Tuesday, April 29, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues in this House to join me today in recognizing the 30th anniversary of the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon.
For 30 years this organization has supported children, adults, parents and professionals in helping individuals with learning difficulties through the struggle to reach their full potential. The Yukon association is part of a much larger national group, but it clearly shares the same mission and objectives to serve as a voice for persons with learning disabilities and those who support them.
At the local level, LDAY is dedicated to ensuring a level playing field for individuals with learning disabilities so that they can take their rightful place as Yukon citizens with equal opportunities to all others.
LDAY does this in many different ways. They raise general awareness about the nature and impact of learning disabilities. They advocate for those they serve. They make sure that everyone who needs to knows about the most recent research and educational tools available to help. They work on the front lines to make this a better place for those with learning disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that LDAY and its volunteers have played a significant role in helping to change the general publicís perception of a segment of our population in such a way that weíre now more accepting of all individuals, despite their skills.
It is even more impressive when we realize that they have been doing this for 30 years, beginning at a time when there was not a lot of acceptance of individuals who were different. During those 30 years, LDAY has done much work in the area of prevention, early identification of learning disabilities, assessments, education, intervention, social interaction, family support, advocacy, employment assistance and justice to clients, parents, professionals and various levels of government. They work closely with other agencies in the Yukon, sharing their expertise and providing support to individuals with a wide variety of disabilities.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is a much better place because of LDAY, the volunteers and staff who are there today, and those who came before. I ask that we all recognize all those individuals and the work they have done here in the Yukon.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon, or LDAY.
Learning is a complex process. How the brain functions is still not well understood. Disabilities in the learning process are even less understood unless we have come into direct contact with people with them, through our family or friends.
Simply stated, learning disabilities are dysfunctions of the central nervous system, which impair the processing of information in an individual of potentially average or above average intelligence. With proper stimulation and support, many people with learning disabilities can make great strides in academics and in their personal lives.
From its beginning in 1973, LDAY has made steady progress in its purpose to be of benefit to people they serve ó their clients. Over the years they have worked closely with other organizations with similar aims ó Challenge, the community vocational alternative, the Yukon Association of Special Needs People, Special Olympics, just to name a few.
It started with educating educators about learning disabilities, and it began a tutor program for clients as early at 1976. In 1979, LDAY raised enough money to open the Child Development Centre ó a very important service to children and parents throughout the Yukon.
It has created many programs for its clients ó the summer and winter camps, sports programs, visual arts programs and many more.
One of the most important activities is in educating professionals and parents about learning disabilities. It has sponsored dozens of workshops and conferences, teaching hundreds of people about how to be more effective when working with people with learning disabilities.
The philosophy of LDAY is that persons with learning disabilities can and do learn to accommodate their disabilities and become productive members of society, if they are given the extra assistance and understanding. Society itself would make greater progress if we all learned to apply this philosophy in our own workplace and in our social lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to celebrate the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon. LDAY provides a wide range of services for children, adults and families who are struggling to acquire language skills in an effort to become happy and productive citizens of the Yukon. Yesterday, as legislators, we emphasized the volunteer commitment of one and the power of many ó the theme of Volunteer Week. The power of many has been exhibited for many years in LDAY.
On June 6, 2003, the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon will celebrate 30 years of staff and volunteer service of making a positive difference in the lives of Yukoners with learning disabilities. A philosophy of this Yukon organization is that success is only achieved through the building of strong community partnerships. LDAY has made a tremendous difference in the lives of Yukoners and has truly exhibited a strong community partnership. As legislators, we celebrate your 30 years of success and wish you all the very best in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of emergency medical service volunteers
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, last weekend in my home community of Dawson City, I was very privileged to have been invited to view the annual competition among the territoryís emergency medical service volunteers. Teams from around the Yukon gathered in Dawson to compete against each other in a variety of mock emergency situations and events. While this was being done in fun, it was also a way to help them to hone the skills they need as volunteer ambulance attendants. Yesterday we heard how integral volunteers are to Yukon society. Without them, we would be lost. Well, Mr. Speaker, volunteers do more than sit on boards and organize events and fundraise. They are also on the front lines, just like these emergency medical service volunteers. For a number of years, I served with the volunteer ambulance in Dawson City, and I learned first-hand that the men and women who volunteer their time to respond to emergencies and ambulance calls see more tragic events than happy ones.
The sights that greet them are not often pretty and yet they respond in a thoroughly professional manner. They are dedicated to their volunteer jobs and they show that dedication every time they answer a call and every time they show up to an event like last weekendís.
Mr. Speaker, today Iíd like to pay tribute to this very special group of volunteers, the men and women who are volunteer emergency medical service attendants. Thank you.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan:I would ask all members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming three teachers from Porter Creek Secondary School ó Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Toews and Ms. MacLean ó and their grade 11 social studies students. Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would also like to ask the members to welcome these youth. It is a pleasure to have all of them present in the Legislature today, and I sincerely hope that some of them will choose a political path and one day be sitting here as MLAs.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker:Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly on travel expenses of members of the Assembly during the 2002-03 fiscal year.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have a legislative return for tabling in regard to a question by the leader of the third party.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I also have for tabling the annual report 2001-02 for the crime prevention and victim services trust fund.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb:I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) it is not in the public interest for Members of the Legislative Assembly, or Cabinet ministers in particular, to become or to remain indebted to the Government of Yukon, either as individuals or as directors or shareholders of business entities;
(2) neither existing legislation nor Government of Yukon guidelines contain adequate measures requiring Members of the Legislative Assembly or Cabinet ministers to discharge any unfulfilled financial obligations to the public purse; and
(3) the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the authority to examine any matter pertaining to the financial administration of the Government of Yukon, its departments, Crown corporations and agencies, to call witnesses and to commission independent study on practices in other jurisdictions; and
THAT this House directs the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to examine the question of whether, and under what circumstances, elected officials may become or remain indebted to the Government of Yukon and, in so doing, to call such witnesses, conduct or commission such studies and recommend such actions as the committee sees fit, in accordance with the best interests of the people of the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Business loans, outstanding
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Premier. On previous occasions the Premier has gone on at great length about the need for a fair and equitable process for collecting debts owed to the government. In other words, a level playing field. Yet the Premier himself is the one who tilted the field by treating some debtors more favourably than others.
Does the Premier believe that it is fair and equitable to reward two people with long-standing debts to the government by making them ministers of that government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the member opposite that this is a reward. This is a commitment and a responsibility that has been taken on by two individuals in this government who were elected by their constituents to perform those duties. This is not a reward; it is tasking these individuals with a tremendous responsibility, and that is part of what was weighed in the balance here in making the decision on whether this particular issue compromised their ability to carry out those duties. It does not, and we proceeded accordingly.
Mr. Hardy: The voters chose the two individuals in question to be MLAs. It was the Premier who chose to make them Cabinet ministers. It was a political choice. That political choice by the Premier has the Yukon people wondering if there is one standard for friends in this government and another standard for everyone else.
As a matter of public policy, does the Premier believe that any individual or business should be allowed to make a profit or accept new contracts from the Yukon government if that individual or business is in default to the government on taxes or loans? Is that a good public policy?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The issue that the member has just brought to the floor of the Legislature ó when it comes to policy, one of the reasons why we are doing the necessary work in this area is to determine these things. That is why we, as a government, have committed to find a fair and equitable solution to these delinquencies. There are many of them ó and long-standing.
I would point out that these have been a matter of record for years. The two gentlemen in question were elected. The members opposite had the opportunity, when in government ó both the official opposition and the third party ó to deal with this issue. They did not ó we are.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, we should notice that the Premier didnít answer the question.
We understand the position the Premier is in, though. Iím sure the Premier would like nothing more than to have this issue over and done with. Itís embarrassing to his government and itís embarrassing to all elected members of the Assembly. We applaud the Premierís decision to deal with the overall question of the unpaid loans, as he stated earlier. However, this House has a particular stake in resolving the questions of ministers and MLAs who owe money to the taxpayers.
Will the Premier support the principle behind the motion tabled a few minutes ago by my colleague, to have the Public Accounts Committee look into the overall question of elected officials with outstanding public debts, including any possible legislative or policy amendments that might be advisable? I hope for an answer this time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would inform the member and submit to this House that the question was answered. The problem is that the member opposite doesnít like the answer.
In regard to the Public Accounts Committee, itís my understanding that this is one of the areas ó in terms of indebtedness to the government ó that this committee could undertake to look into. We, as a government, will not stand in the way of due process of our institution ó the Government of Yukon. So, of course this side of the House will entertain those suggestions, when and if the Public Accounts Committee meets in the near future.
Question re: Economic Development department, deputy minister appointment
Mr. Hardy:Yesterday, the Premier was quite obliging when he told the House that stakeholders would be involved in helping with the selection of a new deputy minister for the Department of Tourism and Culture. That makes it all the more puzzling why he wonít stipulate what stakeholders have been asked to provide input on the DM position for the phantom Department of Economic Development.
Will the Premier confirm that the stakeholders involved in the Economic Development selection do not include anyone representing labour or First Nations?
Speaker:Before the hon. Premier answers the question, Iíd remind the member that itís not the phantom department. There is a Department of Economic Development, and Iíd ask that you not use that terminology.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the process for hiring a deputy minister for the Department of Economic Development that this government has committed to implement ó unfortunately, itís a department that was dismantled at a time when a department of this nature was very much needed in this territory. We have committed to a process that involves input from the public and stakeholders, and when hiring the deputy minister there has been a process embarked on that will have input from representative people out there in the community, and it also will have representatives of government involved because of the threshold that must be adhered to when it comes to the deputy minister position.
But the more important fact is the structure of the department and the process that we will embark on in creating this department. That includes, obviously, many, many areas of the constituency in the Yukon, but we cannot conduct a hiring process of thousands of people. We must expedite this process, and we are making best efforts to ensure that the hiring process is representative of the constituency thatís most impacted.
Mr. Hardy: Well, obviously, we have an A list at play here. If the Premier thinks that itís necessary to get public input when it comes to hiring a senior government bureaucrat, he should make sure that input really does come from and represent the stakeholders. There are many more people with a stake in the Yukonís economic future than the Chamber of Commerce and the construction industry. I want to follow up on a very strange comment the Premier made yesterday about the process of getting stakeholder input not influencing government. If the input of these stakeholders doesnít have any influence on the government decision, what is the point of seeking that input? Is this governmentís approach to consulting just to make people feel good about being asked then ignoring their advice?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not at all, Mr. Speaker. Itís intended to ensure that there are informed decisions resulting in recommendations to government in this particular area of hiring a deputy minister.
But I want to point something else out, Mr. Speaker, and this is important because, when we come to the issue of double standard, this government has embarked on a process for hiring deputy ministers. On the other side of the House sit representatives of two political parties in this territory that did no such thing. They hired and fired deputy ministers based on political influence, and that is something we will not do as a government. We expect to conduct ourselves in these areas with no political boundaries, in the best interests of the Yukon public.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier on the opposite side loves to point something else out in this House ó thatís one of his common phrases ó but he doesnít answer the questions that are asked from this side, which we are entitled to ask and which we expect answers to from the other side.
Now, Iíll tell you ó the Premier doesnít get it. The concern that the Yukon people have about this Yukon Party government is who is really running the show. Is it the Premier, is it the Yukon Party backroom people, is it the business community? The Premier is the one who picks the people who head up government departments. Those people serve at the pleasure of the Premier and their job is to make sure that the departments implement the agenda of the elected government.
The real question is: who is secretly setting the agenda?
What measures has the Premier taken to make sure the process of getting input from stakeholders outside of government will not be allowed to buy us the hiring or firing process or undermine the objective certification process used by the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The answer is simple: by having political representatives stay out of this process, so there is not that spectre raised that we are making a hiring based on anything but the public interest. Furthermore, when it comes to who runs the government, I would submit to the member opposite that it is the public, based on the mandate presented to the public in the last election. The public elected this government, and we are very conscious of the fact that it is the public who runs the government, not we in this House.
Question re: Education election promises
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions today for the Minister of Education. During the election, the Yukon Party promised Yukoners that if they voted for them, they would do a number of things in the field of education. So far, they havenít followed up on any of them.
I will start with a very straightforward question. This is very easy for the minister to answer. Not to make light of it, but to use a sports analogy, itís just like a penalty shot at an empty net. Will the minister commit that no schools will be shut down during the entire term of this Yukon Party government? Itís a straightforward question. Will any schools be closed by this government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, I have to disagree with the member opposite. This government has not broken repeated promises. Second, in answer to her question, I would say that that is a very hypothetical question and that I am not very good at predicting the future, and I donít intend to start in this House.
Ms. Duncan: I guess Yukoners will wait and see which Yukon school the Yukon Party will close first. People voted for this government because of a number of education promises. I am glad the minister raised them. I want to know which ones the minister is going to keep.
The platform said that this government would recognize the pursuit of education by keeping three specific promises. Letís start with them. They all relate to students who are in high school, whom the minister welcomed today, as I did. The minister has had six months, so there should be a plan as to how these promises are going to be implemented and when.
When is the minister going to create the Yukon achievement awards that were promised? When is he going to reinstate the Yukon excellence awards? When will he index the Yukon grant? These are three specific education promises. When will they be kept?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In regard to the previous question about closing schools, I would have to say today that, whatever happens in the future, all decisions that are made by this government will include all stakeholders. I also want to put on record today that itís important that the people in the Yukon Territory know and realize that the funding applied to YTG is done on a per capita basis. When we have had 3,000 people moving out of the territory over the last three years, itís bound to have some effect on the capacity of the schools.
Again I say that those are issues that will be dealt with, and not by trying to make predictions.
With regard to the student indexing, I think we did mention on the floor of this House, on more than one occasion, that that is something that is ongoing right now and is being looked at.
Ms. Duncan: The minister did not answer the questions. They are simple questions about education promises. Money that is transferred to the Yukon is to ensure that services are in place. These promises were made to the Yukon public, and the government said, "If you vote for us, weíll do these things." The government is not living up to its end of the bargain.
Letís try three other education promises, Mr. Speaker. Theyíre about recognizing the contribution of teachers to the success of our education system, teachers who are gathering this weekend in Whitehorse. Iíd like specific answers from the minister.
When is the minister going to establish the honour roll of Yukon teachers? When exactly is he going to make changes to the hiring process to give priority to Yukon resident teachers, and when exactly will he be developing the four-year teacher training program? When exactly will these education promises be kept?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I should remind the member opposite that none of these things were done by the previous government of two and a half years, and Iíve been in here all of five months. I apologize if I canít complete all of these tasks in four to five months. I believe that this government has a mandate of four years, and we have four years to deal with our platform.
