Thursday, December 4, 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 remembrance of Sarah Gaunt
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Iím honoured to rise today on behalf of all members in this Assembly to pay tribute to an exceptional Yukoner who passed away in May, Sarah Gaunt. It was fitting that a memorial service was held for Sarah in Whitehorse, and the next day a potlatch in Klukshu. Both were attended by her family and many, many friends, where we heard many heartfelt tributes and memories. Sarah had a profound effect on many lives. We remember her tireless dedication to her work for the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations as a land claims researcher and advisor to negotiators and later as a land use and protected areas planner.
Sarah Gaunt was born in Scotland on May 10, 1946, where her family maintained ties to their traditional culture and Gaelic language. Sarahís appreciation of the diversity of human cultures, including traditional First Nation culture, grew from an appreciation of her own family culture.
Her strong connection to the natural world likely began when her parents took her and her brother on long walks through the Scottish highlands. After becoming a Canadian citizen and completing a degree in cultural geography in Montreal in 1973, Sarah worked on Broughton Island, Qikiqtarjuaq and studied Inuktituk in Rankin Inlet.
Here Sarahís love of and commitment to the north and its people were firmly established. Sarah was quickly recruited as a research team member for the Inuit land use and occupancy project working with the people of Qikiqtarjuaq to document their traditional land use patterns.
Her research clearly demonstrated their long history with and strong relationship and thus their legal claim to their lands. She interviewed elders, travelled out on the tundra and the sea ice with hunters, and experienced aboriginal knowledge firsthand. She learned the value of traditional place names in land use research and saw the importance of country foods and a strong relationship with the land in the lives of the local people.
With amazing gusto, she embraced the life on the land and could live for days on muktuk with the rest of the hunting group.
Sarah moved to Whitehorse in 1980. It was another northern adventure she embraced, and it wasnít long before Sarah was hired by the Council for Yukon Indians for their land claims work. In this work, Sarah quickly developed a strong relationship with both the Vuntut Gwitchin and Southern Tutchone peoples.
Sarah was responsible for many accomplishments that will benefit future generations. One of her greatest contributions was the energy and commitment she brought to the principle of equity and respect for the value of First Nation traditional culture in Canadian society.
She never lost sight that the land claims negotiations and agreements were vehicles to ensure the continuation of First Nation traditional culture.
In 1988, Sarah went to work for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Following ratification of the land claim, she worked with the First Nation in a supporting, leadership and a mentoring capacity to help make the claim a living reality. As one of her co-workers said, "She lifted us up."
Her relationship with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, its members and their traditional territory was strong. Always a presence and support at cultural gatherings, Sarah grew to know the culture in a respectful and meaningful way. When she was adopted by elder Marge Jackson into the Wolf clan, Sarah knew she had found a place in the hearts of the Southern Tutchone. Sarah had a way of bringing the people together from Haines Junction to Alaska. She believed strongly in the joint management process set up under final agreements and was a key person working at the technical level in the development of the Greater Kluane Land Use Plan and the Kluane Park Management Plan.
Colleagues always noted her professionalism and her emphasis on communicating. Iím personally grateful to Sarah, who, on several occasions, graciously guided me on the First Nations perspective and rationale on various issues in the Kluane region. The Tatshenshini-Alsek area was particularly dear to Sarah. She played a leading role in negotiations that established Champagne and Aishihik as a co-manager of this world-class provincial park.
Her legacy lives on with the Tatshenshini-Alsek Foundation she established in 2002. The goal of the foundation is to strengthen and promote the cultural and natural values and the stewardship of Tatshenshini-Alsek and Kluane National Park and surrounding areas.
Another important legacy she leaves behind are the many exceptional photographs and records she created. Sarah maintained her brave and independent spirit without complaint, throughout her difficult battle with cancer, applying remarkable determination to projects she wanted to complete. Sarah had many friends from many backgrounds and she made each one feel like they were her best friend. They remember her sense of humour, her hearty laugh, her strong sense of justice, her modesty, compassion, generosity and love of the outdoors.
Sarah was a great hostess and prepared wonderful meals for her guests. She had a reputation for coming up with something delicious to eat, seemingly out of nowhere whether skiing near the Dempster Highway or hiking in Kluane.
Her love of life was so apparent during her last days, when on a lovely day in May she toured every garden centre in Whitehorse with two friends, searching out the blooms she would beautify her outdoor surroundings with.
At the end of the day, she prepared a delicious meal for her friends. This was the essence of Sarah: always gracious, always creating beauty and optimism for those around her.
Sarah Gaunt is greatly missed by her brother Alan and his family in England, by her Southern Tutchone family, and by an extended family of dear friends, many of whom are with us in the gallery today.
Mahsi' cho, gunilschish, thank you.
In remembrance of Adam Morrison
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute on behalf of our Yukon Legislative Assembly to Adam Morrison ó Wee Adam. Mr. Speaker, there are those who are Scots, and there are those who wish they were.
Adam was born in Prestwick, Scotland, and left us after 81 years, far too soon, in October last year. Adam joined the Royal Air Force in 1941. During the war years, he saw service in England and in North Africa. In 1952, he left the Royal Air Force and joined Scottish Aviation as a crew chief. In 1956, Adam joined the Canadian Air Force, and he and his wife, Jean, and their family moved to Canada. After a 10-year career in the Canadian Air Force, Adam and Jean headed to the Yukon, where they joined Jeanís sister Helen and her family. Adam worked for Great Northern Airways, partnered with friends in a motel and a marina, and when he retired from working life, it was as the head of maintenance at Ashbury College in Ottawa.
A distinguished career in the Air Force and a Scotís hard work ethic does not begin to tell the tale of this lovely individual. He spent a great deal of time involved in community works, including Challenge, Yukon Gateway Housing and others.
George Bernard Shaw said, "Perhaps the greatest social service that can be rendered by anybody to the country and to mankind is to bring up a family." Adam and his wife, Jean, have three children, Raymond, David and Adam, and Iíd like to recognize those who have joined us in the gallery today. David Morrison and his wife, Karen; Sharman Harvey, Adamís daughter-in-law; and Adam and his partner, Maureen Conway; as well the grandchildren, Catherine and Kevin, have joined us today in the gallery, as well as Adamís very dear friend, Margaret McCullough.
Margaretís friendship was way beyond and much better than politics, and I knew Adam as a friend of the Liberal caucus, who always had a sweetie in his pocket for Sue, Jack and me on our way into Question Period, and not a day goes by that I donít still expect to see him hand us a candy, wish us well and come up to the gallery to watch.
He is very sorely missed, and I would like to offer, in closing, a Scotís toast to Adam Morrison: "Hereís tae us Ďtwas like us, damn few and theyíre all deid."
In recognition of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women
Hon. Ms. Taylor:Today I rise on behalf of our government colleagues to tribute a very important day, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. On December 6, 1989, a man walked into líÉcole Polytechnique in Montreal and went from classroom to classroom, looking for women to shoot. He killed 14 of them, and this terrible event so marked Canadians that we designated December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.
After the massacre, men looked for ways to show their outrage as well as support for women.
