the uninsured health care benefits on behalf of Canada and they are having one heck of a time recovering from Canada the funding that they are invoicing for. It is an area for which our government is going to join forces with the N.W.T. and Nunavut and proceed and discuss this matter with the federal government, because we have a requirement to provide these services to First Nations. We are not trying to back out or opt out, nor will we, Mr. Chair, but the payment for those services is clearly the responsibility of Canada.
Now, what the member opposite is trying to do is attempt to correlate the recoveries with the funding out. It is not a hand-in-glove match. I would like to think it is; it should be but it is not. It is because the Department of Indian Affairs has taken a different approach to this whole program and has made it more and more difficult to sit down and recover this funding.
Yes, we have booked this money as being due to Yukon. Yes, we anticipate receiving it, but I cannot put a date beside when that money will be flowing to Yukon. It might be six months, it might be a year, it might be 10 years. It may not ever come. But standard accounting practices require that we book this as being a receivable from Canada. If we didnít reflect it accordingly, when the Auditor General comes in and looks at our books, what happens? We end up getting a qualified audit ó you failed to mention that you have this due from Canada. Thatís not normal accounting practice.
Normal accounting practice spells out that you identify any accounts receivable as an asset in your fiscal year. Thatís where weíre at. Weíre identifying it accordingly, and weíre recognizing it as being due from Canada. As to when the money flows to Yukon, I canít give the member opposite any indication of that timing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís unfortunate. I thought the member opposite would be fully aware of his budget, responsibilities and all of the details of his portfolio. Itís unfortunate that weíre learning this afternoon that he is in fact not.
The minister has indicated that the billings to Canada for transition home funding ó additional recoveries of $300,000. There are additional child benefits of $62,000; there are also additional child welfare benefits from DIAND of $1 million. We have booked a substantial amount of money ó another $100,000 under the youth criminal justice system ó so we havenít just booked what we expected to get back. Weíve booked an additional $1,462,000. So the minister has come in and signed the variance board reports that says, "Yeah, weíre going to get an additional $1.4 million."
But he now stands on his feet and says, "Oh, we canít possibly spend that because itís just booked as a receivable." Normally with accounts receivable thereís also an ageing process and an expectation that you get paid. I understand that theyíre booked and that he doesnít want to give an indication when Canada might pay this because there have been outstanding bills in the past. So, letís try it another way.
Will the minister commit, given that these are rightful services that have been provided by the transition home, that when the money is received ó including the outstanding receivables ó the money will indeed flow to the transition home?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is referring to Kausheeís, they have been fully funded to the level they have requested. The $50,000 will be ongoing for next year and thereís a commitment by our government to the shelters in both Whitehorse and Dawson City that, should the needs increase, those needs will be met.
The member opposite, in her questioning, identified booked amounts as due from Canada and included the youth criminal justice system funding. That is separate and distinct, covered off in another agreement and, for the record, those funds have been identified as flowing to Yukon. That is not a disputed area by Indian and Northern Affairs. That comes from another federal department and it has not been a federal department we have had difficulties with in the past. When they have entered into an agreement, they have continued to honour that commitment.
The issue we have before us, Mr. Chair, is the issue of services being provided to First Nations, for which Canada is responsible for paying the bills. Canada has not paid all those bills, nor has it paid those bills in a timely manner. Thatís the issue.
Yes, that funding has been booked for the amount identified, but I do not know when it will flow from Canada to Yukon, and I canít commit to spending monies that are unbudgeted. What the member opposite is asking me to do is to commit to an undertaking above and beyond what weíre here to debate.