Question re: Convention Bureau funding
Mr. McRobb:We should all be doing whatever is possible to help our tourism industry through the current tough times and to help it face the current challenges. The Yukon Convention Bureau is very successful in bringing conventions and meetings to the territory. In fiscal year 2001-02, it won 20 of 29 bids to bring conferences to the territory. That success rate, Mr. Speaker, is over 70 percent. Last year, it also assisted some 66 local groups locate meetings within the territory. These included sports groups and organizations and so on, Mr. Speaker. The return on investment from conventioneers is 17:1, not including additional hotel expenses, bar tabs and souvenirs. Thereís a lot of upside potential in this area. Will the minister increase the budget for the Yukon Convention Bureau, as will be possible when the government introduces a supplementary budget when we return in the fall legislative sitting?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you again for the opportunity to say a lot of good words about all of the positive initiatives that this government is undertaking in the tourism industry.
Certainly the Yukon Convention Bureau plays a very important role. They have done a great job in attracting visitors to the territory. I would like nothing more than to offer them more assistance by way of this government. We are maintaining their contribution agreement to the tune of $200,000. We made our commitment to do everything that we can to work with the bureau, and we will continue to do so. Unfortunately, we are in a situation where we are fiscally restrained, as the member opposite knows. So I cannot give that commitment. There are other needs or other priorities that have to be addressed. This is one of them, but at this time I cannot commit to any additional funds to the Convention Bureau.
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon Convention Bureau is currently returning some $3 million to $4 million per year to the territoryís economy. Thereís a lot more upside potential ó easily $10 million per year could be reached. The government is awfully tight with the bucks to the tourism industry but it was quick to hand out a multi-million dollar tax break to miners, Mr. Speaker.
So, in order to help level the playing field for these industries, will the government agree to implement a one-year tax break on business tax for our Yukon tourism operators? We, on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, would be quick to support that.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Iíd just like to take this opportunity to explain to the members opposite just what our government is doing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you for the interruption. I would just like to point out that the brand strategy ó we are continuing efforts to develop and incorporate corporate destination marketing strategy. We are committed to product development. We will be hiring an additional person just for product development in the territory. We are looking at marketing initiatives. We are including the industry, Yukon tourism marketing partnership, in some of these very important decisions as to where our marketing dollars are effectively spent. Itís one of the first times that industry has been included on a 100-percent basis.
So I think that all of these things are going to be able to leverage the dollars we are currently spending, which will enhance our ability to attract visitors in the territory.
Question re: Vuntut Gwitchin Intergovernmental Relations Accord
Mrs. Peter:Today my question is for the Premier. An accord was signed between the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Premier on January 30, 2003. The Vuntut Gwitchin Intergovernmental Relations Accord calls for a review of progress and two scheduled meetings a year with department deputy ministers.
Can the Premier tell us if that review has taken place and, if not, can he give me a date when this will occur? And who are the deputy ministers involved?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite refers to the fact that we, as a government, have reaffirmed an existing protocol with the Vuntut Gwitchin. It commits us as government and the government of Vuntut Gwitchin to work in a collective in a number of areas.
Our budget reflects this very protocol and an area of that commitment when it comes to the re-stabilization of the riverbank on the Porcupine River at Old Crow. So there is an example of concrete action driven by this government accord. We think these types of mechanisms are very important for our relationship.
As far as the annual meetings, I will be discussing this, obviously, with the government of Vuntut Gwitchin, with the chief. I have had a number of discussions with the chief already over a number of issues. As soon as we are at a point where we have more time available and are out of the sitting, we will be endeavouring to make up these particular meetings to ensure that we continue conducting ourselves in the spirit and intent of the Intergovernmental Relations Accord.
Mrs. Peter: Iíve had my own discussions with leadership, and we are looking for a specific date. The accord has attached a list of common priorities for the two parties. One in particular calls for an analysis of existing government programs in Old Crow to identify gaps in service and to coordinate the delivery programs between the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Yukon government. These are very important priorities for our government in Old Crow, Mr. Speaker.
Can the Premier give us an update on the progress of that analysis and some detail on the gaps that have been identified so far?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think it can be said that we recognize there are a number of gaps, whether they be in social or health areas, in education or, obviously, economic development. Those types of issues do have gaps and we recognize that. That is why, as a government, we reaffirmed our commitment to this intergovernmental accord. We want to work on these areas, because itís not only important to the First Nation ó the Vuntut Gwitchin people ó itís also very important to the government and to the Yukon Territory as a whole.
When we are successful in solving these problems and bringing forward solutions, it benefits all Yukoners. So we are very committed to dealing with those issues.
Question re: Silver Trail and Signpost Road maintenance
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Over the past couple of years, people living along the Silver Trail have raised concerns about the condition of the highway in terms of public safety, and the downturn in tourism. The Silver Trail is getting a bad reputation and tourists are avoiding this beautiful section of the Yukon. The highway maintenance budget for Mayo has been reduced by 7.3 percent from last year, and this on Mayoís 100th anniversary.
What is the minister doing to correct the problem, and can he give the people of Mayo, Elsa and Keno his assurance that the resources will be in place for proper maintenance on the Silver Trail and the Signpost Road?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I thank him for his question. We are working with our maintenance crew on that particular area, and we can assure you that the maintenance will be provided in that area.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, highway maintenance takes place every summer. Last year, the road was in very bad shape and tourists were turning their big rigs around at the Silver Trail Inn and not going up to Keno. They experienced that short section of road that was muddy and they certainly werenít going to be driving their expensive vehicles down that road. Now that section of the Yukon is being avoided by tourists.
Many people in Mayo and in Keno think that that section between Mayo and Keno is very dangerous and one day it may get somebody hurt. The road is narrow and has many blind turns, and brushing needs to be done. Can the minister lay out the long-term plans for the Silver Trail? When will we see the road brought up to acceptable standards and being properly maintained?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are continually looking at all our secondary roads throughout the Yukon and maintaining them to ensure that theyíre maintained in proper accordance with the area that theyíre in.
Mr. Fairclough: Those answers from the member opposite were not adequate. I would like to relay this message back to my constituents. Itís obvious the minister doesnít have any answers here, so Iíd like him to read the questions in the Blues and provide some detail of their long-term plans for the Silver Trail by legislative return so that I can take it to my constituents. Would he simply commit to that at least?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite obviously doesnít like the answer. We are maintaining our road facilities throughout the Yukon, not just in this particular area, to maintain the standard thatís required in the areas where they were lacking.
We were in contact with the Village of Mayo on this issue in the past and will be addressing it.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper land development
Mr. Cardiff:My question is for the Premier.
Recently the Premier recognized that there was a problem with the consultation that took place for the proposed land development on the Atlin Road. Extensive plans were developed before stakeholders were consulted in a meaningful way, and the Premier intervened in that matter. I applaud him for doing that. The residents of Wolf Creek, Pineridge, Mary Lake and MacRae have waited patiently for the Minister of Community Services to answer their concerns about the Whitehorse Copper land development and, to date, have not had a satisfactory response.
Will the Premier intervene, as he did in the Atlin Road case, and assure residents that no development of any kind will take place until a full and complete consultation has taken place?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to respond to the member opposite in his question.
We have initiated an environmental assessment in that particular area and, once that process is underway, weíll take it from there.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to congratulate the Minister of Community Services for his promotion.
There are many concerns about the impacts of this development on the environment, the wildlife habitat and highway traffic; there are concerns about the effect on the water table and even the Whitehorse watershed, let alone the fact that much of this land is not even suitable for development or that thereís even a demonstrated need for this development.
The residents of this city want the city to do a site-specific review of the official community plan and this government is responsible for that development. The minister has the authority as the official agent to support that review, and he was asked to do that a month ago.
Will the Premier now direct the minister to provide that support?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in the process of hopefully trying to address most of the questions that he has brought up. We are in the process of doing that. We have been in consultation with the community members on the water issue, as well as other issues that were brought up in a previous event. We have had discussions with them, and we will get there.
We have triggered the YEAA process with that particular project, and we will await the process through which that goes.
Mr. Cardiff: Obviously the Premier doesnít have an opinion on this project.
This government seems to have many problems with doing adequate consultations. Many of this governmentís projects have reached advanced stages of planning before meaningful consultation has taken place, and in some instances, before it is even begun. Yukon citizens expect more from their elected officials. Will the Premier work with the Minister of Community Services over the summer to ensure that the minister understands that consultation is job one whenever his department ventures into any kind of land planning or development?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I can assure the member opposite that we are addressing the concerns of all development within the Yukon. We have adjusted this particular site from the original concept of what it was. We are looking at getting a more open and global concept with regard to land planning throughout the Yukon and to get a more direct consultation process.
As the member mentioned earlier with regard to the Atlin situation, I think that is an obvious one that the government, in its process, has fallen down on, but we are addressing it and are going to correct that situation and that will it to future developments.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Orders 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that, in order to provide more time to the opposition members to debate the publicís business, the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, April 30, 2003, under the heading of government private membersí business.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 21, Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess until 2:00 p.m.
Bill No. 21 ó Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 21, an Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate on this issue, we were dealing with the amendments that our government has brought forward with the pioneer utility grant, and this is a commitment of our government to increase the pioneer utility grant from $600 per year to a maximum of $750 per year in the next cycle. That is to say, the expenses that seniors are incurring over the course of this winter, when they apply, will be reflected in the grant the next grant cycle, and that is going to $750. In subsequent years beyond that, Mr. Chair, it will be indexed against the inflation rate. So there will be an incremental increase in that grant.
Unlike what was being considered by the previous Liberal administration, there will be no means test applied to this grant. It will be applied universally.
Mr. Chair, from there, we have taken the steps to ensure that seniors remain in their own homes by providing as many measures and as much assistance as we possibly can to address this area. The most cost-effective manner for government to address the costs of seniors housing is to provide the assistance to allow seniors to remain in their own homes as long as possible, and thatís what this is accomplishing.
Thereís a small amendment that also adds to this area, and that is that a surviving spouse will be eligible to receive the grant and that age changes from 60 down to 55. Of course this is going to raise questions from the opposition, Mr. Chair, as to whether it is a government policy to lower the threshold for a number of other programs.
But I would encourage the opposition to look at the merit of this initiative of our Yukon Party government, and that is to ensure that we can allow our seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as we possibly can by providing assistance. That is an added step that we have taken to ensure that this is very much the case.
The total package is going to impact on the financial bottom line of the government, but the benefits will far outweigh doing nothing. Previously there was an initiative by the Liberal government to address the shortcomings with increased fuel prices by providing a one-time grant. This avoids this. This sets in regulation and in statute these commitments that we have made.
Mr. Chair, when we look at the total cost of the pioneer utility grant in 2002-03, itís projected to be just over half a million dollars ó $510,000 ó and based on the base load, itís projected to increase to $678,000 in 2003-04, and thatís just extrapolating the population increase into the category and of the uptake on this program.
By 2004-05, three-quarters of a million dollars will go into the pioneer utility grant, and thatís driven by the number of applicants going from a projected number in 2002-03 of 850 to 960 odd in 2004-05. Our population is ageing, and itís looking like we will just go over 1,000 in the number of applicants in 2005-06 and, by 2007-08, the projections are that there will be just under 1,200 applicants for the pioneer utility grant.
This bodes well for the programs the government has in place because previously our seniors, once they reached retirement age, would pack up and leave. There are incentives to remain here in the Yukon, to partake in society and make a positive contribution to society, like our seniors are doing, Mr. Chair. This program, while it has some significant numbers attached to it ó its benefits are very much evident.
So, that said, I will entertain further questions in general debate.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Lang:I would like to welcome in the gallery a friend of Carcross, a long-time resident there, Bill Van Zoest, and also his friend who is from mainland China. I would like to take this moment to give them a round of applause.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I do have comments to make on this simple amendment. Weíre basically moving the age down from 60 to age 55 with this amendment, and I think maybe even the minister might be in conflict as I think he would even qualify for this, but I donít think he would be applying for a rebate for home heating fuel.
I wrote a letter to the minister awhile back urging that the increase of 25 percent be made to the pioneer utility grant and to have it indexed against inflation.
When first elected, the Yukon Party said they would do it. We asked that they convene the House to deal with issues such as this, and we did not get the chance in the month of December or in January. So here we are dealing with this, which we normally do in the fall. I asked the minister if he would make this retroactive to last year, because thatís when the commitment was made during the election campaign, and this did not happen.
The minister also said in his letter to me that the indexing against inflation would happen along with the 25 percent. But I believe in his statements he just made that the indexing would be next year ó the following year, not those who can claim this pioneer utility grant in this current year. Neither did they have it in the last fiscal year. This is a bit of a concern to me. Iím wondering where the minister is going with this. Because itís not a big ticket item, itís not a huge cost to government. Iím hoping the minister is not going to cry poverty on this one, particularly with the fact that we are receiving $36 million plus over the next three years to deal with health issues, so the Department of Health and Social Services is not broke. They have money and room to move in many different directions. This could simply come out of the department. It does not need to be even budgeted for in a regular budgeting process.
More people would be eligible to apply for the grant, and this is a good thing, finally, because weíve asked the minister to do many things over the past little while. In dealing with Macaulay Lodge, that was a mess up, in my view, by the minister taking action without consultation, talking like our seniors and elders living in Macaulay Lodge are not respected the way they should be.
In other words, his words were that we can simply move you up to Copper Ridge, where you can be contained. That was the ministerís language, and I was very surprised at not having the respect shown to our seniors and elders in that regard.
When it comes to seniors facilities ó we havenít seen that commitment in other parts of the Yukon that the Yukon Party promised during the election campaign, but we see it in Dawson City and Watson Lake. I can tell the member opposite that many people view this government ó particularly the Premier of southeast Yukon. Thatís how they view it.
If the members opposite would like to change, then maybe we could see some reflection in some of the communities when they do bring up their priorities.
Those are my short comments to this very small amendment. I donít think we need to spend much time at it. I will just turn it over to the leader of the third party for her comments.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am very uncomfortable with the way the debate headed under the official oppositionís guidance. I am very, very uncomfortable.
An accurate reflection of our partyís commitment is clearly provided in this pioneer utility grant that is before the House today for debate. It meets all of the campaign commitments. Not only that, it accomplishes what it is set out to accomplish, and that is to assist our seniors in their homes here in the Yukon for as long as they possibly can. It achieves that goal. Itís one of a number of initiatives, but itís the main initiative in this area, Mr. Chair.
To suggest that I could benefit with a surviving spouse at 55 ó Iíd like to remind the member that Iím not dead yet. They might have some desire in that regard, but Iím still not dead. That said, Mr. Chair, if we look at the priorities our government assumed upon being elected into office, they were many and varied, and it has taken us a short time to get a handle on a lot of these initiatives. We do have a handle on these initiatives, and the finances under the previous administration were running way over. There was a spending spree that was unsurpassed in the history of the governments of the Yukon, so much so that a Yukon Party government was forced to pay service charges to the bank for borrowing and for not maintaining a minimum balance on hand at various times during the course of the last fiscal period.
The Auditor General will be reporting in due course as to the financial affairs of the government, and the balance sheet will clearly reflect where weíre at. There is no problem finding anyone to advise this ministry as to how to spend money. Thereís no shortage out there, Mr. Chair.