And so a group of Canadian men started the White Ribbon Campaign. Today men wear white ribbons as a symbol of their unwillingness to tolerate violence against women. Itís very difficult for all of us to imagine the very kind of hatred it took to single-mindedly plan and execute such a massacre, yet thousands of women and girls in Canada today live with daily threats of violence.
On December 6 we are called to remember and urged to act to eliminate oppression and injustice. The issue of violence against women is being raised throughout the country and in particular throughout the north.
Recently the three territories lobbied their colleagues at the federal, provincial and territorial table for a more focused approach to eliminating, eradicating violence against women. As a result, a working group of senior officials was struck to address the issue of family violence and economic inequality experienced, especially by aboriginal women. Sadly, as the Premier has spoken on a number of occasions in this Legislature, aboriginal women experience three times the rate of spousal violence as non-aboriginal women do today in Canada.
Last month, Mr. Speaker, the Womenís Directorate announced an addition of $100,000 to their budget to enhance their work on violence against women, especially as it affects First Nation women. This is indeed a worthy initiative and certainly one that our government supports wholeheartedly.
Today, women and men, individuals and groups are working hard toward the twin goals of healthier families and communities. On behalf of our government, I would certainly like to take this opportunity to thank all of the women, all of the men, all of the organizations in our territory today, including the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, of which we have Caitlin Kerwin here with us, the program coordinator. Barbara Powick is also with us today as well, our executive director for Kausheeís Place, Yukon womenís transitional homes, womenís transitional centres throughout the territory ó I refer to Dawson City and Watson Lake ó the Womenís Directorate and all of the many other organizations and individuals who take the time, contribute of their time toward the elimination of violence against women each day.
Mr. Speaker, 14 young women from l'École Polytechnique were robbed of their future. We cannot give them back their lives, but we can honour them by working hard to eliminate hatred of and violence against women. So in commemoration of the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, I would certainly ask all Members of the Legislative Assembly here todayó and all Yukoners ó to join me and members of the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre tomorrow at noon at the Elijah Smith Building to further commemorate this important event. I would just like to thank everyone for coming out today.
Mrs. Peter:On behalf of the official opposition I rise to pay tribute to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. On December 6, 1989, 14 young women were brutally murdered because they were women. Each year, we pay tribute to their memory and hope that we will never see the same type of violence again. However, it is not reassuring, Mr. Speaker, given the statistics on violence against women. They show that family violence is overwhelmingly against women, and that over half of female homicide victims in Canada are killed by either current or former spouses, partners or boyfriends. Statistics are even more alarming for aboriginal women. We grieve for all of them and for their families, those left without mothers, sisters, grandmothers and elders. This is not only a day of mourning, but also a time to pause and reflect on what we can do to stop such horrible crimes. The most effective memorial for the 14 women lost in Montreal must be action by individuals, organizations and governments to prevent gender-based violence.
We must all search our hearts and minds to change our attitudes toward women in society. As legislators, we must always be aware of systematic gender bias, and root it out. We must be on guard against psychological and emotional abuse such as dismissing points of view that do not coincide with our own.
One of the witnesses at the Canadian panel on violence against women in 1993 said it well: violence is far less likely between equals; therefore, equality and respect of all people is a crucial concept. Women have not yet achieved equality and this must be addressed.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to join with my colleague in tribute to the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women on Saturday, December 6. This day in recognition was established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada. It coincides, as the Minister of Justice has said, with the sad anniversary of the 14 young women who were killed on December 6, 1989, at líÉcole Polytechnique in Montreal because of their gender.
Beyond commemorating a loss of these 14 young lives, this day represents a time to pause to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. Itís also a time to have a thought for those women and girls who live daily with the threat of violence or who have died as a result of deliberate acts of gender-based violence. It is also a day for communities to reflect on concrete actions that each Canadian can take to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has noted the ceremony tomorrow at noon at Elijah Smith ó a very public ceremony in which we can commemorate this day. I appreciate the opportunity to join with fellow Yukoners on that anniversary.
Violence against women refers to any act of gender-based violence that reflects, that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.
Violence against women is also a manifestation of the historically unequal power relationships between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of womenís full advancement. Violence against women can take many forms: psychological, physical, sexual, financial or economic abuse and spiritual abuse. Violence against women carries heavy consequences for those who are victims and for society in general.
Mr. Speaker, I close by noting that girls and boys who witness or experience violence in the home are at high risk of becoming victims and abusers later in life. I encourage all of us to set an example and to join in the anniversary commemoration tomorrow at Elijah Smith Building.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of International Volunteer Day
Hon. Mr. Hart:On behalf of all members of this House I rise to pay tribute to all Yukon volunteers on the eve of International Volunteer Day, tomorrow, December 5.
To celebrate the Yukon Volunteer Bureau is hosting an open house tomorrow. The bureau co-ordinates volunteer activities for several non-profit organizations in the Yukon. The Yukon government is proud to participate in this endeavour by providing funding towards the volunteer effort. Volunteers play an integral role in Yukon communities; they demonstrate how one personís actions can make a significant difference in the lives of others.
The work of volunteers has an impact on virtually every aspect of our society, from health and safety to education and social services, to youth, seniors, to culture and arts, to sport and recreation, to science and technology and to the environment.
In this decade of sport and culture the effort of volunteers will determine, to a large extent, the success of many annual sporting and cultural events in the Yukon, including the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
In the Yukon we are very fortunate to have a large base of volunteers giving back to our communities. The Yukon government recognizes and appreciates the contributions that volunteers make to the Yukon. We greatly benefit from volunteersí contribution of their time, their energy, talent and experience. I ask all members to rise and join me in thanking all Yukon volunteers for the valuable and much-appreciated service that you provide.
I would like at this time to introduce members of Volunteer Yukon. They are Lindsay DeHart, vice-chair steering committee; Ed Krahn, member-at-large; and, Tracey Erman, executive director, here in the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Joining us in the visitor gallery are four very distinguished people from the Northwest Territories. We have in the visitor gallery the Hon. Roger Allen. Mr. Allen is the MLA for Inuvik Twin Lakes. He is currently the Minister of Justice, the minister responsible for the N.W.T. Housing Corporation, the Public Utility Board and youth; and perhaps, Iím given to understand, the next Premier of the N.W.T.
With him is the Hon. Jim Antoine, the MLA for Nahendeh who is currently the Deputy Premier, the Minister for Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the minister responsible for the intergovernmental forum. With them is Edith Mack, executive assistant and Mr. Doug Matthews, the director of minerals, oil and gas for the N.W.T.
Please give them a warm Yukon welcome.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the following document: Yukon Health Care Insurance Programs. Itís a statement of revenues and expenditures for 2002-03, showing that weíve spent $55 million. And it shows the past five yearsí comparison.
I have for tabling the Yukon Child Care Board Annual Report for April 1, 2002 to March 31, 2003.
I have for tabling the Yukon Health and Social Services Council Annual Report for 2001-02.
I have for tabling the Yukon Hospital Corporation financial statements to March 31, 2003.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have for tabling the government contracting summary report by department dated April 1, 2003, to September 30, 2003.