It is not part of the supplementary. Itís another area that the member is trying to tie together and make a case, and thereís no case that can be made, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member has put forth a very convoluted argument. He has said the money has to be booked, but then in the same breath said that itís not in this budget. Well, the money is booked in this supplementary. The money is booked. He has said that over and over. So the moneyís booked. Nobody knows when itís going to be paid, but it has been booked with the reasonable expectation that it will be paid. Thatís the test for the AG and for other accounts receivable, as the member opposite knows. Thereís a reasonable expectation it will be paid. Otherwise, it goes into bad debts. Any person who deals with accounting knows that. When the service is delivered, you book the amount owing because youíve delivered the service and you have a reasonable expectation that it will be paid. We have a reasonable expectation ó we had a reasonable expectation in 2002-03 when the budget was delivered that we would collect $228,000 in transition home billing. Now, the member is responsible for his budget and responsible for his portfolio and responsible for every line in this. He has said thereís a reasonable expectation that an additional $300,000 will be paid. It has to be booked, so itís booked. Iím not asking when itís going to be paid. That wasnít the question, and Iíd encourage the member to listen to the question. Iím not asking when itís going to be paid. I am asking ó when it has been received, given that these services have been performed by the transition home ó if the transition home will see the accounts receivable payment.
Letís put it in business terms. XYZ business delivers a service ó suppose itís shovelling the driveway. They deliver a bill for it. They have a reasonable expectation that itís going to be paid. They delivered the service; they get paid. Here is a case where the Government of Yukon is performing the bookkeeping. Somebody else provided the service. The Government of Yukon has booked the money for that service. Weíve booked the accounts receivable. All Iím asking is will the original provider of the service get paid? Iím not asking when the bill is going to be paid; Iím asking whether it will be paid. When that money is received ó and there is a reasonable expectation that it will be ó will the transition homes receive the money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, you know, I was hoping that the member opposite might avail herself to an accounting course that would provide a better understanding of the issue.
The government has already budgeted the funding for this initiative and paid for these services. Now, what the government is doing across the board is recovering from Canada for some of the services that were provided, and weíre having a heck of a time.
Now, standard accounting procedures dictate that, as a government, we have to book our receivables because there is somewhat of an anticipation that we might eventually receive from Canada these funds for these invoices. But the track record for the Department of Indian Affairs to pay these invoices in a timely manner is the crux of the problem.
And thatís not occurring. It hasnít occurred, it continues to be a difficulty for us as a government but, as I said earlier, as a government, we are not going to reduce these services or curtail any of these services whatsoever. We are going to continue to provide the services in the best and most appropriate manner that we possibly can to Yukoners of all types, First Nations included. It is just that, when it comes to First Nations, we bill the federal government for services that are provided to First Nations here in the Yukon. That is done all across Canada.
There are some disputes in other jurisdictions of Canada on whether First Nations are on reserve or off reserve or whatever but, at the end of the day, Canada is supposed to be there and pay these bills. Canada is not ó that is a given.
Now, the other part of the equation that the member is going on and on and on about is standard accounting practices, and that is simply what this is. It is a standard accounting practice to book as a recoverable your outstanding invoices, and we have adhered to standard accounting practices in this regard. The question is when Yukon will receive this money from Canada. We donít even have it and the member opposite is suggesting we go and spend it. Now, how ludicrous can we be in determining that you spent some money, you have invoiced for some services, you havenít got the money, and you want to go out and spend the money again?
Wow. This must be Liberal math ó this new fuzzy Liberal math that is being moved in front of us, Mr. Chair, but itís not math that is generally accepted as accounting practices, nor do I hope it will ever be.
We have to book this receivable. The issue is when it will flow to Yukon, and I canít provide that member opposite with an answer to that. As to spending it in some other place, we donít even have the money to spend, so we canít, in any way or regard, go ahead and spend this money, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Well, letís delve a little more into this fuzziness from the member opposite who should know his department. He has had five months. The Government of Yukon pays the transition homes. As non-government organizations, they receive X amount of funding. They bill the Government of Yukon which, in turn, bills Canada ó this is what the member opposite said ó for the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government ó First Nationsí stay.
We booked an additional $300,000 in recovery, so there must have been an additional $300,000 worth of billings, so that had to have been paid for, but there was only an additional $50,000 transferred to Kausheeís. Somehow thatís fuzzy math, so we try it another way. There are additional billings here. They were paid. When were they paid? When will they be paid?