There are a lot of initiatives surrounding health care and the Department of Health and Social Services. In fact, the opposition and the third party go on at great lengths about this $30 million odd thatís going to be flowing to the Yukon. Well, yes, it is, but what they fail to recognize is over what period of time and for what these funds have been earmarked by the federal government, Mr. Chair. Thatís a given. We have to comply with our federal masters as to where this money is to end up. We have no choice about that.
And then when you look at the number of years over which this funding is going to be flowing, we were very fortunate to negotiate the $20 million over three years. But when our spending trajectory has been $7 million to $10 million per annum for the last seven fiscal cycles, weíve got to get a handle on that money, and we have to get a handle on Health and Social Services and its spending trajectory.
When we look at the new money, it has pretty well all been committed. Approximately $2 million is going to flow to the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation. The drug formulary takes another $1 million or more in each year. In addition to that, there is FASSY and the Child Development Centre that have undertaken additional responsibilities as well as addressing their initial responsibilities, and this is with the FASD initiative.
Add these all together, Mr. Chair, and itís a significant amount of money.
Then you dump a mess on us like the Thomson Centre, a 10-year-old building thatís going to take approaching $2 million to repair, that was constructed under the NDP governmentís watch and that we have inherited in a dilapidated state. It has been unoccupied for what is very shortly coming up to one year, Mr. Chair.
That bodes well for careful planning and very capable overseeing of projects by a previous administration. That must be clearly identified as being an NDP administration.
Then yesterday, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is on at me about the Copper Ridge Place being too noisy for the surrounding residents. It has to be clearly pointed out that we didnít have any responsibility for placing the facility where it is. That was another NDP administration, and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was a minister in the Cabinet of the day that made the decision as to where that facility was going to be located.
So now the opposition comes back at us, Mr. Chair, and says, "Well, now youíre the government; you fix it." Well, we have a lot to fix as a government, and itís going to take us quite some time to get a lot of these projects fixed and up and running. But going back to what weíre here to debate today ó and this is a debate on the pioneer utility grant, and it increases it from $600 to $750 for the next cycle, which is coming on us fast. That will start next winter. In subsequent years after that, it will be indexed against inflation; and also a surviving spouse has been reduced from age 60 to 55 to receive the benefits accruing. All of these changes that our government has spent time analyzing and going through are to ensure that our seniors can be allowed to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.
Mr. Chair, I donít know if thereís any need for further debate on this. I would encourage the opposition to just grant speedy passage to this. This is a very good initiative for the seniors here in the Yukon, and itís extremely beneficial for all.
Mr. Fairclough: Every time we on this side of the House ask questions that upset the minister, they do the blame game ó blame the other governments, whine and cry. Weíve heard it time and time again on that side of the House, particularly from that minister, Mr. Chair.
All we want is for the minister to get focused. He made a commitment, a promise, during the election campaign and said they fulfilled it but, in his answers to my question in regard to indexing the increase against inflation, he says no, not until next year, not for the past fiscal year and not for this year.
So, is that a broken commitment by the Yukon Party? I would think so. We asked for this increase immediately upon the election of the government, and that could have happened. We could have done the amendments to the act later, so the minister cannot go out and blame anybody else for different acts or for the fact that some acts in government need amendments. Itís ongoing.
In regard to buildings, buildings fall apart. Who built the Thomson Centre? Was it the president of the Yukon Party? The executive? Maybe the member opposite needs to think about that. If he would like to talk about New Democratic initiatives, talk about things like ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre not to refer to specific individuals on the floor of this House. They canít defend themselves, and thatís very unparliamentary.
Chair: Mr. Fairclough, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: There is no point of order. The member is just upset at comments that I made. He, himself, talked about the previous governments that are not here in this House to defend themselves.
Chair:Order please. There is no point of order. There was no reference to an individual by name. However, the Chair has noticed on a prior occasion an instance where a reference to an individual was made, and I would like to remind all members not to raise individualsí names to identify them or to cast aspersions upon their character.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Despite how the minister feels, we on this side of the House will ask strong questions and we know that it is going to upset the members opposite simply because we hear, again, them blaming the Liberals, the NDP ó notice that they didnít even take time to blame their own party for some of the things theyíve done, like reduction in wages, for example, that cost them the election.
We support the amendments to this act.
Ms. Duncan: I rise in general debate on this piece of legislation to make a couple of points. First of all, I support the amendment to the legislation. The amendment to the legislation, however, does not address a number of the other topics that the minister has brought into the debate this afternoon. The amendment to the legislation, I believe, deals with a particular issue that was brought to the ministerís attention, either when he was in opposition or as a member of this House. So upon being elected to government, he has made steps to deal with it. That is certainly laudable. Thatís why we were elected ó to serve our constituents.
I have difficulty with the change. I have asked previously what impact this has on other policy. Will we look at lowering the age in other instances, for example? The minister in his response this afternoon for the camera noted that ó
Chair:Order please. Implying that the member did something for the camera is out of order.
Ms. Duncan: I will suggest, then, that the minister did, in his first initial speech say that we would be asked, but certainly he wasnít going to bother to address it. He said he wasnít going to address that issue, Mr. Chair. That is in order; that is what the member has said ó that he wouldnít address the point, a valid point that has been raised. We should, when weíre examining all legislation, ask what impact it has on other government policy.
Now, the minister has also said that this is in keeping with keeping seniors in their own homes, which is not a Yukon Party initiative. It has been public policy for many, many years. Long before party politics in the Yukon, that has been a principle of the Yukon government and it encourages people to retire here, which we have seen. We have a tremendous retirement population here in the Yukon, and they are incredibly active. Seniors recognize that they have among the best, if not the very best, of services from governments anywhere in the country, and that is something that all of us in this Legislature agree with.
There is a very key impact upon all of our other policy. For example, in an effort to keep seniors in their own homes, we are also going to have to deal with such initiatives as the home and yard maintenance program, an initiative of the previous Liberal government, I might add ó very, very well-received by the seniors.
There is also an impact upon home care, something desperately needed in Tagish, for example, as you are well aware, Mr. Chair.
So, although the minister has spoken at great length and there are a number of areas on which I disagree with his comments ó however, that would simply be a dispute between members ó the point remains that this legislation is important. I applaud the changes. I agree with them. I support them. I recognize, as a member of the Legislature, that this has an impact elsewhere on government policy, and that needs to be carefully considered. The minister has not provided a complete answer, in my view, on that and I think he should elaborate as to the governmentís intention.
The minister also has not clearly indicated ó today was the first time that we have heard clear indication that the indexation promised in the platform is an indexation against inflation, or the inflation index will be used. Weíve not heard that. It has been assumed but itís not specifically stated in the platform. Index to what? Index to inflation is what the minister said. Now, thatís a matter for regulation.
The minister has not, and I listened very carefully ó at the Yukon Council on Aging he promised the seniors that they would see those changes in time when they next filed their grant or application. So that would mean that those changes are coming in regulation and, of course, regulation is not the matter that weíre discussing at the moment. Weíre discussing the specific change to the pioneer utility grant.
So, the minister, when he next stands on his feet, could indicate very clearly how and when the regulation change to index the pioneer utility grant to inflation will occur.
Provided that answer is forthcoming, Iím certainly prepared to move forward in support of this particular amendment. However, the minister has introduced those other topics, and I would like that direct answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the regulations, theyíve already been changed and are in place. Iím sure the member has a copy that was delivered to her office along with the other regulations. On Thursday, March 13, at second reading ó Iíd encourage the member to go back and review Hansard where I clearly indicated that we are also increasing the pioneer utility grant against inflation, and regulations to approve these changes will allow for this 25-percent increase to the base amount of the pioneer utility grant. It will come into effect October 1, 2003, and will increase the base amount of the grant from $600 to $750 per eligible household. That increase will help the seniors and assist them with the rising utility costs.
That was done on March 13, 2003. Iíd encourage the member opposite to go back and read Hansard.
Ms. Duncan: In regard to the indexing to inflation that I made reference to earlier, the platform document does not say "index to inflation" and that was the clarity I noted the minister had made in the Legislature. Can I have the date of the regulation change, please, when it was passed by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The order-in-council was signed on March 4 by the Commissioner.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed line by line.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 21, Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be reported out without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that Bill No. 21, Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Department of Health and Social Services ó continued
Chair:We will now continue with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, with the Department of Health and Social Services. Mr. Fairclough has the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: It seems like we have been debating the Department of Health all through the sitting. We keep coming back to it, and we havenít finished it at this point. I certainly havenít been satisfied with the answers from the member opposite, so we still have questions in regard to this department.
I know that the minister would love to have us clear this right away, but itís not going to happen, because we havenít been getting clear answers from the minister.
There are a lot of hidden agendas, I believe, that this government has. Saying that they are going to address the department spending trajectory for the Department of Health and Social Services is questionable simply because we know and the minister knows that this department will receive over $36 million over the next three years.
Itís a lot of money, and some of the numbers that the minister has are estimates, depending on the federal government surplus. From what I hear, these numbers that weíre getting in Health could actually rise, so many of the issues that the public is raising should be addressed by the minister and are not.
Iíve asked the minister about a number of different things. One of them was medical equipment. I think the minister was inaccurate in his response to the Red Cross medical equipment loan service. I wasnít satisfied with the ministerís answer as to what he will do to ensure that this equipment is available to patients who need it, because as it stands right now, thereís nowhere to get a wheelchair unless you buy it. For First Nations, itís through an application form to Ottawa, and it takes weeks. So that doesnít happen. This equipment is stored in the basement right now and is not available to the public. But the minister said Iím wrong, so Iíll let him explain that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Wheelchairs are provided through home care, as well as the Red Cross. As the member knows, given that he has access to the individual who has spent a great deal of time with the Red Cross on this initiative, all the Red Crossí equipment is currently stored in the basement of the ambulance station over in Riverdale. As soon as we can locate a new facility for the Red Cross, which hopefully will come when the Thomson Centre is up and running again, weíll have a home for the Red Cross. But until that happens, unfortunately, weíre going to have just the one source of supply for wheelchairs when theyíre required on a loan-type basis, and that is through the home care program that the Yukon government has in place.
Mr. Fairclough: Thanks for the answer, Mr. Chair, but thatís not adequate.
The Red Cross equipment is being stored. Itís not given out through loans, at this point, and hasnít been for a year, so itís an issue and a problem. They have been looking for a home, including the Thomson Centre, and have been turned down. I asked the minister what he is doing to ensure that this equipment is available to patients, and we havenít received a satisfactory answer. Iím hoping the minister can make this a priority and look at a home for the Red Cross medical equipment.
Maybe in his answer to my next question he can answer that too.
In regard to seniors and elders, there was a housing study done. Can the minister give us an update on the seniors housing study?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chair, the department has not done a housing study for seniors.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it was started and I just wanted a simple update to it. Government has looked at doing a study on seniors housing. It may have been done in conjunction with Yukon Housing Corporation. Iím surprised that the minister has no knowledge that any work has been done on this.
Would the minister look into it and give me any information in writing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the member opposite. Iíd encourage him to address his questions to the Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: No commitment ó this is seniors housing. The minister is basically trying to avoid his responsibilities once again, in my view. Itís interesting that the minister says this, because several times, on this side of the House, members donít know exactly who is responsible for certain issues. They refer to another minister, so we wait for the department to come up and, guess what? They refer it back to the original minister who sent them on. It doesnít make sense.
If itís seniors, the minister needs to deal with it. Thereís no need to hide from it. Look into the matter and forward the information. Itís as simple as that. Itís not going to break the minister to do that, or any of the staff, for that matter.
Iíd like to ask a question in regard to alcohol and drugs. I did get some information back on the briefing of March 28 from the member opposite, but the minister said ó I donít have the quotes in front of me, theyíre probably in the Blues somewhere ó in regard to the course with alcohol and drug services, when it comes to aftercare, a degree course could have been offered at Yukon College, but they donít have anyone with the training to put on this course. But in fact, the department has spent all kinds of money and energy on this matter. Theyíve worked with Yukon College; theyíve identified the people who can put it on; everything was a go, and the only thing it needed was the approval of the minister, and that hasnít happened.
Now weíve gone backwards. Weíve moved away from the strategy from alcohol and drugs. Just because weíve changed the name ó the alcohol and drug secretariat ó the services still remain under alcohol and drug services. The whole structure is there. I know the minister is talking about stovepipes of administration, but the fact of the matter is that what was spent on alcohol and drugs, the amount of dollars, is the exact same. Itís just funnelled under the department under alcohol and drug services. Itís the same amount and maybe moved around a little bit, but when it comes to aftercare and really addressing alcohol and drug abuse and so on in the communities and how it could be best dealt with, the important components of that are left out.
The course at Yukon College is one of them, and maybe now that the minister has had time to review the question that I asked him in regard to this course, maybe we can get an update from yesterday on this, because I strongly feel that everything was in place and ready to go. Before we go on, I should ask if there is anything new on that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís just back up a little bit and letís see where the member has asked me to head. He has asked me to cover off and provide information that should be provided through Yukon Housing Corporation. And then, with respect to the Red Cross, another stand-alone agency that does excellent work, he has asked me to address that issue.
Well, the Hospital Corporation has identified an area to the Red Cross that they could utilize at no charge for storing their equipment and dispensing their equipment on a loan basis. Because it involved stairs, the Red Cross rejected this area.
There has also been an opportunity to house this equipment in the Thomson Centre but, unfortunately, due to poor construction techniques, the Thomson Centre is still shut down, Mr. Chair. The Red Cross, Iím given to understand, has also, on its own, identified other areas where they could house their equipment, but unfortunately that has not come to fruition either.
When weíre dealing with the Red Cross, Mr. Chair, it is hopeful that, when the Thomson Centre is up and running again, weíll find a suitable home to house the loan equipment that they so readily make available to individuals who need assistance here in the Yukon.
Now letís get on to the Yukon College, for which Iím also asked to provide information on, and the drug and alcohol counselling. If we go back to 1999-2000, drug and alcohol services explored the potential of the development of an addiction workers program at Yukon College. The past supervisor of alcohol and drug services provided technical advice to Yukon College regarding the course curriculum that would be required for such a course. The department was also prepared to explore the possibility of departmental staff being able to instruct such a program. The department also considered sponsoring staff attendance at appropriate addiction courses as part of the departmental training plan for alcohol and drug services employees. At the time, Yukon College was seeking core funding for the initiative and, as a consequence, dropped the initiative when core funding could not be obtained.
In October 2002, the previous alcohol and drug secretariat entered into a contribution agreement in the amount of $21,730 for the development of a Yukon College addictions certification program.
The funding was to be used for the development of course curriculum. It was to be connected to either Medicine Hat College and/or the University of Lethbridge, which were explored as they had existing programs in this field. However, the connection was dependent upon having an instructor with a masterís degree in the field of addictions available to deliver the courses. In the absence of having someone with those qualifications, Yukon College is now focusing on a more general certificate program that will start in the fall of this year. The community service workers program will now include coursework in addictions. This program will address an immediate need in Yukon, specifically in the communities, Mr. Chair.