Speaker: 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. Arntzen: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to work with the State of Alaska, First Nations and White Pass to reinstate train service from Skagway to Whitehorse.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Canadaís ratification of the Kyoto Protocol one year ago represented an important step forward in the international fight against climate change; and
THAT this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to express a strong opposition of concerned Yukon people to any attempt by the incoming federal Liberal government to renege on Canadaís commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Chair of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges to convene a meeting of that committee for the purpose of establishing a system where a legislative calendar can be fixed on an annual basis.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that since the Yukon Party took office in November 2002, the Yukon Bureau of Statistics has published the following economic indicators:
(1) Yukonís unemployment rate has risen 1.6 percent from 10 percent to 11.6 percent;
(2) the Yukonís workforce has dropped by 400 from 13,300 to 12,900
(3) the Yukonís population has dropped by 41, and
THAT this House recognizes that the only large-scale mine employing Yukoners has shut down, forcing many Yukoners out of work, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to follow through on their election campaign promise and immediately improve the economy.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. McRobb: Why has the Minister of Community Services, through his hand-picked consultant, forced the City of Dawson into a deficit position?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We havenít forced the City of Dawson into any deficit situation. We are looking into the situation in Dawson to try to ascertain what our financial situation is.
Mr. McRobb: In spite of several attempts to get to the bottom of this issue, the Minister of Community Services has never clarified why he decided to dismiss the former supervisor of Dawsonís financial affairs. This latest action is exactly what my colleague from Mount Lorne predicted would happen.
The minister needs to prove that the City of Dawson was not living up to the seven-year financial plan that the government had already approved. What evidence can he provide?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We have the supervisor in there doing an assessment of situation in Dawson. Once he has completed that report and made his recommendation to us, weíll make that available to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, this is a government that is not very open with its agenda. Iím looking at one minister as I ask these questions, but I probably should shift my gaze to the right a few notches to find out whatís really going on here.
The minister has put the elected municipal government under his thumb without providing the slightest bit of proof such harsh action was necessary. What is the reason behind this governmentís decision not to honour the capital funding agreement it has with the City of Dawson and to withhold nearly $1 million that the municipality should have coming to it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I revert back. Weíre working with the city and the supervisor to determine their current financial situation, and we are doing that. In addition to that, we have worked with the city on exactly what is outstanding from it, and we are forwarding monies that we owe to them under that particular aspect.
Question re: Business loans, outstanding
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for whoever is the Acting Premier. Why does this government support a policy that allows people with outstanding debts to the Yukon taxpayer to serve as Cabinet ministers?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The members of the opposition know full well that within, I believe it is now, six sitting days, by the very end of this fall sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, our government and our Premier will be tabling a solution to the loans issue ó an issue that has been outstanding for many years, I should add.
Mr. Hardy: We have heard those words before.
The members on that side of the House had an opportunity yesterday to change the status quo and help restore public confidence in the political system. By bailing out on a debate on a very proactive, very positive motion, they voted for the status quo. By doing that, each of them told Yukon people that itís okay for Cabinet ministers to stiff the taxpayers. Shame on them, Mr. Speaker. Shame.
Will the minister explain to Yukon people why this government believes that it is acceptable for someone who refuses to pay their debts to the taxpayers to draw a Cabinet ministerís salary from those very same taxpayers?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I will point out for the members opposite that this is a very difficult issue. Itís a very complex issue. It involves not only many businesses in the territory, it involves a number of non-government organizations that have had loans over the years. This government is actually taking the initiative to address the issue of the loan situation. We will be doing that. We will be tabling a solution within, I believe it is, six sitting days. Our Premier is on record as making that commitment. We are certainly going to adhere to that.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to point out to the Acting Premier that no other government had sitting Cabinet ministers owing over $300,000 to the taxpayers as well.
Now, we saw the stunt that the government pulled yesterday. If Yukoners werenít already disgusted ó absolutely disgusted ó enough over the "loan gate" ó as a lot of people are referring to it as ó they certainly will be now.
I would like the record to state that the two ministers who havenít paid their bills, who were not present for the debate, became present for the vote to shut down the debate.
Speaker:Order please. It is inappropriate to mention whether a member is in or out of the House. I would ask the member not to do that.
Carry on, please.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will reiterate again for the members opposite that the loans issue has been over two decades in the making, I might add, and has not been resolved by successive Yukon governments ó of all three political party stripes, I should add. It hasnít been resolved because problems inherent in the loans issue are very complex. Theyíre very complicated, as I just outlined previously.
While our government did not create the loans issue, we are fully committed to resolving the loans issue, and we will be doing so. Within six sitting days, our Premier will be tabling a solution that will address this very pressing and complicated matter.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of Community Services on this governmentís vindictive attack on the Dawson City Council.
Itís a well-known fact that the MLA for Klondike ó
Speaker:I think the term "vindictive" may be a tad leaning toward discord, and Iíd ask the member to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Ms. Duncan:Certainly, Iíll retract the term "vindictive", Mr. Speaker.
It is a well-known fact that the MLA for Klondike does not like the mayor and council. This summer, on instructions, the government hired a consultant from British Columbia to keep an eye on the town. Heís being paid $800 a day.
On instructions from this hired individual, the City of Dawson has been told not to pay some bills that it owes some Yukon contractors.
Mr. Speaker, contractors ó Yukoners ó are waiting to be paid, and this government is stopping that from happening. Will the minister instruct the hired hand from B.C. to allow Dawson to pay their bills?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned, weíre trying to assess the situation in Dawson on a financial basis, and thatís what the supervisor is currently doing in conjunction with the city.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Yukon contractors are not getting paid because this so-called business-friendly government is standing in the way. The Yukon Party government, led by the MLA for Klondike, is doing what it can to make the Dawson City Council look bad, and this long-standing feud is causing a serious problem for Yukon contractors.
The Yukon Party government owes the City of Dawson almost a million dollars ó $930,000 ó as part of a legally binding agreement. Itís refusing to pay. That has left the council short on cash, and theyíre unable to pay Yukon contractors. The government and the MLA for Klondike are so busy discrediting the City of Dawson that they donít seem to care who is suffering.
Will the minister show some leadership and allow Dawson City to pay Yukon contractors?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Mr. Speaker, I have been in discussions with the supervisor, and we are looking at paying payables on behalf of the City of Dawson.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the government is not working with the City of Dawson. Theyíre doing everything they can to destroy the reputation of the mayor and the elected council. The Member for Klondike wants to embarrass the city and make them look like they canít manage their finances. I think the MLA for Klondike should pay back the loan before he criticizes the way other people manage their money. This government is reneging on a signed contract with the City of Dawson. Theyíre withholding $930,000 from the city, and Yukon contractors are not getting paid as a result.
Will the minister stop taking instructions from the MLA for Klondike, show some leadership and ensure that this legally binding agreement is paid in full to the City of Dawson? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are dealing with the City of Dawson, despite what she says; and then secondly, we are dealing with the payouts, and we are looking at the financial situation, which is a very serious situation for the City of Dawson. We are looking at that, and we will be releasing items that allow them to carry on.
Question re: Victim services
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of Justice.
In his reason for sentence in the case that we have been discussing this week, the former Chief Judge asked this question: "How many more Marcellus Jacobs do we need before we appreciate that if we always do what we have always done, we will always face what we always face: the next case to sentence, the next victim to heal?"