The member opposite, as much as he wants to lecture me on generally accepted accounting principles, Iím well aware of them ó very familiar with them, as well as accounting for accounts receivable and accounts payable.
I quite understand them. What I donít understand is the member opposite, who abandons the safety plans of women in his own riding.
In the recoveries, there is also a reduction. Weíre receiving less money than anticipated for services provided by the government at Copper Ridge and at the Thomson Centre. Now, the recoveries have been reduced, but weíre certainly ó the Thomson Centre roof difficulties are a separate issue; however, Copper Ridge is certainly not empty. And I donít believe the government would have reduced the rates, so why are the recoveries less than anticipated at Copper Ridge?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís a simple explanation. Under the previous administrationís watch, they werenít able to get the facility up and running as soon as they anticipated, and it wasnít occupied until a later date. But the previous administration had booked an amount as being receivable for the services provided. The facility was not on-line when it was anticipated to be on-line. It came on-line at a later date. At the end of the day, the receivables are not up to what they were anticipated to be.
Ms. Duncan: Well, at least those receivables are being paid, though, because the DIAND amount ó one would have a reasonable expectation that that would be paid. There is also a reduction in recoveries in a number of other areas: reciprocal billing, non-insured health benefits medical travel and third-party medical travel.
Now, it has come to our attention before, in the case of medical travel, because if a U.S. resident needs an ambulance, for example, and is submitted a bill for it and then we donít receive the payment for that bill, it would come to Management Board as an expense to be written off as uncollectible.
Is this the situation with the third-party medical travel in this line item or the non-insured health benefits medical travel and reciprocal billing? Are these old bills we canít collect, or is it simply that the billings have not been what was originally anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to just back up to the Copper Ridge facility for a moment, Mr. Chair, and for the record put on the facts of the situation there. Yukon is being paid for Yukon residents in Copper Ridge. What weíre not being paid for currently are the First Nation residents in Copper Ridge, whose bills are paid for by Indian Affairs. We havenít received funding this year for those residents, so thereís another issue where we have to book a considerable sum of money as being accounts receivable, and we still havenít got the money. We still havenít received what is due to Yukon on behalf of the services provided by Yukon to First Nations, which everyone understands completely the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to pay for. So weíll set the record straight in regard to that area, Mr. Chair.
Now, with respects to third-party billing for ambulance and these services, the demand just didnít come up to the anticipated level.
Ms. Duncan: Iím amazed that the member didnít blame the previous government for that, Mr. Chair.
For the member oppositeís information, non-First Nation Yukon residents also pay additional sums if they are staying at Copper Ridge, and I would anticipate that none of these are outstanding billings. These are simply a reduction in the amount that has been billed due to the timing of when the facility was able to be opened and completed as per the contracts. Thereís also a reduction in community nursing, patient services and, again, third party. Iím going to assume that these are the additional ó again, volume decreases, as opposed to anything else.
The health promotion and tobacco control program is much lauded. Thatís additional money, of course, coming from the Government of Canada ó the Government of Canada much maligned by the current Health minister.
In support of the health promotion and tobacco control program, has the Health minister initiated any additional work on that ó for example, encouraged retailers to reduce sales in some way, to do greater checks on those who are purchasing cigarettes who are not supposed to, or encouraging hoteliers to perhaps get rid of the cigarette machines? Has he undertaken anything else, other than getting $180,000 from the Government of Canada?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to this initiative, this again is a boutique program that the feds have put in place in the Yukon, and itís well-received by our government and by Yukon. But bear in mind, it has a sunset. Iím sure that, at the end of the day, if the feds do not continue with it, the expectations will be for Yukon to continue funding this initiative. That said, Mr. Chair, we are having that same difficulty with quite a number of programs. But it is a program thatís working.