So I trust that is the answer that the member opposite is looking for, and I donít know why the member wants to belabour this issue. We are making best efforts to provide, through Yukon College, a community service workers program that will include coursework in addictions. That program, I am delighted to say, Mr. Chair, will commence this fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if the minister listened to the questions, he would know why Iím asking them. If he read his own answers and maybe talked it over with the department, heíd know that maybe his answers were not totally accurate. For example, the minister said there was no identified group to take the course ó to take this course, thereís no identified group. The minister said that in regard to the diploma course that weíve been talking about for the last couple of days: thereís no identified group. How can he say that, since all workers in the social and health field in all the communities have been asking for this type of training for years?
As a matter of fact, alcohol and drug services have gone out to the community for years to try to fill this gap ó for years. This was all part of the strategy in dealing with this directly in communities. The minister feels that other avenues will take care of this, but this was a strategy that communities felt comfortable with in bringing this course forward to Yukon College. I am surprised that this minister says that there is no identified group to take the course. He also said that there is no identified area for employment for people trained in the field. Now what kind of answer is that, when all along weíve talked about making improvements in alcohol and drug services and making improvements in the communities? The department itself has advertised right across Canada looking for people in this field.
The member also said in regard to social services ó in Pelly Crossing, for example ó the member doesnít need to go on and on about that. I understand what has been said ó bringing in someone trained ó but the fact of the matter is that community people want to be able to deal with their own community members and they want the training. It has been shut down, basically. There is no movement by the minister in this regard at all. He feels that it is covered off somewhere else, just because there was another initiative by another government.
Itís unfortunate, because I think people felt more comfortable in maybe going in this direction, and now we are going backward.
Maybe the minister would like to make a comment on that: first, his comments about no identified area of employment for people trained in the field ó maybe he would like to take back his words in that regard ó and no identified group that would take the course. Those were his words and if he doesnít believe them, look it up in the Blues.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, itís interesting how half the information can make it to the floor of this House, but the other half thatís very important doesnít. No identification of individuals to take this degree course ó the key is "degree", Mr. Chair, and there were no meetings scheduled. Currently, the Government of Yukon employs about 12 individuals. The other discussion that ensued around this initiative was that the Yukon government would guarantee positions at the end of the time, when these individuals would have this degree. Given that the staff complement had been filled, government could not make that commitment, nor did it.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like the minister to look into this matter a little more carefully, talk with the department. Itís all about aftercare. Itís all about doing more in communities for people. I donít believe that going back to an old system is addressing the situation. Thatís why there was a change.
So I ask the member to go back and check with his department and, if thereís anything new, to let us know, because people are asking me and thatís why Iím asking the questions of the minister.
I would like answers so I can take clear information back to my constituents and those who are interested in health and the alcohol and drug field, of whom there are many.
I would like to ask one question with regard to Tatlmain Lake. Are there any plans for this department to channel some resources ó other than some of the people who have gone there to do workshops and so on ó to ensure that Tatlmain Lake is up and running as a viable centre for alcohol and drug treatment and other types of treatment for community members, be they First Nation or other?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated previously, Mr. Chair, the department is providing staff to the facility at Tatlmain Lake. As well, under the health investment fund, there is a proposal coming forward for funding, but the member also knows full well that the First Nations have a concurrent jurisdiction in this area and we are there as a backup. Although we respect and work directly on a government-to-government basis with First Nations in these areas, they do have concurrent jurisdiction.
Mr. Fairclough: This is an important matter. The Northern Tutchone, who basically run Tatlmain Lake, have been asking for government help and have been directed in different directions to programs within government, but thereís no real commitment. Whether theyíre First Nation or not, this government has a responsibility to ensure services are for all people in the Yukon. I havenít seen that commitment to this particular place.
As far as staffing goes, this was toward a youth program out at Tatlmain Lake, and I believe thatís done now for the year. I might be wrong. It may go on for a couple more weeks or so, but that was one small section that they were able to do. But itís not a program that is ongoing, and thatís the unfortunate part. Itís more or less a one-time program, and what people want to see is some stability or certainty. The minister said that this was a high priority in dealing with alcohol and drugs, and we want to see that. The community wants to see that, and they want to see this government get more involved in what communities are trying to do. I would think this is an excellent opportunity for the minister to work with communities to even take the pressure off government in dealing with this matter. Itís locally driven; itís locally designed, and you canít get any better than that.
So letís not ignore it. Iím hoping that the minister can commit to meeting, perhaps, with the three chiefs who are involved in Tatlmain Lake and who are involved with the Northern Tutchone Council, sit down and work out a deal with them. I know itís their desire. Iím not sure if they called a meeting with the minister yet, but Iím certainly hoping that the minister can commit to that and look seriously at this, be prepared to do his homework, be prepared to make some type of commitment to them and not have talks go on and on and on like they have done in the past and not have decisions made without first consulting them.
Would the minister do that? At least would he commit to meeting with the Northern Tutchone Council chiefs and try to work out a deal with them?
I know this has been raised with the minister.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows full well, the First Nations have concurrent jurisdiction in this area of health care with the Government of Yukon. With their final agreements, they could draw down their powers at any time. With respect to Tatlmain Lake, this was, again, a federal government funding initiative for the set-up ó some hundreds of thousands of dollars, I am given to understand, flowed to this initiative, and Yukon has been there to help with staffing and meeting some programs.
As a government, we are quite prepared to meet at any mutually convenient time with First Nation representatives to address the health care issue, but the member knows full well where the jurisdiction lies and who is responsible. It is primarily a federal government jurisdiction and responsibility with Yukon there to represent the federal government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I have heard this from the minister quite often. The minister, if he is true to his word ó I donít think that is unparliamentary ó said that alcohol and drugs programming is a priority. If that is so, then they would address it ó if there is a will. There is the big difference, I guess. You can always say that the federal government is responsible for this, that and the other, but sometimes it is not enough. When First Nations work with the federal government, it is difficult enough to try to get any funding out of them ó as it is for the Yukon government to get funding out of them.
There are some organizations that they can and have been going to. This government has showed some commitment to Tatlmain Lake. I donít know if the minister knows, but in regard to community development fund, $130,000 went there. This is to build up some of the facilities that are there, and the fact is it is there, itís almost complete. They need some work on the kitchen. Itís isolated, nobody can run away from this centre, and itís an excellent opportunity for people to really feel what itís like to be outdoors and in the wilderness and, at the same time, receive quality counselling. The First Nations have worked long and hard on this, getting people trained outside of the territory. They have the people in place. All they need is operating monies, and the Yukon government should not be hiding behind the federal government when it comes to this matter.
Now, the minister and the Yukon Party government have gone partway in addressing this through the community development fund. All Iím asking is if the minister can sit down and talk with the chiefs. That wasnít even a commitment there. Iím hoping that the minister would do that, because I know that meeting is going to be called for.
I asked this of the minister before. Other departments may be funding treatment centres around the territory, but where is the priority when it comes to community treatment centres that the government is putting their money on? First Nations are the ones that are really leading in this area. Is the minister at all treating this as a priority? Will we see future funding going toward treatment centres in these smaller communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the question has been asked and answered. I refer the member back to Hansard in order to expedite the business of the House.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, from day to day we have seen changes in this House coming from that minister. When I asked the minister about the amount of money thatís coming from the federal government, one day itís this amount, the next day itís another amount. As a matter of fact, in one day it went up $4.5 million. I wonder what it would be today if I asked the minister to provide some updated information to this side of the House. Will we see another increase? Do we have to ask these questions all the time to get an update? I think not. I think the minister can flow the information freely to members on this side of the House.
I know the member is bothered by these questions, but itís his duty as minister to answer them. If I ask a question thatís similar to that, thereís nothing wrong with that. If the minister wants to give an answer thatís the same as the one he had before to a slightly different question, we have to deal with those answers, Mr. Chair. So far, we havenít gotten a clear answer from the member opposite. There seems to be a lot of hiding and a lot of blaming other parties and governments and no real commitment, even though this department has all kinds of money in place to deal with issues in communities.
Itís unfortunate, but I guess communities have to gear up and do a huge lobby effort to the minister to make anything work.
I asked this question before too ó maybe not the exact same question ó in regard to community nursing. The problem that Yukon is facing is huge. We need to attract nurses and doctors to the territory. At the present time, do we have a shortage of nurses in the communities, and which communities are they?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we currently have nine vacancies across the Yukon. As to what communities theyíre in, theyíre currently being staffed with auxiliary on-call and auxiliary workers.
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly the nurses in some of the communities have been working long hours and are facing a lot of stress in their lives when it comes to having to work these hours and the types of jobs they have to do.
I asked the minister to give us a plan that he has for attracting nurses and doctors. We have been talking in this department for over a month. I have asked the question in the supplementary budget. I would like to know how much work has progressed since. Do we now have a detailed plan in place? What can I take back to my constituents to say that the Yukon government is proceeding in the right manner or making an effort to ensure that we are competitive with, say, Alaska, with our neighbouring provinces of B.C. and Alberta, and the Northwest Territories, of course, and with the northern states where a lot of our nurses seem to be going? What can I bring back to them thatís new to ensure that Yukon will not be left short when it comes to attracting nurses and doctors to the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share the following information with the member opposite, Mr. Chair. Currently thereís $135,000 available for training for refresher courses, nursing education and post-basic specialty courses. There is $10,000 available to support the Yukon Advisory Committee on Nursing. This committee makes recommendation to the minister regarding recruitment and retention. There is also a budget of approximately $600,000 for nursing recruitment and retention bonuses paid to registered nurses in the Yukon, and that sum includes $186,000 for the registered nurses at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
In the Department of Health and Social Services, all nurses, including flight nurses ó the Yukon Registered Nurses Association registration is paid; thatís $428 per year. The eligibility for recruitment and retention bonus is some $3,000 per year for RNs and $6,000 per year for CNPs. This is pro-rated for auxiliary on-call nurses, and CPR training is provided. And community nursing and all nurses ó the Yukon Registered Nurses Association registration is paid. Again, itís $428 per year. Again, thereís the eligibility for recruitment and retention bonuses ó $3,000 per year for registered nurses and $6,000 per year for community nurse practitioners. Again, this is pro-rated for auxiliary on-call nurses. There is CPR and TDG ó transportation of dangerous goods is what it stands for ó and training for ILS, intermediate life support, provided. Nursing staff have access to professional development opportunities, including but not limited to BTLS, or basic trauma life support, and PALS, or pediatric advanced life support, and ACLS, or advanced cardiac life support.
Community nursing supports further training needs, if required. Primary care skills program ó which is a three-month university-based course, plus a six-week Yukon practicum ó full salary, accommodations, travel, tuition, books provided on condition of return of service ó and a community health certificate, which is a university distance learning program ó tuition and books, which are provided on condition of return of service.
For community nursing auxiliary on-calls, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association registration is paid ó again, it is $428 per year ó and the eligibility for recruitment and retention ó $3,000 per year for registered nurses and $6,000 per year for community nurse practitioners. This is pro-rated for auxiliary on-call nurses. Again, CPR, TDG and ILS training is provided. Nursing staff have access to professional development opportunities that include, but are not limited to, to BTLS, PALS and ACLS. Community nursing support further training needs is provided, if required ó a primary care skills program, which is a three-month university-based course plus a six-week practicum; full salary, accommodations, travel, tuition and books are provided on condition of return of service.
For a community health certificate ó which is a university distance learning program ó tuition and books are provided on condition of return of services. If auxiliary on-call nurses live outside of the Yukon, they are on full travel status from point of departure ó i.e. it could be Toronto or any other place ó to Whitehorse and to their final destination. They are paid flight or mileage up to economy airfare. Transportation is provided to assigned communities. Accommodations are provided in assigned communities. There are all of the benefits, such as satellite TV, $18 per day toward meal costs while on assignment, and assignments are scheduled according to their availability.
The department has used a number of ongoing recruitment initiatives. In the past, weíve participated in 14 job fairs per year throughout Canada ó seven in western Canada and seven in eastern Canada ó follow-up on all referrals from other nurses. The department has monthly advertisements in Canadian Nurse magazine, bimonthly advertisements in Health Beat, participation in MedHunters.com, an on-line agency that provides Internet addresses for nurses meeting the required qualifications, and we have an Internet recruitment Web site and continuous competitions. We also have practicum placements for university and college nursing students here in the Yukon.
So, when you add them all up, itís a pretty good package. Currently the nurses are in the process of negotiations and theyíll probably be more forthcoming as a consequence of those negotiations, Mr. Chair.
Still, we fully recognize that weíre in an international marketplace. Health care providers are in short supply around the world and we have a need. We donít have the ability to set up courses here to the level to provide the degree-granting ability at the levels we require, so weíre going to have to rely on other institutions with this multitude of programs and benefits that are currently in place and could possibly be enhanced as a consequence of the collective bargaining process.
Mr. Fairclough: What the minister said is nothing new ó basically carrying on with what the previous government did ó although the problem of attracting nurses and doctors to the territory is getting worse.
Regarding people leaving the territory, is the department looking at increasing the per diem given to patients sent Outside for treatment and diagnosis?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Before we go on to that area, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to correct the member. We are not getting worse as far as recruitment and retention of health care providers to the Yukon. Last year, there were 14 positions being recruited; currently there are nine, so progress has been made.
As far as physicians, we have a lifestyle here that has attracted quite a number of physicians to the Yukon. GPs are here but some of the specialty physicians are difficult to recruit, and theyíre being worked on. Overall, improvements have been made over this last period of time.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer my question, Mr. Chair. What I was referring to by the situation getting worse is not here in the territory; itís overall in Canada and the fact that the U.S. is also looking at our graduates here in Canada. For the Yukon that makes it even tougher, because there are fewer people who could be attracted to the territory if other packages look better in, say, the United States or other parts of Canada.
I canít find the numbers I had with regard to nurses across Canada but the numbers are staggering. We produce something like 5,000 students per year out of our universities and, in three years, weíre looking at the need for something like 30,000 nurses.
Thatís a huge number. Over the next three years, weíre going to have problems, and thatís why Iím asking these questions. If we took into account the fact that they would retire earlier, at the age of 55, that number almost doubles over the next three years. With the U.S. attracting our nurses and with the few we produce in Canada, we will have a problem. Thatís why I keep going back to this, because it should not be shrugged off. I think this department needs to pay some serious attention to it ó not just for this year but for coming years.
I donít know if the minister wants to respond to this first, but I asked him this question the last time: in regard to patients who are sent Outside for treatment and diagnosis, is the minister looking at increasing their per diems?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If we could just back up a minute and look at the treatment that the Yukon is providing to the nurses and nurse practitioners and other health care providers here in the Yukon, it has been the experience that a number of nurses have left for the U.S. and have subsequently returned to the Yukon, and itís more a factor of lifestyle here, as well as the wage and benefit program that exists. Progress is being made and has been made over the last fiscal period, Mr. Chair, as to the number of health care providers that we are ó
The government a short time ago recognized the shortage of nurses, and that was the main reason why the Yukon Advisory Committee on Nursing was established, and the government is working with that committee on long-term solutions. Weíve achieved some short-term solutions, and weíre looking at the long term. But I do agree with the member opposite that there is a worldwide shortage of health care providers, and weíre doing our level best to provide wage and benefit incentives that will attract health care professionals to the Yukon.