On the one occasion that the minister was allowed to speak on this matter, her answers were somewhat vague, so let me ask her this: what substantive changes have taken place under her watch to prevent that next case the judge referred to?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I will reiterate for the member opposite that, indeed, this was a horrific tragedy that no person should ever have to endure. My heart certainly goes out to the woman involved. I also know that she certainly is not alone. There are others, including both men and women, who are affected by violence, including domestic violence.
Now, as I had mentioned earlier, I believe it was this week, an investigation was held soon after the assault took place ó over two years ago, I should add ó and similarly a review and discussion of all actions surrounding this offence also took place with the RCMP. As continues to be the case, our Department of Justice continues to review on an ongoing basis its policies and procedures for monitoring conditional sentences, and revisions are made wherever deemed to be appropriate.
Mr. Hardy: Those are very similar to the words that the minister had indicated last week, which were that the appropriate actions resulting from that investigation have been in the works.
My question now is: will the minister be more specific about the nature of that investigation and the appropriate actions that she referred to?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, this was an investigation. First of all, the assault took place well over two years ago. The investigation was held well over two years ago as well. It was an internal investigation done by our Department of Justice. We are always looking for ways to improve the monitoring of conditional sentences as well as all our policies and procedures as deemed to be appropriate in the Department of Justice.
We will continue to do so.
Again, Iím certainly very concerned about victims of violence and the safety of victims of violence. Our department, I should add, does a fairly reasonable job. Hats off to the individuals ó our officials ó who are working very diligently in the family violence prevention unit and the victim services unit, providing services that ensure that the victims of violence do receive the treatment they deserve.
Mr. Hardy: I also share those sentiments, but we are dealing with an extremely difficult situation here, and we donít want to see it repeated. Thereís certainly a lot that needs investigating about how this horrible crime happened and was committed.
This is not just about one specific case, Mr. Speaker. Like the judge, our largest concern is how to fix the systemic problems to try to avoid that next case, as I said earlier. That requires some painful soul-searching and a willingness to change.
Now let me ask the minister a very blunt question in regard to this: why was the assailant at large in the community on the night of this attack when his sentence conditions on an earlier conviction required him to be at his home address?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, Mr. Speaker, I will just point out for the member opposite that this was a horrific crime, an assault that no person should ever have to endure. This did take place not under the purview of our government ó it was a previous government but, with that said, an internal investigation was undertaken.
Again, we are very concerned about the safety of victims of violence. We continue to be concerned, and we continue to look for ways to improve how we can deliver services in a more improved and better fashion.
Question re: Victim services
Mr. Hardy:I happen to have another question for the Minister of Justice on this very same matter and I am hoping I get some more concrete answers instead of the words that they feel they have to say to avoid answering anything.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure the minister is aware of the community and correctional services branch policy and the procedures on breach of conditional sentence order. Is the minister satisfied that this policy and the procedures it outlines were followed in respect to the assailant in this case?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak about this particular incident and investigation that did take place over two years ago, I might add. Now, any time an investigation is taken, there are always recommendations made; we are always striving to look to improve the delivery of services to victims of crime and to individuals who are recipients of services that are delivered by the Department of Justice; we will continue to do so.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I am quite curious why the minister canít speak about this particular case. The assailant had a known history of breaching sentence conditions. He had been in breach of his conditions for some time before the assault on my constituent. Why was the assailant not reported to be in breach of his sentence condition until July 5, 2001, the day after the attack on my constituent?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, again I will continue to reiterate what I have been reiterating over the last week and that is an investigation was taken over two years ago with our Department of Justice officials. It surrounded the monitoring of the conditional sentences as one of the issues that was part of the internal investigation, as is part of the course with respect to any investigation. We are always looking at ways to deliver and improve services.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíd sure like to know what is being planned. Obviously weíre not going to get the answers at this time. Iíd like to read another statement by the judge: "Currently we are not wired to learn from our failures, from each other or to work with each other."
Mr. Speaker, this case makes it clear that we need to change that. I recognize that these are very difficult questions for the minister, but this is an extremely important matter.
On the day of the assault, the police picked up the assailant twice and let him go twice. He was supposed to be in his home, but he wasnít. He was in breach of his sentence conditions, but the appropriate action wasnít taken. What has this minister learned from that failure, and what has happened on her watch to prevent it from happening again?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, an internal investigation was conducted following this particular incident. I think Iíve been very clear about that matter all along. An investigation was taken. A review of the policies and procedures was taken. Appropriate action has been taken, as per the course with an internal investigation. That is all that I can provide the member opposite. That is all that I can provide. The investigation was taken. Again, as with any investigation, we are always striving to improve the delivery of services and programs to all Yukoners.
Question re: Childrenís Act review
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. In Hansard on April 9 of this year the minister said, "The white man law is not working for our First Nation members. We are going to have to dovetail our laws and rules into First Nation communities."
On the same day, Mr. Speaker, in Hansard, on apprehension of children in First Nation homes, the minister said, "We are working on a program and plans to address this very serious issue."
Now that the minister has had over eight months to work on plans to address First Nation child protection and apprehension concerns, can he tell us what those plans are beyond the review of the Childrenís Act?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is quite aware that there are considerable difficulties with the existing Yukon Childrenís Act. That legislation is not appropriate for the purposes we have to address here. To that end, our government is the first government in one heck of a long time to address the issue of developing a new Childrenís Act.
We are moving forward in concert with the Council of Yukon First Nations and the chiefs health council. We have a committee in place; itís moving forward. It will probably take us two years before we see this legislation brought to the floor of this Legislature. This new legislation, I want to assure all members of this House and all members of the Yukon, will be addressing the issue of First Nation members in the communities and be sensitive to the needs of First Nations.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question. The B.C. Child and Family and Community Services Act of 1996 gives aboriginal communities greater responsibility for planning and delivery of services to First Nations. In the B.C. model the province provides the authority of child protection to aboriginal organizations on reserve, and the federal government provides the money. The objective of the B.C. program is to reduce the number of provincial social workers and save money. Does the minister expect the new Childrenís Act to be modeled after B.C. Child Family and Community Services Act with respect to First Nation involvement in child protection matters?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: One of the pieces of legislation that is being examined by the panel ó in fact, two members of the panel were recently in attendance in Victoria, talking and speaking with the officials there.
I can assure the member opposite that this piece of legislation will be brought forward. It will probably contain some parts of the B.C. legislation and probably some parts of legislation in other jurisdictions that have a new childrenís act ó the Northwest Territories also has legislation in this area ó that recognizes and is sensitive to First Nations culture and conditions.
But in the Yukon, we go one better. There are a lot of First Nations that have self-governing agreements and, under the powers they have there, they can draw down authority for this area.
We are working on a government-to-government basis currently in developing this legislation here in the Yukon: a new Yukon Childrenís Act, a made-in-Yukon Childrenís Act for Yukoners.
Question re: Ambulance services
Mr. Fairclough:A new question to the same minister: the volunteer ambulance attendants in Teslin have taken time off for some much-needed rest. The ministerís solution was to have grader operators fill in as ambulance drivers with no training. The community of Teslin wants some answers from this minister. The Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council wrote letters to the minister asking for help for improvements to the ambulance services in Teslin.