As the member opposite is fully aware and knows, the licensing for tobacco and the policing for tobacco and its sale are under federal jurisdiction; they are controlled by the feds here in the Yukon and are policed by the feds. Some of the initiatives that our government is undertaking with this federal funding include an educational program with the youth and in the schools, which is working very well. In fact, you can find many parents who are berated by their siblings when they return home after attending these courses, and they have parents who smoke and they give their mother and father or whoever may be smoking in the home ó well, they give them the dickens and tell them they shouldnít be smoking. So, we know thatís targeting the youth and itís pretty hard to convert someone who has been smoking for 30 or 40 or 50 years and turn them into a non-smoker.
About the only way that occurs today is when the medical authorities say to quit smoking or this is the end, and then it happens. Our target is the youth in our society. We have a real problem here with smoking in that about 34 percent of our population smokes and we have many new smokers coming on the horizon. It is scary when you recognize that the fines imposed by the federal government for the sale of tobacco products to minors are way in excess of the fines levied by the Yukon Liquor Corporation for the sale of alcohol to minors. One is a federal responsibility. Where we have a responsibility, the fines for selling alcohol to minors is very, very small compared to what the federal government has in place. But this program appears to be having some success in targeting our youth. We are underway with an advertising campaign, and we welcome and appreciate the federal money for this initiative. We look forward to its continuance because we all know tobacco kills and smoking is an addiction. It is one of the hardest addictions to quit. It is one of the toughest. That said, we are working on a number of fronts for this tobacco strategy and we are achieving some measure of success. It is in our school systems and we hope that that success will continue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for that long-winded answer. I appreciate this is a program that is an initiative of the federal government. The minister said he is grateful for the funding that is received. At the end of the day, whatís the plan? The minister is anticipating this funding coming to an end, so what are they going to do then? They must have a plan if they anticipate the money coming to an end. I asked the minister directly, "What is the minister doing? What initiatives is the minister taking in this regard?" His response is, "We are aiming education and awareness at the elementary school level," and in the next breath says, "This is one of the hardest addictions to quit." How are we helping those with this addiction? Thereís no program for them in $180,000.
The minister is looking confused. Perhaps I could enlighten him with a clearer question. The minister said the $180,000 boutique program is aimed at education and awareness at the elementary level ó at the school level, at young people. We donít want people to start smoking. Hallelujah. I agree.
Are we, with the $180,000, helping those with the addiction? Is a stop-smoking program being funded by this $180,000? What are the ministerís initiatives in this respect?
I asked what other representations or initiatives he might be undertaking. The minister sees this as a major issue and I donít disagree. Thirty percent of Yukoners smoking is an issue, and I believe his riding of Dawson City has the unfortunate distinction of having a tremendously high number of smokers. So, what initiatives is the minister taking in this regard, specifically for the addictions, and what initiatives of his own?
He had lots of suggestions when he was on this side of the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: And I can confirm for the member opposite that a lot of those excellent suggestions are being put in place by our very capable government.
The three-year program is $687,000. Itís $180,000 this year. Thatís what is earmarked for billboards, schools and programs with the medical community. In our base amount ó as a Yukon government, separate and distinct from this ó we also have a number of initiatives underway. Itís on the health promotion side of the equation. Those programs are in place, and they appear to be working. The rate of smoking in the Yukon has actually gone down. If the member went back to the statistics from just a short few years ago, weíve gone from over 50 percent to 34 percent. Now, thatís still twice as high as the national average, so there is a lot of room for us to continue that downward spiral, and weíre working on it.
As for the memberís suggestion about what weíre going to do after the three-year federal program has expired, we will probably go back to the federal government before it expires and see if we can renegotiate a further program. Thatís probably what weíll undertake to do. But we just started this program. It only just got underway this past January or February. I canít recall the exact date when our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and I made the joint announcement about this initiative. But I can assure the member opposite that it was well-received, and weíre making best efforts to utilize this money in the most effective manner possible.
The billboards on the buses are part of this ad campaign. Some of the initiatives with the medical community are working. Weíre trying everything we possibly can. But Iíll share with the member opposite that the most effective approach has been to the youth in our society.
Thatís where we are achieving our best penetration and receiving our best audience.
Ms. Duncan: The Blues will reflect that the minister has once again not answered the question, or refused to indicate that there is no help in either this additional money or in the base budget for those with addictions. I agree ó letís stop them before they start, but the minister did not answer the question.