Also underway is a primary health care review that will take place in the not-too-distant future, and Iím sure there will be input at that level as to perhaps how we can structure existing organizations to better serve the health care needs of all Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
With respect to per diems for travel, we havenít budgeted for any increase in this next fiscal cycle.
Mr. Fairclough: Did the minister say the next fiscal cycle or the one weíre presently in? I donít believe itís a huge dollar amount and I encourage the minister to look at that increase.
The other thing with regard to nurses ó and Iíve made this suggestion before to the minister ó is that if Yukon was a place for university students to do their practicum, we would have a better opportunity to showcase the Yukon and keep those nurses here who have done their practicum in the territory. That was one suggestion that was made by the nurses association and should be looked at by the minister.
Is the department looking at all at establishing a residence similar to the one in Edmonton, which has been put together for the N.W.T. patients? Is the minister looking at establishing a residence, I guess, in Vancouver for Yukon patients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In many respects, the programs that we have here in the Yukon to assist people to travel for medical purposes far exceed those provided in the Northwest Territories. I am sure that the member should be well aware of that.
Currently the medical travel program here in the Yukon costs the department $4,618,360. It is a very, very significant cost.
We have spoken on a government-to-government basis, and we are looking at more cooperation with the Northwest Territories. We are looking to accessing the Northwest Territoriesí facility in Edmonton. There have been discussions but nothing has been concluded.
In many ways, we are more advanced as to what we pay individuals who are required to travel and per diems. There is a problem, and the member should be well aware of it and very cognizant of it. That is, under the uninsured health benefit program, the federal government is attempting, in many respects, to back out of their obligations to the First Nations in this area. I am sure that is going to probably end up being seen as a downloading from the federal government to the Government of Yukon in many of these areas. But at the end of the day, it would appear that the federal government is backing out of its fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations in many of the areas here in the Yukon ó or attempting to, Mr. Chair.
I think all parties must be cognizant and join together and recognize this and join forces with our First Nations and firmly address this issue with the federal government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the answer from the minister opposite. Thatís something new, I suppose, in working with the Northwest Territories in regard to this particular residence in Edmonton. Many of our patients go to Vancouver, and thatís why I asked about that. So the minister says that really nothing is taking place to look at something similar there. Perhaps the minister can have some discussions with the Northwest Territories and jointly plan on a residence in Vancouver, because I believe a lot of their patients go there too.
In regard to women who are in the last stage of their pregnancy, First Nations send them here to Whitehorse to spend the last two weeks before giving birth in a hotel. For non-native people, that is not the case. Theyíre basically flipping the bill. Is this Yukon Party government looking at taking care of the bill for pregnant women who have to come into Whitehorse for the final two weeks of their pregnancy?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is an issue that is being worked on. I can advise the member opposite that the department has just recently received a proposal from the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre in regard to providing accommodations to a mother-to-be and her time period here in Whitehorse awaiting the arrival of her child.
Mr. Fairclough: So is the minister saying that the Yukon government will possibly provide space in Whitehorse for women who live outside Whitehorse in the final two weeks of their pregnancy?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We havenít concluded anything, Mr. Chair, but letís just call it work underway. Perhaps, come this next year, Iíll have more to report in this area but it is an undertaking that we have committed to. I canít report any major progress to date but itís being worked on.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím glad to hear that itís being worked on because I think this is an important matter. Obviously it is a relief for pregnant women to be in Whitehorse where they know there is a good facility to accommodate them. First Nations have worked toward that and I donít think we should have two different standards here.
So, if the department can make this a priority and get something going quickly, then certainly we, on this side of the House, would support it. Even if it were to come as part of a supplementary budget for the department or if they could find it within and announce it through a news release, thatís something that we, on this side of the House, would fully support.
I would like to ask the minister if his government is looking at privatization in any part of health care in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as the member well knows, the largest component in the health care system is basically privatized, and thatís all the doctors in private practice.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, we all understand that, but there has been a bit of a movement in the past, even with the Liberals in regard to the CT scan, for example, to privatize that. Is there any interest or willingness ó a direction, I guess ó on the part of the Yukon Party government to move to privatize any other areas, I guess I could say, in health care in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím not aware of any. None have crossed my desk. There are initiatives underway. I donít know if the member opposite deems that if we were to enter into an agreement with an NGO for the provision of accommodations for a mother-to-be as being privatizing the health care system. I donít know how or what definition of "privatizing" the member is looking at.
What currently exists exists. There is a primary health care review underway in the not-too-distant future. Stakeholder groups representing approximately 100 have been invited to participate, and perhaps the member opposite, if he sees an opportunity, Mr. Chair, to identify where we could better the quality of service by privatizing something, could identify it to this review panel and let them bring it forward.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if there is a commitment by this government to do that, all the minister needs to say is that itís going to be done.
The public is interested in it. They want to know what exactly is taking place, what discussions are happening without them, because certainly this is not being discussed openly. Are we going to see a two-tier health care system in the Yukon? Is it supported by the Yukon Party government? Weíve seen it come very close in regard to the CT scan here in Whitehorse. We could have had this service privatized, and the public wants to know if we are heading down the same road as Alberta. Are we going to hold our own? Is the Yukon Party interested at all in the two-tier health care system? If so, what is it? Bring some information out.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is committed to providing the best level of health care possible to the residents of the Yukon. Thatís where we are at.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister is avoiding the question, so we will just leave it at that. There is a reason why, I suppose.
I would like to ask a simple question: why is family and children's services down by 22 percent? Does the minister have a plan in place? Why is there a cut by 22 percent in family and children's services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The largest reduction in this area is because the uptake on the daycare subsidies wasnít what was anticipated. This comes about as a consequence of the tremendous downturn of the economy and the exodus of over 3,000 individuals. We are operating daycare facilities at less than capacity. We are running schools at 40- or 50-percent capacity. We are running a whole series of facilities here in the Yukon at considerably less than capacity.
Under the previous administration, the anticipation was that the uptake on the subsidies for day homes and daycares were going to be a certain value and that did not materialize. Our government is working with the day home and daycare operators. As recently identified, another $230,000 is flowing through. The good work of our government should be in place very, very quickly, retroactive to April 1 of this year.
That determination of how these funds will flow has been made by the daycare and day home operators in conjunction with officials from the department, but itís going to be underway very, very quickly. This is not on the subsidy side. This is on the direct operating grant, Mr. Chair, and this money will end up flowing directly through to the workers, resulting in an increase in wages, depending on their salary category, from a couple of dollars a day up to, I believe, $9 or $10 a day, overall.
Weíre making progress. Weíre still going to be meeting with the operators of the daycare and day homes, and we have a long-term strategy that, hopefully, over the six-month period weíll end up with a better method of funding these operations, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying to the childcare providers that the $115,000 going toward their wages is an adequate increase to their wages, or is this being addressed further by the department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The way the approach was made to me and the department, Mr. Chair, is that childcare is in crisis in the Yukon, and it required an immediate cash infusion. The exercise we went through was how to put the money into the system so that it ended up where it was needed, and that was in the wage and benefit package for the actual employees in the facilities.
So that exercise has been undertaken, and this, as I have stated previously, is a six-month window only. That is only to address the short term. That commences April 1 of this year, and we will have in place a new system six months from April 1 that will examine the whole issue of childcare and the subsidies, either through the direct operating grant, equipment, and how this money is going to flow. So that is work underway.
We have a lot of areas that we have to address as a government, but unfortunately we have the time constraint of only having been in office a short period of time, and we have made considerable progress but still have a ways to go.
Mr. Fairclough: I look forward to seeing a review or a report produced by the department to have this addressed six months from now, or six months from the beginning of the fiscal year, to see how improvements can be made to childcare providers. The minister says that the money that has been announced is to address this issue for six months. Iím sure that this is appreciated by those involved with our children and the taking care of our children. Iíll just leave this one for now. I have lots of questions when it comes to childcare. Maybe at a different time I would ask them.
In regard to social workers in the regions, do they have to have a master of social work to work in communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: A social worker is required to have a bachelor degree. The department doesnít require a secondary degree of a masterís. The level below social workers has to have a diploma in that field.
Mr. Fairclough: I know this is of concern to some of the community people, since they have frontline workers who have been working with the communities, family and children's services, and so on. When it comes to jobs that are created by Yukon government, they are bumped off the list, even though they probably are the best ones to handle this job, but they donít have the proper schooling behind them to do it.
I would like to ask the minister this, how many bachelor of social work graduates from Yukon College are presently working in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have no idea.
Mr. Fairclough: Letís make it easier. Approximately what percentage of those graduates from the bachelor of social work program is working in communities? I know that the minister must have the numbers there ó the big black book has everything in it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís a personnel issue, and we donít have the details available as to the level of training that everyone across the Yukon in the department has. Itís an issue that probably we want to avoid because it would identify quite a number of individuals.
But if the member, in his next career move, which is obvious from his interest in this field, is interested in a degree or diploma in social work, in social services, I would be happy to obtain the information as to how he can peruse this activity.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister should know this. It is a big part of the department. It is an area that needs addressing and the minister doesnít know it. Itís in his big, black book, Mr. Chair. We, on this side of the House, are interested. We want to know who is being hired in the communities and how much uptake this department is giving to what is being offered in Yukon College. The bachelor of social work has been around for a number of years now. We would like to know, so if the minister could forward some of that information to us on this side of the House, weíd appreciate it.
In regard to the health investment fund, this has been cut by some 50 percent. I would like to know why.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the academic qualifications of the staff in the department, I donít believe it appropriate to provide the member opposite with that information.
With respect to the health investment fund, $100,000 currently exists in the fund and that has been added to the existing budget, so we are right where we should be, Mr. Chair, or want to be.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister has changed his ways from this side of the House to that side of the House. I recall the minister asking questions of the Community Services minister about mosquito larvicide. Three days of debate about numbers, its effects, different uses and so on.
Now, when heís asked a question that affects his department directly, requesting information that I know he should know, he refuses to answer. If I ask the same question to the Minister of Tourism, Iíll bet you Iíll get an answer, because I believe the minister didnít do his homework in this regard.
The minister said that there was $100,000 added in. I asked why it was cut by some 50 percent. I really didnít get an answer why. Is it simply because there are monies there, or whatís the rationale behind cutting it by 50 percent?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there was $100,000 remaining in the program from last year. When that is added back in, we arrive at a number that we can live with.
Mr. Hardy: Forgive me if I ask a question that has already been asked. Iíve been in and out of the Legislature for gathering up papers, so I might have missed something here, and if thatís the case, then Iíd appreciate it if the minister would just inform me that itís the exact same question, and I can look it up in Hansard and we can move on very quickly.
One of the concerns I have here is the cuts, and I know my colleague had mentioned the 22-percent drop in family and children's services. In looking at the youth involved in the criminal system, which this would fall under in looking through the budget, it shows a 15-percent increase in that area. What is the minister planning to do with the 15-percent increase, and how is he balancing the finances in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member knows, there is a new youth criminal justice system that the feds have just put in place, and there was some responsibility on the Yukonís part to deliver the services on behalf of the federal government. A number of changes were required, and the federal government funded these changes. That is where that increase stems from; it is 100-percent funded by the feds.
Mr. Hardy: The changes in the new act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act ó my understanding is, and maybe the minister can give me his view in this area ó are supposed to lessen the amount of youth who will go through the criminal system. I know that it is a Justice question, but it is connected to Health.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, we have no control over the number of youth who go into the criminal justice system. What this new Youth Criminal Justice Act does is reduce the number of youth who are sentenced to secure custody.
Mr. Hardy: One of the concerns in my riding is the increased amount of drug use in the downtown area. I think that can ó how should I say this? The numbers that we see in the drug usage in downtown Whitehorse are connected to the communities as well, because many youth do come from the communities and move into Whitehorse and try to live here as best they can.
However, a lot of them also become victims of an element in our society that we are always trying to deal with and that is a huge burden to our system, and that is drug usage.
Now, weíve seen an increase in the drug usage. What resources is the minister planning to put into this area as we see a growing concern and a growing need for resources to address the drug usage?
He may think this is a general or vague question, but what Iím trying to do is get a picture of where this new government is going in education around drug usage. What plans does the minister have in that area, as well as the prevention and treatment areas that may be available? Is anything being planned in this budget, or is this something we may see over the next couple of budgets?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, we have a drug problem in the Yukon, which he has clearly identified. Itís quite tragic. Iíve asked my officials to get together with the enforcement end and look at ways to increase enforcement.
We havenít gone down the road in that area very far as of yet, but itís an area that is going to be earmarked for a high priority. Our main focus, as a department, is concentrating on the results of drug and alcohol use and abuse. That said, I would agree with the member opposite that more on the prevention and enforcement side is required, and we will be seriously looking at that area.
It is not an area that the Department of Health alone can deal with. It crosses over the bounds of several departments in government, primarily Justice.
We have identified it as a problem area and instructions have gone out. Iím hopeful that we can report some new undertaking or at least some progress in this area. One only has to wander down to the riverbank and see the number of discarded needles to know and recognize that we have a serious problem. Itís a well-known fact that you can go downtown Whitehorse and buy any type of drug, currently the most popular types of drugs, faster than you can purchase a six-pack of beer. So, Mr. Chair, thatís the nature of the problem that we have to address and deal with, not just at a department level but society has to deal with the problem. Itís a problem in our society.
Mr. Hardy: The minister opposite mentioned needles and heís very correct, but itís not just on the riverbank as he well knows. The other day, I was walking to work early in the morning and I met one of our councillors on the street. He informed me of the trails that run back in behind the clay cliffs and recommended that I take a walk back there. He walks back there with his dog on a regular basis and said he spends a fair amount of time picking up needles ó and Iím sure he takes precautions to do so. I decided to take a walk back there as well and thereís no question about it. There are many spots within the clay cliffs where there is extensive partying and I did encounter needles. As a matter of fact, the needle situation is so prevalent within our society and definitely within the City of Whitehorse ó three weeks ago I pulled up in front of Rogers Video, in a clean parking lot in a very public place, and when I opened the door of my vehicle and looked out to step out, there was a discarded needle right there in the parking lot.
There is no question that the minister is correct; the needle situation in this town is what I consider almost a crisis situation for many people, and itís continuing to grow. We have to address it in some manner or some form. I also agree with the minister that it is not just one department that deals with this. It has to involve a few departments, specifically Justice as well, on the enforcement side, as well as the policing. But there is a need in our society to reach the youth as soon as possible and educate them and intervene as soon as possible to prevent them from going down this path, if we can. This is money that is well-spent. My concern in this budget is that I donít see that reflected.