Why is the minister not providing the proper training and the basic equipment, like jackets and uniforms, to volunteer ambulance attendants?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the information of the members opposite, the MLA for Pelly-Nusutlin and I and some of our staff attended a meeting in Teslin. It was a meeting attended by members of the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Village of Teslin. We have dealt with the issues in Teslin. We came away with an understanding of what training is going to be provided. The department has been instructed to provide the necessary training at the earliest opportunity. There is an identified group of individuals who will be in attendance at this training, I am given to understand. The issue of clothing and other equipment is an issue that is being addressed, but letís deal with the issue that we have to deal with. That is the recognition of Yukon volunteers all across the Yukon. They are a very worthwhile and dedicated group. We respect them. We honour them, and we will treat them with dignity, and we will provide that training, clothing and whatever else is reasonably requested to ensure that they can carry out the function that they have dedicated themselves to.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to thank the minister for that and also the citizens of Teslin. Obviously they had some strength in moving forward and getting the minister to make decisions. I am hoping that happens with all the communities across the territory.
The community of Teslin had all kinds of concerns, along with many other communities. Volunteer ambulance attendants take their jobs seriously, and they would like to be compensated and recognized. So with all that the minister is doing, will the minister provide a small compensation to all the volunteer ambulance attendants across the Yukon for being on call and packing around a radio all day? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we are looking at doing is increasing the amount of money and the various scales, and I committed to looking at that and bringing it forward in the next budget cycle, which starts April 1 of next year. Iím sure the member opposite agrees with me at this time that we should be putting more money into it. We will be putting more money into it, but as sure as Iím standing here today, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite will vote against that additional money in that budget.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is bending to the needs of community people, and there are many people to thank for that. There are many communities with serious need for attention to their ambulance services, and Iíd like to bring up another one. Maybe this member can include that in his budget too.
Take Old Crow, for example. The RCMP in Old Crow use their pickup truck to transport patients from their homes to the nursing station. Now the RCMP may also withdraw their services, because they could be liable if something happens while the patients are in their care.
Obviously Old Crow could be left out in the cold. They donít have an ambulance, and they desperately need one. Will the minister make sure that an ambulance will be on its way to Old Crow over the winter road this year, and will he ensure that the proper training is provided?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is committed to addressing the needs where the needs arise. The issue of an ambulance for Old Crow is a first. No one has ever brought it to my attention before. We as a government are going to be enhancing the training initiatives across the Yukon. Clothing and the increased rate per call-out will be in the next budget, which Iím sure the members opposite will be voting against.
Mr. Speaker, that said, the other issue in the Yukon is a four-wheel-drive ambulance. Itís in this supplementary budget thatís before the House now which, once again, these members will be voting against. Now thatís the way it is.
Itís not like running down and picking up a vehicle off a car lot here in Whitehorse. It takes some time from the date itís ordered to the date of delivery.
That process has been commenced, and that new four-wheel ambulance will be going to Ross River. I make that abundantly clear. We will address the needs as a government where the needs exist.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to follow up with some questions for the Minister of Community Services. I would like to talk about the governmentís record for a moment. There have been outstanding loans for a long period of time. The government has had over a year to work on them and the Premier has said, repeatedly in the House, that previous governments had done nothing. In fact, the Premier well knows the government policy was in the works. There is $5 million to be collected there.
Governor Murkowski said at noon today that a bridge will be completed within two years at Dawson, although the Premier said in the House that work had not yet been done on the bridge. Thatís a multi-million dollar cost and, no matter how theyíve gutted the Taxpayer Protection Act, itís a cost to taxpayers.
When the government took office, they had a legally binding agreement with the City of Dawson for $930,000. Now, the government has cried broke to the City of Dawson. The minister has said they will look at it. Will the minister today commit that he will release the full $930,000 to the City of Dawson this week?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, weíre dealing with the supervisor and the city on this issue and once weíve looked at their financial situation weíll go on to that matter.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Party government has a legally binding agreement with the City of Dawson. The Yukon Party government owes the City of Dawson $930,000. They have an $800-a-day contractor who is being paid but the City of Dawson, because the government wonít release their money, is unable to pay Yukon contractors.
Iíll ask the minister again: will the minister today commit on the floor of this House that he will honour that legally binding agreement and release the full $930,000 to the City of Dawson this week? Will he make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll reiterate what Iíve always said here all along. Weíre working with the City of Dawson on this particular issue. I have been in contact with the City of Dawson on the few issues with regard to monies being spent and we will release some of that money to them for payables. Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners who are waiting to be paid, Yukon contractors ó "some of that money" isnít going to help. The minister has a legally binding agreement. He owes the City of Dawson $930,000. He needs to release all of it, and it needs to be done this week, and Yukon contractors, just like the hired hand paid for by the government, need to be paid in full well before Christmas. Will he release the full $930,000 this week?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíll phone back the supervisor, and once we review the financial information weíll make that assessment.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker:Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair will deliver a ruling on a point of order raised yesterday by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun during debate on Motion for the Production of Papers No. 18, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South. At that time the Member for Mayo-Tatchun argued that certain remarks by the Member for Lake Laberge were not in order in that they violated Standing Orders 19(b)(i), 19(b)(ii) and 19(c). The Chair said he would review the Blues and return with a ruling today.
After reviewing the Blues the Chair finds that there was a point of order. Certain remarks by the Member for Lake Laberge did violate Standing Order 19(b)(i) in that they addressed matters other than the question under discussion. The scope of the motion was whether the House should order the return of certain documents related to a decision by the Minister of Justice to release a commercial vehicle from impoundment. The Member for Lake Laberge introduced many other subjects into debate, which he spoke on for too great a length, and did not connect to the motion on the floor.
Certain remarks by the Member for Lake Laberge also violated Standing Order 19(c) in that they were needlessly repetitious. Early in his remarks the member said that all the information needed to judge the actions of the Minister of Justice had already been made public and that there was no need to, in his words, "start digging through the Whitehorse dump to see if thereís an old Post-it note referring to the issue." He then proceeded to use the term "phantom Post-it note" 24 times during the rest of his remarks.
It should also be noted that the nature of the speech by the Member for Lake Laberge led to disorder in the House, including points of order being raised and extraneous comments by members who could not gain the floor.
The Chair realizes that this ruling does not remedy what occurred yesterday. However it could serve to prevent such occurrences in the future.
In dealing with these concerns the Chair is restricted to the rules and practices of the House. The Standing Orders and the procedural authorities enable the Speaker to restrict comments that are irrelevant or repetitious. However, recent practice in this Assembly is that such rules have not been strictly enforced. On the other hand, the Chair notes that, during this sitting, members on both sides of the House have expressed concerns about relevance and repetition, usually through points of order and most often during consideration of private membersí business on Wednesdays. The Chair, then, takes this as an indication that members desire a more orthodox interpretation of the rules and practices. The Chair can and will, therefore, place increasing emphasis on enforcing the rules respecting relevance and repetition in debate.
If members desire to see proceedings on Wednesdays reviewed and, perhaps, changed, that is for them and not the Chair to decide. The Chair encourages members, if that is their desire, to follow the usual practice for reviewing the rules and procedures of this House, that is by referring the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
The Chair thanks members for their attention.
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. Are you agreed?