What help and what new initiative is there for those who are already addicted? That was the question and I did not hear a direct answer from this minister who knows full well his portfolio and every line item in it. How much money is being provided to help those who are already addicted? He said on the floor that this is the worst addiction to try and beat ó I would like to use non-violent language but I canít think of anything at the moment ó so what help is there for the adult who has been smoking for 25 or 30 years and who says, "I want to quit", before his doctor says it to him. He recognizes it himself. Maybe his or her child has come home and said, "You know, I am not going to stop. Why donít you quit?" What help are we offering?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I said it once before and I will say it again for the member opposite. In our base budget, funds have been identified and are being utilized for tobacco, and our tobacco strategy is in place in the department. It was supplemented with additional funding from the federal government ó $180,000 ó in this fiscal period.
Ms. Duncan: The minister knows, or ought to know, as he ought to know his portfolio, that one of the issues with that tobacco reduction strategy was help for those who are addicted, those who are currently trying to deal with a nicotine and cigarette addiction. Whatís the program for those people? He has not answered that question. He has said there is health promotion. He has said there is a tobacco reduction strategy. I appreciate that. The member knows his programs, knows his portfolio. He has had plenty of time to be fully cognizant of the fact that thatís an issue and that has been an issue. It has been an issue about funding. Here is additional funding that has come to the Yukon. What help has been provided for those who are addicted?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the member knows full well that our government has continued to provide, through the Yukon Medical Association and to a health investment program, funding for these initiatives to help those addicted to stop smoking. These are ongoing programs; they continue. What we have done is taken the $180,000, augmented it to the approximate $100,000 in this area of health promotion, and moved forward with an enhanced program. We are gaining some success; we are making headway. So I donít know what the member is going on berating me for, Mr. Chair. The issue is being dealt with. Itís being dealt with in a manner that is making progress, producing results. I guess the statistics will speak for themselves. But Yukon is helping out a great number of people in kicking the addiction habit.
We are doing our level best to address this issue. As I said earlier, 34 percent of Yukoners smoke. Again, thatís twice the national average. Itís a pretty sad state of affairs here in the Yukon, and weíre cognizant of it because the impact on our health care system of those who smoke is a lot greater than those who do not smoke, by and large, Mr. Chair. Those statistics are available from virtually every North American jurisdiction. Smoking kills. We have programs underway that are funded through our base, and we havenít enhanced that with this new federal money ó this $687,000 from the federal government, which translates, over three years, to $180,000 for this year, and which we look forward to seeing the results of. Because we know the initiative that was designed by the feds in concert with other jurisdictions is effective; itís working; weíre seeing results; and thatís the bottom line.
As to what our government is going to do after this three-year contribution lapses, as I said earlier, our government will be right back with the feds, saying, "Hey, come on, this program works, we have one of the highest smoking rates in Canada, we need your help" and getting them to come to the table. Itís probably another initiative that the Health ministers in Nunavut, the N.W.T. and Yukon can cooperate together on ó going to the federal government and saying that, once again, here is an initiative where we can ultimately save money for the health care system, by putting in place this preventive initiative, stop smoking, and the assistance in getting off smoking and kicking the nicotine habit.
This federal money was well-received, Mr. Chair. It will be well-spent and Iím sure the results will speak for themselves.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíd really like to encourage the minister to focus on the question that Iím asking him. I appreciate the statistics, perhaps less than the minister appreciates the sound of his own voice. However, I donít need them repeated every time he stands on his feet. I would really appreciate if the member would focus his answer.