I have heard the arguments that itís their first budget. They have only been in government for six months. Iím not going to contest that; I just want to raise this point, that every day that goes by there may be one other child, one other youth, one other person out there who becomes a victim of drug use and a victim of the people who prey on the youth. Itís a very serious situation; it involves our schools. Many of these people who get addicted end up also dropping out of school. So we have to have things on the street that can be there for those who are trying to break from that environment but also the ones who can intervene and guide them through it if theyíre not ready to break through yet.
That raises a question. One of my concerns was the cancellation of the Outreach van. Just to refresh my memory, this was a federally funded van, funded by the Liberal government as one of their programs ó as the minister likes to say, their boutique programs. Iíll get him to confirm that first.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am advised that the department even expressed concern, when the feds first funded, that this was going to be a problem because there wasnít ongoing funding. The initiative of drug and drug awareness is one that we are very cognizant of as a government. Itís an issue that we know we have a long ways to go on, and itís not just the Department of Health and Social Services ó it crosses over a number of departments.
I couldnít agree with the member more on the issue of the drug problem in our society. It starts with a little bit of pot and it goes into the drug world today. I am told that it used to be that, for ten bucks, you could get high on crack cocaine for a couple of hours, and now it is, for ten bucks, you can get high for 24 hours on some of the new designer drugs. They are more readily available than a six-pack of beer after-hours.
Yes, we have a real serious problem and itís a problem that has been identified. It crosses over more than one department and our government will be examining ways to provide added education and added response in this area.
The member opposite is very correct that we should target the youth in our society and in the schools and deal with it at that level. There are a number of programs that are currently in place. The RCMP does have a drug awareness officer based in Whitehorse who goes into the schools and puts on various courses. But there has to be a more concentrated effort by society as a whole to look at the issue of drugs in our society.
We know those Liberals in Ottawa will probably look at decriminalizing a whole bunch of these areas in the not-too-distant future just to get more brownie points. However, at the end of the day, society has to deal with these areas and these initiatives, and we in the Department of Health and Social Services have to pick up the pieces. Itís not something that society should take for granted. Itís a serious matter ó a very serious matter. We know we have a great problem with alcohol, and alcohol is on the surface and readily available. When it comes to drugs, the underground economy in narcotics is tremendous today. Itís destroying a lot of lives.
Mr. Hardy: I agree with the minister on that. Itís definitely destroying a lot of lives. Drugs are also connected to crime. As people become addicted to drugs, their need to have it is often great, and their ability to raise funds, whether itís work or something else, is often not there and they will resort to crime. In my riding, right at the downtown core, itís a common sight to walk home and see people who are obviously drug users and people who are victims of crime. Theyíre connected, and we have to work together and resolve it ó I donít know if we can ever resolve it, but we have to work in a manner that protects our citizens and also assists those who definitely need help.
Iím really going to finish up here. I just wanted to get this out. The Outreach van was having an impact in its initial stages, and it is a crime that the federal government stopped funding that. I think the idea merits some serious consideration, and I would ask the minister to seriously consider putting some money toward this program. It was having an impact; thereís no question about it. It was very visible, and I have talked to a lot of people on the streets, and youth, and they had a lot to say about the Outreach van and were very positive about it. It meant something to them. It was a visible support for them that travelled around.
Interestingly enough, they found that to be more approachable, in many cases, than a building.
I do know that some of the organizations are doing some very good work with youth ó the Blue Feather organization, of course, and the BYTE, and the Whitehorse Youth Centre is doing a tremendous amount of good work, and you only have to go there and visit it to see the assistance and help that theyíre supplying, and the people who work there are tremendous. On Friday, I refereed a game that was organized by the Whitehorse Youth Centre and the RCMP, and it was wonderful to see that being brought together. It put some faces on the enforcement side with the youth side, and there was a huge uptake by the youth and a very good showing by the RCMP. Fortunately, the youth did win the game in regular time and they were quite proud of that, although the RCMP played very hard.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: It was a floor hockey game. Thanks for the question. It was at the Elijah Smith School.
So those are the kinds of things that are needed, but these organizations need support, and we have to see that support in the budget and we also have to hear that support from the government side.
Iím going to finish my questions here. Iím just asking the minister to seriously consider the Outreach van and any of the other programs that the Liberal government bails out on, to consider supporting it and consider lobbying the federal government to try to put some money back into these programs that have such a huge impact on our society ó not just on youth but all people in our society.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the points of the member opposite are well taken and duly noted, but we have a really serious problem as a government with a lot of the federal government boutique programs that come into the Yukon and then dry up and disappear, and we are left holding the bag and are expected to take up the cause and fund the initiative.
We only have to look at the Salvation Army as to the amount of money that was funded in their direction by the feds, and then they backed right out.
The van is another example. All very worthwhile and beneficial programs on the surface, but yet no commitment to stable, ongoing funding. At least the government here at this level can commit to the period of its mandate, Mr. Chair, and move forward.
But we have a lot of pressures on our budget currently, and we cannot explore any of these areas beyond what weíre currently looking at, save and except those we have identified for additional funding because of the demands in that specific area. If you want to look at the adult service unit currently, the departmentís budget is $11.3 million. That, in itself, should tell you the level of funding thatís going into one initiative alone, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the members opposite to join with us in any opportunity they have when they meet with federal government officials to lobby them, when they get into funding programs, to maintain funding to the boutique programs. The homeless initiative and the van are but two examples. Where this is going to come home to roost is the determination by Indian Affairs to back out in one form or other from the uninsured health benefits for First Nations. That fiduciary responsibility still rests with the Government of Canada and I believe we, as elected representatives, no matter which party we represent, should join together and be lobbying the federal government on this initiative, to maintain their support, maintain their funding, and at the same time have a serious look at the funding of these boutique initiatives here in the Yukon.
There is probably going to be an opportunity in the not-too-distant future when the wannabe next prime ministers of Canada meet here in the Yukon ó the Liberal candidates seeking the leadership of that party. They are going to be here in the Yukon, and if any of you have an opportunity to meet with them, I would encourage you to lobby them as well as you can to ensure that the Indian Affairs initiatives under the uninsured health benefit plan for First Nations remain at their current level and, as well, that all of these boutique programs are continued.
If it wasnít for the good auspices and excellent work of the Premier of the Yukon in conjunction with the premiers of the other two northern jurisdictions, the base funding would have been on a per capita basis, Mr. Chair, and we wouldnít have even been able to address the short-term needs of the additional monies required in the health care system, let alone even address the long-term needs.
So, we are all in this together ó ainít nobody going to get out of this world alive. We have an opportunity to look at our federal government and ask them to contribute on the same basis as they have done in the past for uninsured health benefits for First Nations and to continue support for programs that they have begun here in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: We can all be grateful for the Premierís past experience as an NDP MLA for learning the importance of lobbying for more health care funds for the territory. He gained from that experience and, as a result, Yukoners will benefit.
In regard to the ministerís comment about lobbying federal politicians who are on the leadership campaign trail in the near future, certainly we on this side will try our best, although not all of us might be able to afford to attend those dinners.
Maybe we can catch some outside on the street or something, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple areas Iíd like to ask the minister about. One of them is this governmentís commitment to wilderness treatment centres, and in particular the use of the Aishihik Lake Treatment Centre facility.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if the member opposite was seated in the Legislature when the Member for Mayo-Tatchun ó
Chair:Itís inappropriate for a member to identify that another member was absent.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite had been listening when the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was questioning me on this same situation at the Tatlmain Lake undertaking, he would have been fully conversant and aware of what initiatives our Yukon Party government has taken and will be taking and what steps were taken previously. So that has been clearly identified. Iíd encourage the member to go back and read Hansard.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I donít recall the minister specifically addressing the question regarding the facility identified, but Iíll give him the benefit of the doubt and go back to Hansard and check and possibly bring it up again with the minister.
Another topic we have been discussing, Mr. Chair ó and I hope the minister is listening ó is the area of rural seniors facilities. Weíve had some discussion back and forth about this, and the minister has indicated that the department has numbers for the various regions in the territory ó in Whitehorse, for instance ó of seniors who potentially would make up the uptake for such facilities. I would like to know if the minister would provide us that information.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That information is provided to the member opposite on a regular basis. Itís called the Yukon Statistical Review population/age summary, and itís listed by community. The age breakdown is there for all the communities in the Yukon. I would encourage the member opposite to go back, take this document and analyze it in detail, because the information is very well laid out, and the conclusions the member wants to reach ó itís all there; itís in black and white. I donít know where the member is going with this question.
I donít have the statistics with me here today, but the member receives this on a quarterly basis, and itís there. Iím surprised the member opposite hasnít done the necessary background checks on information to ascertain where this information is derived from.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the ministerís response is very insulting, and it really lowers the level of debate in this Legislature ó below the level promised by this very government. Thatís not upholding or improving decorum in here.
In response to his answer, Mr. Chair, the department has statistics that are more defined than what might be in the Yukon Statistical Review . Not every community is identified in that statistical review, Mr. Chair; furthermore, not every senior in the territory is interested in living in such a facility.
The minister has the information I requested. He doesnít necessarily have to have it at his fingertips at this moment. He could endeavour to return with it in the form of written material. What I am looking for is, by region within the territory, the number of seniors who might be interested in living in such facilities.
Can the minister provide that information to us?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I can confirm that the department uses the Yukon Statistical Review for its information. There is one area where we do deviate from that and that is in the southeast Yukon where Watson Lake sort of acts as a service area for the northern part of British Columbia and that is kind of factored in. But save and except for that area, Whitehorse even has an impact from residents of Atlin who come into the medical system here, but those billings go to different political jurisdictions.
I donít know where the member opposite is heading with this line of questioning, but the bottom line is that the Yukon Statistical Review forms the basis for the departmentís analysis of the population base here.
Mr. McRobb: The minister keeps mentioning he doesnít know where Iím going. I spelled it out clearly at the beginning, Mr. Chair. Iím looking for numbers the department or the minister may have that reflect the number of seniors in each region within the territory who may want to live in a rural seniors facility. If the minister has nothing other than the Yukon Statistical Review, itís no wonder that his responses in Question Period on this matter have been totally inadequate, and itís no wonder his responses today are rather embarrassing, Mr. Chair. But if thatís all he has to offer, then fine. It speaks for itself why there is such a serious problem today because of lack of facilities.
The government obviously doesnít have ó or at least this minister says he doesnít have ó this type of information at his disposal. Well, I say if he doesnít have it, he should get it.
What plans does he have to obtain this type of information?
In order to provide him with a more accurate reading on the seriousness of this matter ó I see him chuckling, Mr. Chair. This matter is serious.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What the department uses, by and large, is the Yukon Statistical Review. Now, if the member opposite has misplaced his current copy of that review, I will have another copy sent over for the member.
Mrs. Peter: I have a few questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Weíre pretty fortunate in Old Crow to have a number of visits from doctors who come to Old Crow on a monthly basis, and that has gone up this year, so weíre very happy about that. But there are several other needs that I need to bring to the ministerís attention.
One is in the area of dental care. We havenít had a dentist visit the community of Old Crow since early in the year, in January. These visits to the community span over a six-month period and sometimes longer. There is not a commitment from a dentist to travel to Old Crow on a regular basis. So we need to have that service addressed not only for the students ó the students at the school have the regular visits from the dental hygienist. However, for the rest of the community members, itís a service that is very much needed. There are people who are not able to travel to Whitehorse for this service. Itís not covered under medical, and when they do come to town for other reasons, theyíre not able to get an appointment because of the long waiting period.
Another need that is connected to the dental visit, which I am not sure the minister is aware of ó I did address this in letter form to his colleague a few weeks ago ó is regarding the dental equipment that we have in Old Crow. It is very much outdated.
There was a report done by a dentist in Whitehorse and that information ó I see the minister nodding his head, so I am assuming that he is aware of the situation. Just because we are an isolated community doesnít mean that we have to be that outdated with services and programs.
I need to make this government aware of these situations and these issues so they can be addressed. We have a need for a proper space for the dentist to work in. The right kind of space is not available at the health centre. We do have the space available at the local school. I am sure that, if the minister sees fit, he would speak to the Minister of Education and work something out so that we can have this required service for our people in Old Crow.
In the area of dental prevention, there is nothing that is made available to Old Crow in that area. We havenít seen a dental hygienist in Old Crow for a number of years. In Old Crow, we need to have the service available to people. This is a service that is taken for granted here and in other places.
We definitely need that in Old Crow. I have a couple more questions, but Iíll give the minister a chance to address those issues.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the member opposite makes a very good case, and itís one Iím very aware of. For the record, Mr. Chair, the dental therapists and the hygienists attend at the school in Old Crow on a regular basis and will continue to do so.
The issue surrounding the dentist and the hygienist is a separate one. Both of these individuals are in private practice, and the Government of Yukon pays for the travel of these individuals to Old Crow, but the people in private practice make the determination of when itís cost-effective for them to go and visit the community, and they will only go when they see that they have enough work to justify their position and the travel to that community. So, that said, thereís only so much that a government can do in this area.
There is another issue for which the dentist in private practice does bill separately and, Iím given to understand, does have some difficulty in receiving payments from Indian Affairs when itís the paying agent on behalf of the First Nations from the uninsured health benefit plan that is in place.
The other issue surrounding the equipment and the facility ó the facility in the nursing station, from the report I read, was about 10 feet by 10 feet. It was a very small room, and the facility thatís in place in the new school in Old Crow is much larger and better.
Iíve had discussions with my colleague, the Minister of Education, as to our department having access to the school facility, and it appears to be a request that could come to fruition outside of school hours. So there is a window of opportunity to enter in and utilize that facility outside of school hours. Officials are in the discussion stages on this initiative. It is a good initiative. Itís a very good suggestion. Itís one that our government is aware of, and I, along with the Minister of Education, have been apprised of this situation and it is being examined by our respective officials.
Mrs. Peter: I would request from the minister any successful conclusion to their correspondence with each other. With the need of the dental service in Old Crow, there are many different places and offices involved in making the decision for us to have a service such as that. By the time they get to Old Crow, theyíre there for one or two days, and I know that the dentistís office is open far into the evening. Believe you me, that workload is there, especially if we havenít seen that service there in the community for awhile.
This is just another prime example of what weíre up against in the community sometimes, having to wait and having to go through or request the services that are taken for granted here and are so readily available to people here. We have to jump through hoops in order to save our teeth. We have good, healthy people in our community and prevention is one of the keys, especially for little kids. The elders in the community now have all their teeth and if we keep this up, lots of young people are going to be walking around wearing dentures, because the prevention is not there and we canít get the service.
Another need that we have in the community, and it hasnít been there for awhile, is that we havenít seen an optometrist in our community for over a year, Mr. Chair. That is another need, not only for the students in our schools but for our community.
Again, we donít have the luxury to travel to Whitehorse every time we need a service. Even if we do, thereís a long waiting period sometimes for a simple examination, and then thereís the follow-up with the need for glasses. You have to wait another two or three weeks for that.