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. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Chair:When Committee debate on Bill No. 7 adjourned, the Premier was speaking in general debate on clause 1. The Chair understands that, given the Premierís absence, Committee will adjourn general debate and proceed to the Department of Health and Social Services. As is the practice of this Committee, departmental debate will begin with a statement by the minister.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím pleased to introduce the details for the supplementary budget for this year for the Department of Health and Social Services.
The overall increase of six percent will bring the departmentís planned operating expenditure to $150,000,512. This increase is primarily in health services, which accounts for $6.5 million of the $8.5-million increase. The remaining increase is accounted for largely in family and childrenís services, where an additional $1,537,000 will be required. Through efficient fiscal management and the infusion of new funding, weíve been able to significantly expand the scope of services provided by the family and children's services branch of the department.
We are increasing our contract with the Child Development Centre by $132,000 in direct support for the workers in that organization and the expansion of their role to deal with FASD.
We have also increased substantially their social worker and family support worker staffing complement by a total of 10 new staff. Mr. Chair, I repeat: 10 additional staff. This is to respond to our commitment to implement the FASD action plan and to respond to the increasing caseload and demands for our social workers. We have increased our commitment by $133,000 to support families with autistic children. To respond to the need for specialized outside treatment services for children with extraordinary needs, we have budgeted an additional half a million dollars ó $502,000 to be exact.
Our commitment as a government to the childcare community is also substantial. This budget projects an additional $675,000 to cover salary increases directly to child workers and to cover operating cost increases of the operators. This is referred to as the D.O.G. This year we are experiencing a slight increase in the demand for daycare subsidies and have adjusted our projections in this program.
In the Social Services area, we are experiencing slight increases to the pioneer utility grant to accommodate one of our platform commitments, which was to increase the pioneer utility grant by $150 from $600 to $750. Cheques have currently been sent out to all of those in the hopper, and we have once again achieved a platform commitment.
The projected growth in the numbers of seniors eligible for this program and the additional costs will increase this budget line by eight percent. The budget supplementary also reflects the transfer of our outpatient therapeutic programs from continuing care to the Whitehorse General Hospital.
Now, with respect to our health service funding, the projected increase of just over eight percent is largely attributable to increases in our insured health program area. $3.4 million dollars is needed to respond to price and volume increases in these areas. That increase is made up of a $841,000 increase in medical claims due to an increase in the number of physician services, a $100,000 increase to cover contract costs associated with an internist that the YMA is hoping to recruit to the Yukon, and $900,000, approximately a million dollars, is required to respond to our out-of-territory hospital claims. Medical travel expenses are forecasted to be almost $400,000 overbudget this year. Part of this increase is volume-driven and part is fully recoverable portion from non-insured Yukon residents.
Because of the continuing rising cost of drugs, we have had to increase the projected expenditure for our chronic disease and pharmacare programs by $1.093 million. Other areas of planned expenditure increases in health services include an increase of almost $2 million to Whitehorse General Hospital. This is needed to meet their expenditure projections and to support funding for a health partnership position. This also includes the amount of $118,000 transferred as a result of taking over the responsibilities for the outpatient therapies program. $242,000 will be required to support other community health programs, including a $70,000 revote to support the Liard Basin task force and a fully-recoverable expenditure of $98,000 to fund a Yukon youth tobacco survey. Other small increases are expected for mental health services and the communicable disease control unit.
We are also increasing our spending by $278,000 for community nursing and emergency medical services. These increases will be needed to support our community nurse practitioner mentoring program and to respond to increased ambulance volumes for both ground and air ambulances.
On the O&M recovery side of the equation, there are just a few highlights that I would like to point out.
The primary health care transition fund provides $610,000 this year to support transitional costs of implementing substantial changes to the primary health care area system.
There is a prior year adjustment in the family and childrenís services area to account for increased recoveries from the Department of Indian Affairs for child welfare. We have also had to make adjustments to our long-term care facility recoveries to account for Macaulay Lodge and Copper Ridge.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to indicate the major highlights of the supplementary amounts related to our departmentís capital budget. An increase in the family and childrenís services area of $584,000 is mainly required to begin the planning and construction for a new receiving home. A revote of $351,000 is required for the Thomson Centre in order to deal with an exterior retrofit and fund a building review, and weíll hopefully get into more on the Thomson Centre in general debate.
For health services, the projected increase in capital expenditures of $1,216,000 relates to ambulance service equipment and renovations; continued expansion of the Yukon tele-health network. Under the primary health care transition fund, $252,000 is planned for equipment and software and for feasibility studies for multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City.
As part of the health reform fund, $500,000 is planned for diagnostic and medical equipment. This is part of the funding agreement agreed to through the First Ministers Health Accord. They are the major highlights of the supplementary budget for the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Chair, one of the most important initiatives that was taken on by our government was for our Premier, in collaboration with the premiers of the N.W.T. and Nunavut, to make representation to the Prime Minister of Canada that the funding agreement and funding arrangement between the northern territories and Canada could not be dealt with on a per capita basis.
We needed block funding or base funding, and to that end, after the three northern premiers walked out on the Prime Minster of Canada, they were subsequently invited back to the table and an agreement was struck providing $20 million for each of the three territories over three years ó $60 million in total, Mr. Chair. That is primarily responsible for a lot of the additional capacity and services and programs and capital expenditures that we are able to make in this supplementary budget. So a good deal of thanks goes out to the Premier of the Yukon for his ability to work with our northern premiers and reach an agreement with Canada for these additional fundings.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will prepare to answer questions and deal with the line-by-line on the supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few questions to the minister in this department in regard to the supplementary. The minister has indicated a lot of spending that has taken place within this department. He has indicated that his government has monies available to address issues that are important to Yukoners, and we do have questions as to how this money will be spent and where.
I believe that this minister is very lucky to have the ability to address some of the issues in the Yukon. There are monies there to address them. Because when he first became minister responsible for this department, we have seen the way this minister has treated people. We have seen the way he has treated seniors in this territory ó our parents and grandparents in regard to the Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge and the extended care facilities.
It took peopleís loud voices to change this ministerís mind. Itís unfortunate that we had to go to that point of bringing this out in the open and in the public for the minister to do the right thing and show the respect to the seniors that they are so deserving of.
We have seen the minister on several other occasions not showing the respect needed. It takes a lot of discussion and pushing by communities to get this minister to change his mind.
There are also many areas where, I believe, the minister needs to have his attention focused to address what Yukoners are asking for.
$6 million will be spent over the next three years to address certain issues.
It has been a year since the minister has taken over this portfolio. So far, we havenít seen much done in regard to making improvements in several different areas. It is fine that we got some of the money to address these, but we need some action by the minister to show some improvement. For example, in alcohol and drugs, the way it was reorganized, with renewal, the way Yukoners saw the structure set up and started working toward that, and how now it has changed under this minister ó people are wondering exactly how do they go about their business when it comes to alcohol and drugs.
The minister identified a number of different areas in the budget that money is going toward, and the needs assessment was one of them in this budget. I do have some questions in regard to the dollar figures that the member is also putting forward. We have asked this government to increase SA rates. We have asked them to look at addressing the outpatient subsidy, and I havenít gotten anywhere with this minister. We have asked the minister to address the wilderness treatment centres, and we havenít gotten anywhere with this minister. These are things that are close and dear to communities.