Let me focus the question for the minister. Iím well aware that there are health promotion initiatives, quite well aware. Iím well aware that those include a tobacco-reduction strategy. One of the shortfalls ó and the member opposite lived through the debates when he was on this side, and the then Member for Whitehorse West was the Health minister, and my colleague went on and on and on about it, and as Health minister, she went on about it. The issue is: there have in the past been some attempts ó and there has been a little bit of money spent in dealing with those who are already addicted. There was some money in the department. The issue is that more money has come. There has been more money poured into tobacco reduction. Itís federal money. Thereís more money here. And the minister has made a choice with that money not to deal with the shortfall of addictions counselling for cigarettes. There is no enhanced programming for addictions. Weíre continuing with the very laudable programs, and Iíve heard about them for a long time now, about targeting the youth and reducing the numbers of people who start smoking. Thereís a shortfall in the programming for those who already smoke.
And the minister received additional money and didnít enhance the program. Thatís my point. The minister doesnít know the programs in his department, doesnít know that this was a shortfall, doesnít know that we need to deal with this. He says and recognizes that smoking is one of the toughest habits to quit, but when he gets extra money, he doesnít put the extra money there. Thatís my point.
Now, the member opposite ó Iíll spare folks the repetition of the statistics. My point is that there was not additional money put into dealing with those who are addicted to cigarettes and tobacco. Prior to us taking the break at 4:00, the minister indicated that there was $67,000 in the supplementary budget for planning for the Child Welfare League recommendations. How is that $67,000 being spent and where is it in the line items in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, before we leave this issue of the tobacco strategy, I do have some serious concerns with what the member opposite is going on ad infinitum about, and the department is quite cognizant of its responsibilities in this area, and it has put together a very good plan, and it is the stages-of-addiction approach. Thatís the program that is underway and has been initiated. Now, as the member opposite knows full well that any time the federal government transfers an amount or enters into an agreement for any initiative ó this one being a tobacco reduction strategy, $687,000 over three years, and itís a significant sum of money, Mr. Chair ó coupled with that comes terms and conditions.
And those terms and conditions spell out what we as a government can do with that funding. We are working within those perimeters and we will continue to work inside of those perimeters. We donít have a choice. Now if I hear the member opposite right, what she is asking us to do as a government is to go out and design a vehicle with five wheels on the ground. It just doesnít make any sense. We have a program. We have a vehicle with four wheels and it works. We are not going to go out and reinvent the vehicle or reinvent the wheel. We have something; it works; it is effective and really, at the end of the day, how much further ahead are we if we go out and try to reinvent this wheel. We are a small jurisdiction and we have to look at what is going on in other areas and what is successful and take the best from those areas and apply them here in the Yukon. That is exactly what we as a government have done. We have taken the best from other jurisdictions, applied them to the situation here, and we are having some success. And there will continue to be success stories, but tobacco addiction is quite prevalent north of 60 and it is going to be difficult for us as a government with any programs to make major, major inroads. We will make significant inroads and we will be successful at reducing tobacco consumption.
Under the previous administration, one of the initiatives was to raise the taxes on a package of cigarettes. Weíre not in a tax-and-spend mode like the previous administration. We are cognizant of our commitment to not increase taxes, but thatís another way to reduce dependency on tobacco ó raise the taxes again. But as a government we have committed to no tax increases on tobacco, and we are not going to be going there.
Now, the previous administration chose to do so as part of its tobacco reduction strategy ó raise the tax on a package of cigarettes. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the other approaches that we are doing.
The memberís question was dealing with the $67,000 in family and children's services. What that is for is to prepare an implementation plan. In addition, we have moved over, short term, to increase staffing for childrenís services, and there is an extra $200,000 for an additional social worker position ó there are actually three positions. Weíve also increased the funding for the Foster Parents Association and provided greater support. Itís an additional $47,000 there. Respite care for caregivers is another area that weíve increased support for.
So when you add it all up, we are very cognizant of our social responsibilities and the social safety net that exists here in the Yukon.
We are addressing it in the rightful manner that these areas should be addressed.
Ms. Duncan: The member opposite knows, or ought to know, that in fact the increase in cigarette taxes took place jurisdiction by jurisdiction, province by province throughout Canada. It was an agreement made at the premiers Health summit in January 2002.