Many of the students at the school, we can see the results in their work ó or many of the adults in our community who are working in the office administration.
They need a pair of glasses, but we are not sure when the next trip down to Whitehorse will be and even if we will get in to get the service.
Many of the people in the community are gifted arts and crafts people, especially with sewing. So that is another need that we have up there. I will just give the minister another chance to respond to those issues before I bring more forward.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the dental hygienist and the dental therapist, the school program is ongoing. It is funded by the Government of Yukon and it will be continuing. It has continued in the past.
With respect to the dentist and the dental hygienist for adults, these are individuals in private practice and they will go to Old Crow when they determine that there is an opportunity for them to gain, I guess, a profit, if you want to look at it that way. They are in private practice.
The government is committed to picking up the airfare for the dentist and the dental therapist if the dentist determines that there is adequate business to take them along.
This is probably an initiative that I would encourage the member opposite to get together with chief and council to perhaps write to the dentist and say, "Hey, look, we have a need and we would appreciate it if you would set up some sort of schedule." Because the Government of Yukonís commitment to providing travel funding is there. Access to the facility is there. We are looking at an opportunity to enhance the facility by allowing the dentist, when he travels to Old Crow, to utilize the facility in the new school when the school isnít occupied by students.
So, there are probably a number of ways that this can be developed and worked on, not just by the department, but by chief and council and the MLA from the area.
Thereís an opportunity for all of us to work together and achieve some benefits for the residents in Old Crow.
Further to that, Mr. Chair, thereís the issue of the optometrist. Again, this individual is in private practice, and again itís an issue of the uninsured health care benefits provided by Indian Affairs. There has been some waffling on the part of Indian Affairs to address their fiduciary responsibility for uninsured health benefits. So this is probably another area where chief and council, our government and the local MLA can get together and look forward to achieving a solution in this area. Iíd encourage the member to explore this area.
As for the youth in the society and the children in school, they have a measure of care that will be provided under both of these areas ó the optometrist and checking, and the dental and dental hygienist therapist ó and that we are firmly committed to continuing.
Chair: Order please. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with general debate on Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to bring to the ministerís attention the issue of alcohol and drugs in our community. I listened earlier to the debate when some of the issue was brought forward with the concern with downtown Whitehorse, and we do have those same concerns in our communities with alcohol and drugs and the impact that it has on community members. The community I come from is supposed to be alcohol free; however, there are ways that people see fit to bring in alcohol and drugs to our community, and it does cause a problem for us. Iím very concerned about the impact that this has on the youth, the amount of drugs that is in the community and the kinds of drugs that are in the community.
I canít stress enough to this minister how important it is for us to work in the area of prevention for the students at the school.
In that same breath, Iíd like to bring to the ministerís attention the issues in dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome within our school system. We have some of those issues in Old Crow and I know that commitments were made by the Yukon Party in their election campaign in that regard. Again, this is another issue that not only one department can deal with; fetal alcohol syndrome affects many departments.
Itís starting from when the child comes into this world and, as the child gets older, they are perhaps placed in a childcare facility during the day. The learning that has to take place for the child during the younger years is so crucial, yet there are effects there that we sometimes donít totally understand, and this is where the education can come in for educating resource people in our communities. As they get older, we have to address that in the education system as a whole, right from kindergarten to grade 12.
We would like to see these individuals go out into the community and be a part of our community, taking advantage of courses that are being offered in basic community living so they can be independent.
I am wondering what the ministerís vision is in that area.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of FASD is something that we are not going to solve overnight. It is an area that our government is committed to doing work in. To that end, we have provided additional funding to FASSY, to the Child Development Centre, and weíve also funded the Yukon Medical Association for the determination at birth of the potential for FASD. Itís an early diagnostic test that is being undertaken.
As a government, we have engaged FASSY, CDC and YMA to look at these areas, and we are having ongoing discussions in this area.
Weíre also involved with the Canadian Northwest FASD Partnership, which stemmed from a previous group and encompasses the four western provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia as well as the three territories. This meeting of officials and ministers on a regular basis on this initiative has been productive.
There is also a national strategy on FAS/FAE that will be in Whitehorse for consultation in the first week of May. So thatís going to happen very, very quickly.
Those are just some of the initial undertakings that we have done as a newly elected government. Weíre moving forward on a lot of fronts. Itís not going to be an initiative from which youíll see results produced overnight, but hopefully together we can accomplish a lot, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have been reviewing the Blues and have a couple of questions for the public record that I would like to follow up with the minister on. Just for the ministerís information, Iíll be following up in writing. I listened with interest to the discussion about dental therapists in the dental community. There are a number of issues, and I will follow up in writing with the minister, just outlining some of the concerns from my constituents on that.
Just to advise the minister, I will do that.
The other point I was going to ask about was the vision screening in the schools. The minister had a discussion yesterday with the Member for Mount Lorne. The public record indicates that it was the Whitehorse Health Centre that was doing the training of the parent volunteers. As a parent volunteer, we were trained by one of the Whitehorse optometrists. I donít know if that was a volunteer situation or not, but if it were volunteer, I would just like to recognize that and encourage the ministerís department to work with the optometry community. It worked well. It requires a commitment on the part of parent volunteers, but it worked very well for the school and for the students ó most importantly for the children.
Iíd like to encourage the ministerís department, whether it be to offer some kind of recognition or even if itís simply a letter of thanks to the optometrists who volunteered to train these parents. I would just like to see that recognized.
Following up on the notes, I just have two other points Iíd like to make.
Could the minister indicate whether, in the omnibus health bill, there is still a commitment to include the recognition of the practice of midwifery ó if thatís part of the discussions? I understand theyíre still at the preliminary stage.
Itís unfortunate that, with the repeal of the Government Accountability Act, one of the measures that could have been reported would have been a decrease in the FASD babies born in the Yukon. A number of years ago, there was a measure introduced where there was a reporting mechanism. Is the department tracking this information, and would the minister be able to provide a statistical report on that as an accountability performance measure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the training provided for parents for vision testing of the youth in our schools, that training was arranged through the Whitehorse Health Centre. It was arranged with optometrists to provide that service. So, the member is half right as to how it came into place. It was optometrists who were delivering the training, but Iím given to understand that the arrangements were provided by the Whitehorse Health Centre.
With respect to the omnibus health bill, that would encompass midwifery.
With respect to the testing of newborns, the only test that Iíve been made aware of to determine at birth if a newborn has FASD is a new test that has only recently been put on the market, and thatís the meconium testing, and it tests the feces and the hair of a newborn. Thatís the only accurate one. This is a brand new test that the Yukon Medical Association was going to set up initially with a facility in Toronto, and then it came to pass that there was a hospital in Calgary that was conducting the same test. My understanding is that the YMA was tagging on to the Calgary model for this meconium testing of newborns, and that test is the only accurate one at birth as to whether a child has FASD.
The member opposite is actually very correct on the number of newborns. There are other ways to determine if a newborn has FASD. Iíve had it explained to me, and I donít really want to explain it on the floor of the House, Mr. Chair, but the number of newborns afflicted has reduced here in the Yukon ó the member opposite is quite correct.
Ms. Duncan: I, like the member, donít want to get into the technical details. I just want to be clear for the record on a couple of points. The member opposite and the government opposite are saying that they are putting more programming into FASD. Of course ó itís like dealing with the drug issues ó the key is prevention. The way we are going to be able to judge, as members of this Legislature and as citizens, whether or not that programming has been effective is to see a reduction in the numbers of babies born with FASD.
What the minister is telling me ó just to follow through the thought process here ó is that there is a new test that is accurate, that is being considered to be pioneered here ó I am just not clear. Is it going to be in place? When is it going to be in place? Is that the sort of statistic that the member envisions reporting in future budgets?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to the meconium testing, it will be pioneered here, along with two other jurisdictions, right now, that I am aware of ó one is in the Toronto area and the other in Calgary. We are adding on to Calgary. It is being done through the YMA. Thatís where we are at on that initiative.
It is this year, now ó I have signed off on the undertaking; we have accepted the program. Itís not a high-cost program. I believe that itís some $20,000 odd. When you pro-rate that over approximately 300 odd live births here in the Yukon every year, itís not significant. We are not talking a great amount of money per birth.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if there is some public background information, could I just ask the minister to send it to me at his convenience or have the department staff ó just some background information, a news article or something on this testing? Iíd just appreciate more information.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line. Do members wish to proceed with line-by-line?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Deputy Ministerís Office
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, weíre seeing significant reductions in the first three lines of policy, planning and administration but some resources being put into finance, systems and administration. Could the minister offer an explanation of those significant reductions and that one increase?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What weíve done here, Mr. Chair, is move the policy analysis to the primary health care transition fund to oversee that initiative. There is a manager of budget planning that has been eliminated, and the administrative assistant is currently off on maternity leave. That explains the decreases. Could the member identify what increase she is looking at, Mr. Chair?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the increase I was looking at was the finance systems and administration. It shows a 19-percent increase. Iím on page 11-6 of the budget. I believe this is the systems and administration that we spoke of earlier, perhaps related to the youth criminal justice or some of these other initiatives. Iím just wondering what the new finance and administration systems are.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The primary health care transition fund.
Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $964,000 agreed to
On Policy and Program Development
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $474,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Human Resources in the amount of $1,108,000 agreed to
On Finance, Systems and Administration
Finance, Systems and Administration in the amount of $1,268,000 agreed to
Total Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $3,814,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $3,427,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
Mr. Fairclough: The minister can give us an explanation, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Funding has been reduced. Thereís a $90,000 decrease in personnel costs, as increases in the supplementary have been removed from this budget, but the number of full-time equivalents ó or FTEs ó for this activity area remain the same. Thatís the concern.
The supplementary increased it, and weíre just going down, but the FTEs are constant. The additional funding was needed in 2002-03. There was quite a high incidence of sick leave, among other things, with the social workers, and there was a $10,000 miscellaneous increase. Iím told it reflects price changes.
The other decrease ó $95,000 was moved to the child abuse treatment services budget and that was used to hire two FTEs ó child and youth support workers for high-risk children. Theyíre in-house now, and previously that service was delivered by contract to the department.
Mr. Fairclough: I was wondering if the minister could tell us if we are to expect to see an increase by way of a supplementary budget in this line item come this fall. There are commitments this minister has made in regard to following through with some of the recommendations of the Anglin report. Iím wondering if weíre going to see an increase in the fall, or is that something we can expect in the following year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite has identified an area where there will probably be a supplementary expenditure.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line Family and Children's Services?
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $1,401,000 agreed to
On Child Placement Services
Child Placement Services in the amount of $3,579,000 agreed to
On Early Childhood and Prevention Services
Early Childhood and Prevention Services in the amount of $6,295,000 agreed to
On Youth Services
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister offer a line explanation as to why there was a decrease in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This refers to the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. There was a one-time funding contribution from the feds that is not ongoing.
Youth Services in the amount of $3,599,000 agreed to
On Childrenís Assessment and Treatment Services
Ms. Duncan: Earlier this afternoon, with respect to the family and children's services line, the minister indicated that there had been a transfer dealing with the CATS staff ó child abuse treatment services. If there has been a transfer of funds and a transfer of staff, why isnít it reflected in this line? Could he just be clearer in that explanation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The $108,000 increase reflecting additional child and youth workers positions in the child abuse treatment services ó this service was, as I indicated previously, funded by contract in the family and children's services unit.
Now, I know what the member opposite is getting at, but the biggest decrease in this area was a $169,000 decrease as a result of one of the therapeutic foster homes advising that they are retiring this year when the children leave care. So there is a decrease in that one facility.
Childrenís Assessment and Treatment Services in the amount of $8,325,000 agreed to
Total Family and Children's Services in the amount of $26,626,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Program Management
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask a point of clarification? Are you going to address the statistics pages at the end or not?
Chair: No, there is no intention to debate the statistics.
Ms. Duncan: So you wonít be addressing them all and clearing them.
Chair: The statistics are for information only.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: Past practice was that the Chair would always ask if there were any questions on the statistics. This is a bit different from what weíve seen in the past. I just want to know why the change has been made. Itís a quick question that could be asked. Weíve brought up a lot of information to the members opposite. Sometimes it could also be a clarification to the minister.
Chair: There was ample opportunity during general debate. However, if there is a question relating to statistics for Social Services, I believe it would be appropriate to ask it now.
Ms. Duncan: I do have a question with respect to the statistics. It just has to do with the stats that have been presented on the cases closed and the case management by the department. In family and childrenís services, the case management ó median length of time a case is open is 4.6 months, and in child protection services, median length of time a case is open, based on cases closed, is 2.3 months. So we have halved it in child protection services, and I guess the case management is double in family services.
Case management, in terms of tracking cases, also has to do with record tracking by the government and an audit, if you will, of how well weíre doing. Now, the government has presented statistics on this. Is there also a regular audit undertaken of how long cases are open? Are there efforts to improve this?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can advise the member opposite that there is no audit performed on when a case is opened and when it is deemed to be concluded. Thatís at the call of the individual in charge. Thatís the way the department operates. But at the closure of the case, there is not an audit made of how long the child was in care. The period of time the child could be in care is dependent upon a lot of factors ó age, issues, location. All of these are factored in, but there is no audit undertaken.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I wasnít clear in my question. What Iím referring to by "audit" is, do we know, at any given point in time ó is there a check done by audit? Is there an audit done of, "Oh, there are 95 cases open and six are sitting gathering dust?" The department presents information as to how long and knows how many months a case is open. They are presenting that information, so how do they get it? Do they do a regular audit or regular count of how long cases are open for and how long itís taking to close cases?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The information the member is indicating is monitored and is compiled quarterly by the officials.
Ms. Duncan: So thereís no independent audit, if you will, no internal auditor who comes in and says that these cases are open for far too long or beyond the normal standard? Thereís none of that that goes on?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the Child Welfare League of Canada came in and did an independent assessment, but the audit function itself is something else. The department compiles statistics on a quarterly basis, stemming from the number of caseloads, but weíre working on implementing a new software program in this area that could provide that more detailed information. Weíre hoping to mirror the Alberta model in this area, at no charge other than the copying of the software and our officials visiting Alberta to pick up the program.
Thatís underway and hopefully we can report success in this area, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line "Program Management"?
Program Management in the amount of $1,681,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $3,107,000 agreed to
On Adult Services Unit
Adult Services Unit in the amount of $11,363,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Ms. Duncan: That is an increase on the actual for 2001-02 by some $4 million. Is that increase a result of the operation of Copper Ridge?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís a combination of two factors. Itís a combination of the Thomson Centre costs for the facility not operating ó we are continuing to incur costs over there ó and also the operation of Copper Ridge Place.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister, by way of follow-up when the Legislature concludes, provide a breakdown of the outstanding fees that the Government of Canada owes the Yukon with respect to providing continuing care and other services?
I would like a breakdown of the outstanding bills when the Legislature concludes or, if he has it available, he can send it over.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am able to advise the House that we are in receipt of a letter earlier this month from the regional director general of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Mr. Brown. This letter identifies the outstanding social service billing amounts that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada committed to pay the Government of Yukon during our meeting on March 25, 2003.