Itís unfortunate that government has to face increased dollar amounts for repairs to the Thomson Centre. I know the minister is going to get up and blame everybody else ó other governments. The fact is that the general public doesnít really know exactly whatís wrong with this building. They donít know exactly what the plans of the minister are once this building is complete, and I think they need to know. It needs to be laid out clearly. Is the work thatís going to be done on the Thomson Centre final, or are we going to see more repairs done to a building that shouldnít be seeing this type of repair so early in its life?
While all of this is taking place, the members opposite say that a job is the best cure for social issues and so on, and that hasnít happened. A year has gone by. The unemployment rate is going further up. Fortunately we had some of the private sector come in and do some construction. Fortunately we had people out there with some government programs that have been put in place in the past, find some interesting findings out in the northern part, and also the southern part of the territory ó that is with the emeralds and diamonds.
We are fortunate to see the price of precious metals and base metals rise and we will see, I believe, an increase in activity in the mining sector without the help of this government. I am also interested, of course, in what they are doing with roads to resources and the fact that, yes, we are spending money now; weíve got an injection of dollars into this department. The government will have the ability to borrow money from its assets, and in the future we will not have this $20 million, and we will be paying a bill back.
I donít believe that the minister has put together a long-term plan that is clear enough for any Yukoners to see. It will take, I think, some loud voices out there to make changes. We have seen that today with the ambulance attendants. Thanks to Brenda, who is the ambulance attendant in Teslin, for bringing forward this issue and making it very much a community issue and for changing the ministerís mind, because I believe thatís what it takes.
If the community wants to make changes, I guess they are going to have to go and ask for a meeting with the minister. Hopefully they can even though itís not their riding; hopefully they can have a meeting, and maybe weíll see some changes. Iím hoping the Minister of Education brings a big bag of goodies when he comes to the meeting in Pelly Crossing tomorrow afternoon, because that community has issues that they would like to express to the member opposite, to the Minister of Education. I will be present at that meeting also. I might scare the minister, but I work with the community and I work with the First Nation, and we will have to put the pressure on the minister to make some improvements.
The $20 million that was given to government ó Iíll start with this question, because I know the member opposite may go all over the board on a number of different areas ó $20 million is broken down into three years. There is a portion of the money identified in this $6.5 million that will be spent. Does the minister believe that the money will be spent over the next three or four months, or are we going to see much of this money fall back into a surplus situation or into position where we would have to revote them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the member opposite, Mr. Chair, weíre already spending this money. Itís committed to a number of initiatives as I identified in my opening statement, and weíre moving forward. There may be a small sum of money in the capital area from not being able to acquire the capital assets that weíre looking at acquiring and which may go into a lapse, but I would probably be of the opinion that, on the O&M side, virtually all will be committed and all will be spent.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying, then, for example, in alcohol and drugs, that the monies that have been identified for that, all of that money will be spent over the next four months?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the member opposite was asking specifically about the $20 million, the $6.6 million, not the whole budget.
Mr. Fairclough: No, thatís what Iím asking: the money thatís identified for this year, a portion of that six and a half million dollars would be going toward alcohol and drugs, and is all of that money going to be spent over the next four months?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, period 7 variance report didnít show much out of line as to where we are today, so we look like weíre on target as far as spending.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay. Maybe the minister can briefly outline what progress weíve made in that area. We only have four months left in the year. I would believe a majority of that money is gone now, and a lot of the issues for this year would be addressed.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the member opposite where the additional funding went. Whitehorse General Hospital O&M funding in response to hospitalís request for additional ongoing funding for the 2003-04 year ó the initial amount would cover the current projected deficit and represents a difference between the hospital budget request and the Health and Social Services budget available and the 2003-04 main estimates. Further negotiated wage settlements will add to ongoing costs in the future years.
The amounts shown for 2003-04 and 2004-05 reflect a conservative estimated increase to five percent per year. Operating estimates for the 2003-04 year are currently $24,565,000.
The other big increase is for drug programs, which includes the chronic disease, pharmacare, extended health, childrenís drugs and optical programs. Drug program costs rose an average of 16.2 percent over the past five years, with the lowest annual increase being 11 percent in that five-year period. So you can see weíre on an upward projection with respect to drug costs. In most Canadian jurisdictions, drug cost increases are outstripping doctor costs.
Costs for 2002-03 are approximately $5.4 million. The base budget contains $4.682 million. Funding projections for the next three years are based on the lowest annual rate increase, which was 11 percent.
What we have additional funds on is implementation of the FASD action plan, four Health and Social Services FTEs, which represents a partial year continuance of contributions to the Child Development Centre and FASSY, for programs initiated through the primary health care transition fund. As I said earlier, that contribution to the FASD action plan is $200,000.
The autism contribution to support individual families amounts to $180,000. The Child Development Centre increased contribution for services to children, $137,000. Recruitment of specialist health professionals, $225,000. Thatís for one internist and those costs are base costs. We have added a person in the accounting end for accountability to respond to increasing federal demands for accountability, including the performance indicator review committee report, the early childhood development reporting and enhanced accountability reporting ó the Yukon health status report. For a partial year, weíve got an additional $45,000. Additional hospital programming relating to addictions and mental health services, $298,000. Thatís a total expenditure for the priorities in that class of $4,270,000, out of that $6.6 million, Mr. Chair.
This total $20 million over three years is 3.2, plus the CHST supplement to $1 million, and there was another CHST Supplementary No. 2. This is going to be created next year, so that will be factored in when and if the federal Liberal government ó whoever becomes the Minister of Finance ó lives up to its commitment to take the surplus and provide it by way of additional health care funding. That may or may not happen. There are commitments. We will wait until the cheque is in our hands, Mr. Chair.
What weíre also doing is ó the additional funding, should it be made available ó weíre looking at nurse retention initiatives, weíre looking at enhanced regional therapy services, weíre looking at tele-health and weíre looking at the potable water supplies. Weíre looking at programs to support developmentally handicapped adults and weíre looking at specialized training for staff who work with teens who have mental health difficulties, a child psychologist, and weíre looking at an expansion of Healthy Families, and ongoing improvement in the public health information system.
There are some of the significant implications that we have engaged in, that we have identified, and that we will be working toward, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: There is over $8.5 million identified just in O&M, and itís quite obvious that weíre dipping into the surplus of government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: The minister just said no. Explain that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member opposite to listen very carefully. Weíve got $20 million through the good work of the Premier. Thatís over three years; thatís $6.66 million per year. In addition to that, weíve had an increase in the CHST of $1 million, so thatís $7.6 million. Then, in addition to that, weíre anticipating ó we havenít got it but we know where itís going should we get it. The Government of Canada has indicated that, should they have a surplus, they would allow us a certain amount of that surplus and that additional amount has been identified. I shared where that would be directed with the members opposite. But this is new funding, new initiatives. The other amount thatís in there is the primary health care transition fund. So when you add these all up, they add up to the amount of money that was indicated that we had committed we are spending, and weíve received a good deal of that money from the federal government.