The Minister of Health should know, or ought to know, that ó whatever he wants to say on the floor of the House, and I know he finds it terribly amusing ó it was an agreement to not only try to deal with it as a health issue, but also to try to deal with the smuggling issues in eastern Canada. It was an agreement among all premiers that every province and jurisdiction raise their cigarette taxes. But then Iím not sure that the member opposite knows about working collegially.
We have gone around and around and around this additional money with respect to the health promotion tobacco control program. The member has said itís a boutique program, but he has no plan for how the government will deal with it, other than, "Well, weíll go back to the federal government and negotiate it." He goes on to say that the program is within strict parameters. Well, those terms and conditions of the program are negotiated.
The member spent six years in opposition, six years in Health debates, and listened to the fact that there is an issue with respect to a lack of counselling for people who are addicted. There is an issue. It was starting to be addressed. The Finance minister made a point with respect to the prevalence of smoking in northern Canada.
The Health minister also indicated that there is a program within Health, on the health promotion side ó he didnít refer to it as a five-step program but made a comment that there are stages of addiction, that the department has a stages-of-addiction approach. Itís interesting from the minister when he canít answer or wonít answer the question, when he next gets on his feet and makes reference to departmental officials. The problem with tobacco and the problem Iím having with the ministerís answer is that he canít answer ó "answer" is a bit generous. The problem I have with the ministerís statements in the House is that he doesnít directly address the questions that have been asked. They donít demonstrate a full knowledge and understanding of programs offered by his department and of problems within our community ó and by community, I mean the entire Yukon.
The Health minister ought to know fully his department, ought to know the expenditures ó ought to know. However, he has clearly demonstrated this afternoon that he doesnít know and he isnít fully cognizant and understanding of the issues.
Now, the minister made a statement in response to my question about how the $67,000 is being spent in response to the Child Welfare League of Canada recommendations regarding services for children in care. The minister made a statement; he did not answer the question. He did not answer the question of which recommendations are being implemented by the $67,000.
In part of the lengthy statement he made, he made reference to an additional $47,000 for foster families who are supporting children in care.
Would the minister tell us which recommendation that responds to? A short answer would be fine.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the member opposite here. If the member would get into the line-by-line, for family and childrenís services thereís a $1,179,000 increase in this line item. What that pertains to in this supplementary ó much of this speaks to the recommendations contained in the Leagueís report and much of it is to address the concerns expressed in that report, Mr. Chair. Now, thatís a significant sum in the supplementary ó $1,179,000.
Iím disappointed in the way the member opposite is going at this issue in her line of questioning.
There are a couple of statements she has put on the record and those statements deserve to be challenged.
Letís just back up to this tobacco tax increase that the member opposite imposed on Yukoners. It was to stop smuggling, Mr. Chair. Well, the federal government stopped smuggling when they imposed the excise tax on cigarettes at the manufacturer level. You couldnít export tobacco products out of Canada without paying the excise tax before they left Canada, and the end user could recover that excise tax.
There is the problem with the issue because the manufacturers were exporting tobacco products out of Canada tax free and for awhile Canadian cigarettes, were being exported to the U.S. in greater amounts than were being consumed in Canada. Now I know a lot of people in a lot of the States but I am not aware of one who smokes Canadian cigarettes so those cigarettes were coming back into Canada. The member opposite saying that this initiative of raising the taxes was to stop smuggling is not an accurate reflection of the reasons for it being put in place. The federal government put the excise tax in place at point and charged it at the manufacturer level and it was recovered by the end user and only then. The other area that is important to recognize here is that the previous administration raised the tax on tobacco products significantly and the reason for that was to encourage a reduction in tobacco consumption and nothing else. That should clarify the issue there, but if the member opposite wants to go on and debate that area again, I would be happy to do so.
Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Chair, I appreciate the lecture from the member opposite. He wasnít in attendance at the meeting and wasnít aware of any of the briefings and he is simply not, as usual, aware of the facts of the matter. Every single jurisdiction raised the cigarette taxes. It was an agreement. Also dealt with at that time were the issues around smuggling ó not only north and south but between other jurisdictions. There were issues dealt with other than simply raising the cigarette taxes.