The total amount that INAC is currently prepared to pay Government of Yukon for the outstanding invoices outlined below is $10,537,356, encompassing home care, the Thomson Centre and Copper Ridge facilities, and the womenís transition home.
As you are aware, INAC and Government of Yukon are still in the process of reviewing other outstanding billing issues related to social assistance, child welfare and adult care before a payment can be made. Weíre making some progress with Indian and Northern Affairs. The total outstanding amount is some $26 million.
Ms. Duncan: So could I just ask the minister to send a copy of that over so we can review it, and also could we have a copy of the breakdown of the outstanding $26 million that the Yukon feels Canada owes ó quite correctly feels ó so we know what has been paid and what is left outstanding? If he could just send that information over, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have a breakdown of the total billing thatís outstanding as of a specific fiscal period, and weíll provide that to the member opposite and to the official opposition as well.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line Continuing Care?
Continuing Care in the amount of $17,715,000 agreed to
Total Social Services in the amount of $33,866,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Program Management
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is a reduction. Itís an increase over the 2001-02 actual, but itís a reduction from the 2002-03 forecast. What is the reason for the reduction?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was a reduced need for contracted services. The decrease ó $105,000 ó is because the position of senior health services consultant has been discontinued. The position had been vacant during the period when the incumbent acted in a different role, so there was a saving there in personnel, and there was a position that was not filled. The national diabetic surveillance survey funding reduced at the supplementary has been restored to the annual level. This is 100-percent recoverable from Canada and is the final year of this agreement with Canada.
Program Management in the amount of $455,000 agreed to
On Insured Health and Hearing Services
Insured Health and Hearing Services in the amount of $33,119,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $20,648,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Community Health in the amount of $5,508,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services
Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services in the amount of $14,180,000 agreed to
Total Health Services in the amount of $73,975,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Program Management
Program Management in the amount of $2,124,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
Mr. Fairclough: Just a brief explanation of this reduction, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Of the decrease of $207,000, $192,000 was transferred to family and childrenís services branch to support a centrally-administered territory-wide healthy families program. A further reduction of $15,000 in foster home contracts reflects a slightly reduced regional child-in-care caseload, so the demands on the department are going down.
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $735,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we saw a reduction in social services demand, if you will, in the Whitehorse area. This is only a very slight reduction. Is it volume or is there some other explanation for it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís a decrease in social assistance. Thereís a small reduction in regional social assistance caseloads and the resulting costs, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: But itís not as significant a decrease as we have seen in Whitehorse, is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, itís fairly stable in the communities. Under the previous administration, most of the people who left the Yukon left from Whitehorse. Some of them left from the outlying areas but, by and large, it is Whitehorse that has been affected, and the demands for social assistance have gone down. Hopefully theyíve bottomed out, and hopefully we can see a restoration of the economy across the Yukon by this government and we can look forward to better days ahead. That is clearly indicated by the social assistance that is paid out. The demands are just not here and people are moving.
Social Services in the amount of $833,000 agreed to
On Juvenile Justice Services
Juvenile Justice Services in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
Total Regional Services in the amount of $3,709,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister just read from a letter that he would have received after this budget document was prepared. In that letter, if I heard it correctly ó I havenít seen it yet ó there is additional funding being paid to the Yukon from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, with respect to transition home funding, for example. So, would we see a change in the supplementary document that would reflect an increase in the recovery lines that Iíve noted?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, we would, but before we rush out and try to spend this $10 million we collect, itís already booked.
Chair: Are there any further questions regarding recoveries and revenue?
On Transfer Payments
Ms. Duncan: Yes. This is where the cut to the health investment fund is reflected by 51 percent, and yet I heard the minister stating earlier on the floor of the House that the health investment fund would be funding ó Iíve forgotten what the project was. How does the minister intend that a slashed-in-half health investment fund is going to be able to meet the needs that have been outlined previously in this House?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That item is not even here in the recoveries. It is a line that has been cleared under the deputy minister.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understood you to say "transfer payments", and if weíre not on that line or that page, I can wait. Recoveries and revenues we cleared, and I understood you to say "transfer Payments". Transfer payments are listed on page 11-52, and the health investment fund is sixth from the bottom, and thatís the line Iím addressing.
Chair: Thatís the correct section.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, yes, there has been a reduction, but this money rolls over, and there is still $106,000 remaining in the fund from prior years ó a balance of $106,000. Thatís where we get the ability to spend something thatís rolled over from the previous year.
Ms. Duncan: A close friend is fond of the expression "money is round and made to roll" but Iím not following the ministerís logic.
Last year, the actual spent was $157,000, and the 2002-03 forecast was $157,000. Is the minister saying that $106,000 of that is lapsing and that weíre only putting $77,000 back into that fund?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís $106,000 still remaining in that fund.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, letís make sure weíre on the same page. Iím on 11-52, health investment fund. The 2003-04 estimate is $77,000.
So, is $106,000 lapsing from 2001-02, or is $29,000 lapsing and weíre spending up to $106,000? Whereís the $106,000 coming from?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The legislation that set up this fund allowed for any money that was in that fund, if it wasnít spent, to not be lapsed but to remain in that fund, to be rolled over. As of February 27, 2003, there was a balance of approximately $106,000 in the fund. There have been no new monies allocated to the health investment portion of this fund for 2003 and 2004, so the fund is funded. We have enough money there to do what we anticipate doing in the next year.
Ms. Duncan: If there are no new monies allocated, then why is there $77,000 in this line?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite raises a good point. The $77,000 is funding coming from somewhere. We canít identify the source, but there is no new money being put into that program. Itís funded but there is funding coming from somewhere, but we are not budgeting new money in the fund.
Now, I know that doesnít make sense.
The legislation that sets up this fund has a provision that if the money in it is not spent, it doesnít lapse. It is carried forward to the next fiscal period. Itís like its own separate, distinct bank account.
That said, at the end of the fiscal year, it doesnít lapse or go back into the general revenue. So, from prior years, we are picking up the funds that havenít been spent. When you add it all together, thatís what youíve got.
Ms. Duncan: The House definitely could use some levity, and that explanation was certainly in that ballpark.
Perhaps the minister could just send me a letter and tell me where the $77,000 came from after the House adjourns.
He still hasnít explained how we are going to continue to fund the worthwhile projects, given that there is a decrease in the amount of money.
Letís start with something easier, if I might, for the minister. Are we changing the parameters for the health investment fund?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The youth investment fund supports community-driven initiatives aimed at addressing the needs of Yukonís youth. Many of the projects are designed to help youth at risk, with behaviours, and those who are considered to be at risk. But the fund has not been fully drawn down, so the programs that will apply to this fund ó we still have the ability to fund programs.
The bank account still has money in it. Itís not the way that the member opposite might refer to it ó we must still have money because we still have cheques. This is the other way around.
We probably donít have cheques, but we have the money in a bank.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, letís move on. Just for the record, the health investment fund has $77,000 in a transfer payment. The minister said he doesnít know where itís coming from. Heíll send me a letter that explains it, Iím sure. My concern is not the youth investment fund, the health investment fund, and I wondered if there had been any change in the parameters. I think not from what the minister has said. Can I close the transfer payment discussion with the request that if there is additional money available, the kids recreation fund is one of the best programs available, and it has helped a tremendous number of individuals, and if there is additional money available, I would like to see it made available to the kids recreation fund.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the member oppositeís information, the youth investment fund comes under the health investment fund. Thatís another issue. The program the member opposite is referring to is another program.
Chair: Is there any further discussion regarding transfer payments?
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $141,990,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning, and Administration
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll ask just a quick question on this. Many of the departments across the government have had concerns with some outdated computer equipment, particularly in the Department of Health in rural Yukon. Are the departments updating all their branches in the different departments to have modern equipment?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is correct. New computers have been purchased for the nursing stations around the Yukon and thatís done under the primary health care transition fund.
Mr. Fairclough: Just a quick question, Mr. Chair. The Government of Yukon shared an Internet line in the communities, I recall ó with Health and Social Services and the health station. Iím just thinking of one, in the community of Carmacks. And when one is on-line, the other isnít. Now that we have improved services, is that situation corrected?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, weíre not aware of the details in that area but I can agree to obtain that information and provide it to the member opposite.
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Systems Development in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion on prior yearsí projects?
Total Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
On Foster Home Equipment
Foster Home Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Child Care Services Development
Child Care Services Development in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Young Offender Facilities ó Renovations and Equipment
Ms. Duncan: Judging by the decrease in expenditures, are the renovations at the young offenders facility complete?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Under the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, there was an amount identified for capital. It has been partially undertaken. Of the $50,000 thatís earmarked, I believe to date about $40,000 odd has been expended on the renovations. In prior periods, there was a new electronic locking system of some $180,000 or $190,000; there were a lot of prior undertakings, Mr. Chair.
Young Offender Facilities ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Residential Services ó Renovations and Equipment
Ms. Duncan: It seems this has been a significant, ongoing expenditure for many years for capital repairs, renovations and so on to the group home facilities, but this is a significant reduction. Has there been a change in the policy or in the way these renovations and repairs are being conducted, or do we just anticipate fewer of them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There have been a number of changes made under our watch. The group homes are ó if you want to take 16 Klondike, itís an exclusively female home now and the other homes are exclusively male or female. There is a separation currently as to sex. The maintenance is ongoing ó there are constant repairs needed. Itís at a level that is contained within guidelines and parameters.
Ms. Duncan: So, the change of segregating by sex is going to reduce the renovations required, is what I hear the minister say.
Are we also addressing the age issues? There is concern that we have little children with teenagers. Are we addressing that in these changes as well?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is actually absolutely correct. The age is being more closely aligned in the various homes of the individuals placed in these facilities. They are separated as to sex.
The department appears to be getting a handle on a number of these areas, Mr. Chair. That is one of them.
The basic cost is for ongoing maintenance for the six Whitehorse facilities and one adult residential care facility. This fund also provides equipment in these facilities as is necessary to provide a level of care consistent with required service and safety standards. There have been audits from Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board that have taken place or the OH&S people who have triggered expenditures, and they have been done. We appear to have an acceptable standard, but there is always ongoing maintenance.
Mr. Fairclough: Do any of the renovations have to do with energy efficiency?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Chair, theyíve all been through an energy audit. Weíve attempted to bring these facilities up to standards. These costs that weíre going to incur in the next fiscal cycle are just for ongoing maintenance in the six facilities.
Residential Services ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Womenís Shelters ó Renovations and Equipment
Womenís Shelters ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
Total Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Social Services
On Social Services ó Renovations and Equipment
Social Services ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services ó Renovations and Equipment
Alcohol and Drug Services ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Home Care ó Operational Equipment
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíve received representations from some of the communities ó Tagish, for example ó with respect to extension of home care services. This is operational equipment that home care uses. Is this equipment being made available throughout the Yukon, and is there an anticipated expansion of the home care programming?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís being made available wherever the department provides home care.
Ms. Duncan: Are we looking at an expansion of home care services in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Under this great, big, massive amount of money that weíre supposed to receive from the federal Liberal government, there are conditions attached and one is that we examine home care and improving home care delivery. That is being undertaken by the department, Mr. Chair, and that might trigger more money or less money, depending on the financial position of the federal Government of Canada.
Home Care ó Operational Equipment in the amount of $9,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care Facilities ó Renovations and Equipment
Mr. Hardy: In this area, if the minister could just give me a quick summary of where the plans are in regard to the new facility he was talking about during the period of the Macaulay Lodge issue and the continuing care move and everything like that. Can he tell me what has been happening with what he called the seniors complex?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd encourage the member opposite to go back and read Hansard. That was an area we explored in great detail with his colleague, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Hardy: Could I ask the member to tell me?
Mr. Chair, I am asking a question. I will read Hansard but this is the one question I am asking here. Could the member give me an update of where itís at and the organizations that he is discussing this with? I do remember very clearly the debate around the Macaulay Lodge move. He may have answered to my colleague, and it may be in Hansard, but I am in the Legislature right now and I would like to know.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There have been a number of groups that have prepared and presented a proposal for a seniors facility to be constructed in the Whitehorse area. These were totally unsolicited and there has been no amount budgeted. Due process would require that, as a government, we would have to go out to a tendering process before we could even entertain such an initiative. Of course, that would require approval of Management Board and Cabinet.
Mr. Hardy: Are there any timelines that the minister has in mind for delivery of such a building?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíd be very, very hopeful that we could see this to fruition in the period of our mandate.
Continuing Care Facilities ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding prior yearsí projects?
Total Social Services in the amount of $215,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Chronic Disease Benefits ó Equipment
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of equipment purchases throughout this line, if you will ó the total budget line of $767,000. Could I just ask the minister to send over a breakdown of what the equipment purchases will be; for example, at the Whitehorse Health Centre and so on? He doesnít have to do it now or on his feet, if he could just send that information over.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, examples include wheelchairs, walkers, respiratory equipment and bathtub supports. This is under the Chronic Disease Benefits ó Equipment, for $35,000. The Hospital Corporation ó these funds are required to allow the hospital to plan for and replace equipment on an ongoing basis as it reaches the end of its cycle, is beyond economical repair, or is required to maintain or enhance client programs. Equipment will include program and patient care items such as beds, Medilifts, wheelchairs, stretchers, housekeeping, kitchen equipment, operating room, lab and medical imaging equipment. Capital funding is provided annually as a contribution and managed by the corporation.
Under dental health, it is regular replacement scheduled for aged equipment, Mr. Chair.
Chronic Disease Benefits ó Equipment in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits ó Equipment
Extended Health Benefits ó Equipment in the amount of $55,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Corporation ó Equipment
Yukon Hospital Corporation ó Equipment in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
On Dental Health Services ó Equipment
Dental Health Services ó Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Communicable Disease Unit ó Equipment
Communicable Disease Unit ó Equipment in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
On Hearing Services ó Equipment
Hearing Services ó Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Whitehorse Health Centre ó Equipment
Whitehorse Health Centre ó Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Services ó Equipment
Ambulance Services ó Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Ambulance Services ó Vehicle Replacement
Ambulance Services ó Vehicle Replacement in the amount of $80,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing ó Equipment and Facilities
Community Nursing ó Equipment and Facilities in the amount of $235,000 agreed to
On Contract Physicians ó Renovations and Equipment
Contract Physicians ó Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding prior yearsí projects?
Total Health Services in the amount of $767,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
Chair: Is there any discussion regarding prior yearsí projects?
Regional Services in the amount of nil cleared
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $1,272,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that we now report progress, Mr. Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 21, Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
The Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 29, 2003:
Travel Expenses of Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly 2002-03 (dated April 2003) (Speaker Staffen)
Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Fund 2001-02 Annual Report (Taylor)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 29, 2003:
Ministerial/Cabinet staff travel: breakdown for April 1, 2002 Ė December 1, 2002 and December 2, 2002 to March 31, 2003 (Fentie)
Oral, Hansard, p. 884