I thank the member for yet another lecture. However, he has contradicted himself this afternoon. He said that $67,000 of this supplementary budget was dealing with the Child Welfare League recommendations and, in his point just now, he said that $1,179,000 had been added to family and children's services. How much of the $1,179,000 is directly being spent on the recommendations from the Child Welfare League of Canada? How much and which recommendations are being dealt with? Itís a very simple question. I am sure that the minister, as capable as he is and as all-knowing as he is, will have the answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Leagueís report suggested that the number of social workers should be increased to 23 ó that cost was $5 million. Social workers have been hired. There has been a movement around of social workers and weíre meeting the demands there. There was a request for further support for foster care. That issue has been funded. There was the issue of respite care for caregivers, and that has been funded and provided for. There was also the issue surrounding two group homes. The two group homes have received additional funding.
So, when you look at that line under family and children's services, the supplementary that is being presented here today is for $1,179,000.
Itís a significant increase across a broad range of undertakings to address a number of issues, not solely and exclusively this report. It does a lot of good for a lot of Yukoners in a lot of different ways, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the first recommendation of the Child Welfare League was to address social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls. That was the first recommendation. The minister stood on his feet and said that social workers have been moved around and they are meeting the demand. So how much of the $1,179,000 has been put toward either moving social workers around to meet this demand or meeting this recommendation of addressing the staffing shortfalls?
The minister in his earlier response said, no, we didnít hire additional staff, we moved them around. So how many additional workers ó how is this being addressed? The minister said it has met the demand ó how?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There has been a $200,000 increase in salaries across the board for social workers.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís an increase in salaries. Is there also an increase in supervisor and staffing shortfall? Has there been an increase in social workers and supervisors?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre dealing with the social workers, and those positions are funded to $200,000. Iím not aware of any increase in supervisors.
Ms. Duncan: So, then, what the minister has said is that on this first recommendation ó address social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls ó $200,000 more has been spent on social workers, but no additional supervisory staff has been hired. So, in fact, that recommendation is not addressed in this $1,179,000. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, it wouldnít come as any surprise if I told the member opposite she was incorrect. There is a $200,000 increase in salary. This is for part of the period of time. Itís not for the full fiscal period.
There is an additional social work position for family support and child protection teams ó that is for part of the year ó additional family support worker for family support team ó part year ó and an additional social worker for children in care. Again, these are the recommendations stemming from the review to address the caseload and client/staff ratios.
Let me share with the member opposite some of the other increases contained in this line item. There is a $100,000 increase in foster care special rates. That increase addresses the projected costs of special foster rates taking into account the year-to-date spending on this. There is a $47,000 increase in respite care budget. This budget was increased to cover the current spending trends and address the increased demands for respite care. Thereís a $12,000 increase in adoption subsidies, a $64,000 increase in contribution agreements with the KDFN ó and this was one of the Advisory Council on First Nation Child Welfare issues. There is $50,000 identified in here for an increase in funding to Kausheeís Place. $67,000 was identified to ó an increase ó prepare an implementation plan to address the issues of children in care review. There was no funding allocated in the main estimates.
There is also a $100,000 increase in the Youth Criminal Justice Act bridging. The federal government contribution to Yukon in this regard is flowing through. $100,000 is what we anticipate spending in the youth criminal justice system this last year, but these funds are recoverable from Canada and they are indicated in the recovery section.
The other increase is an increase in out-of-territory placements. Some have been extended to the end of December, resulting in an increase in residential expenditures. One of the group homes had a $257,000 increase in salaries. Another one of the group homes had a $27,000 increase in operating costs. In another one of the group homes, there was a $182,000 increase in funding. Itís an adult residential home. It was originally budgeted for a partial year under the previous watch. Why? We donít know. They knew they were going to operate it for a full year.
Seeing the time, I move we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: Iíll now call this House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Document was filed March 25, 2003:
Carmacks, new school for: letter from Luke Lacasse, Mayor of Carmacks and Chief Eddie Skookum, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation to Hon. Dennis Fentie (dated January 10, 2003)