In fact I was hand delivered a cheque from the federal Minister of Health, Anne McLellan, who made much to-do of it with me and my colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I trust that responds to the minister oppositeís question, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: We donít have the exact numbers that the member gave, but operation and maintenance is over $8.5 million. and capital is just over $2.2 million. Is the minister saying that none of this money that has been identified as supplementary budget is tapping into the surplus of government dollars?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I have identified where the majority of this money is coming from, but I am not sure where the member opposite is headed. We have identified the $6.6 million, the $1 million and CHST, the primary health care transition fund. You add them all together and I have provided the member opposite with an explanation of where these funds are being expended. They add up on receivables, and they add up on expenditures. The debits and credits equalize.
Mr. Fairclough: It is close to $10 million when you add them up, Mr. Chair, when you look at the recoveries and so on. It is a simple question, because the minister did say that they have run into what they call an unexpected amount of surplus ó a higher than the expected amount of surplus ó and they are able to do more than they can. I understand we are getting more money into the Department of Health, and the minister said that that is all we are using ó the money that is coming in to address these problems, but it just doesnít add up. Also the dollars that were coming into the department were to address certain areas, but the minister is saying, by the numbers he rolled out, that it is going to cover the cost of what they felt was an increase in the number of areas ó not to necessarily address new initiatives, other than the five-step plan that the member opposite put forward in the autistic dollars that have been identified. He talked about the increase in drugs ó that the money is going to that.
So is that correct, and what is the percentage to new projects when itís split like that, and just the increase in the O&M in the department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the member opposite, all the money received from Canada flows into general revenue. Then itís divvied out to the departments. Some of it is specifically targeted for the departments. Let us deal with the sums of money that are targeted to the department by the federal government ó CHST, primary health care transition fund and the new money that our Premier negotiated and went to bat for with the Prime Minister of Canada. And that $6.6 million is in addition to that. So when you add them up, Mr. Chair, we come to a sum of money, and weíve identified where that sum of money is flowing to and what initiatives itís going to, and I donít know, perhaps the NDP calculators add a bit differently than the normal calculators. I donít know what the problem is, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Yukon Party calculator ó when they added up the surplus, it went from just over $60 million to $360 million. Thatís the Yukon Party calculator. This is what theyíre trying to explain to the public now. Thatís what people see. There is a government surplus; there are monies specifically directed to the Health department for certain things, and all the minister has done with a lot of this money is put it into the additional costs of some of the programs that are already in place. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, the member is absolutely correct. That is what the $20 million was for. That was the premise with which our northern premiers went forward to Canada. We needed that kind of money just to keep up with the current price drivers. Thatís the bare minimum. Thatís what the price and volume increases have been cost-wise for the past number of years ó $7 million to $10 million.
This is a little bit less that what we had actually needed but it was the best that the Premiers could do and we are a lot better off as a consequence of it, so letís recognize the price and volume drivers and the price and volume increases. Yes, there was additional funding that flowed to Yukon and we were, as a consequence, able to enhance some of the other programs. We have done exactly that.
But, if it wasnít for the sound fiscal management displayed by this Yukon Party government, we wouldnít have been able to have the surplus that we currently have today.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the sound fiscal management of the Yukon Party is not hiring and not backfilling positions; itís letting them go for months and months, while the stress level in his department goes up and up and up. Thatís how they like to control the finances, by not letting it go out there. Itís unfortunate because people suffer in the end and they are hurting. This minister ó thatís the way they want to do things, and we can see it reflected in every department. I didnít see the minister disagreeing with me on how they calculate the surplus either, Mr. Chair.
The minister said that the increase in this supplementary is just a result of the government getting additional dollars and it being targeted for certain things. Does that also go with the capital investment into this department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Of course, Mr. Chair. We have half a million dollars thatís targeted for, for example, health equipment at the Whitehorse hospital.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís also the $89,000 thatís identified for the ambulance replacement? Thatís the same thing? Itís all out of the identified dollars that are coming from Ottawa?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That amount would have come out of general revenues, Mr. Chair. That would have been from other revenue sources.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to get back to the total amount of dollars coming in here, but just in regard to the ambulance services, I asked the question today and the minister said it does take time to order this piece of equipment and get it here. Now that weíve identified the amount in the supplementary budget, has this equipment ó the ambulance ó been ordered? When do we expect it here?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As to the ordering procedure, thatís a departmental issue. I can find that information out as to where it is in the ordering process. There are really only a couple of suppliers of this type of equipment. As a government, weíve pretty well standardized on what we want, save and except the need for a four-wheel drive in certain situations. There certainly has been a call for an ambulance with four-wheel capabilities for Ross River and, as a government, we committed to addressing the needs where the needs arose and, if it could be completely or clearly identified that that was the case, weíd move forward, and we are moving forward on that initiative for a four-wheel drive ambulance. As to where it is in the department as far as it being ordered and delivered, I do not know. Iím not involved in the day-to-day running of the department. Thatís left to others probably much more capable than I in those specific areas.
Weíll let the officials do their good work within the department and rely on them for these kinds of initiatives.
That kind of detail I do not have. Perhaps ó itís a little bit out of his riding. If it were in the memberís riding, we could probably arrange some sort of a ceremony that the member could attend to assist with the delivery, but itís adjacent to his riding. He might want to attend the delivery of this new ambulance. Iíll let the Member for Mayo-Tatchun know when itís going to be delivered.
Mr. Fairclough: The ministers seem to have all the answers today in Question Period and seem to know that it takes a long time for one to be ordered up, and now he doesnít. That seems quite strange. I know the members opposite would love to cut ribbons and so on ó the very thing that they accuse the Liberal of. I believe that other communities could be using ó improved in their equipment.
I asked the minister about Old Crow today and heís never heard about it. Perhaps he ought to take a trip to Old Crow because theyíve asked about it and there are problems with transportation in that small community.
The reason I brought it up was because there is a winter road going in to Old Crow and theyíre hauling equipment in and this would be, I think, perfect for saving a few dollars in bringing these pieces of equipment in. Now, if it takes a month to get an ambulance up here, why not do it and find the monies internally and have it in a revote? If the minister doesnít know exactly whatís taking place in Old Crow, then perhaps he would take the time to find out.
He had the answers today. It takes a long time. I would assume that he meant months from now to order one up, and they are not readily available.
My question was if there is an ability to have them up here quickly and if this department can look into the matter in Old Crow, and if itís identified, this would be a good time to do it.
Do you not agree? If the winter road is going in, you donít want to see another vehicle being flown in to Old Crow.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, after Question Period today and the issue of an ambulance for Old Crow being raised, I asked the officials if they had heard anything about it, and official advised me that in the two years that he has been involved, this is the first he has heard of this request for an ambulance for Old Crow.
Thatís not to say that there hasnít been a request, but weíre certainly not aware of it at my level, and an ambulance is not something that one orders up in 30 days. Itís a longer acquisition period than that.
So that said, if it was that easy to order ambulances, when the member was in government, why didnít they order a bunch of ambulances? There was really a period of time when there was not that many replacement ambulances dealt with.
There was a new school in Old Crow, and I remember the issue of a bus for Old Crow. And I know there is the issue of rip-rap around the airport in Old Crow and the need for gravel in Old Crow and the need for an airport terminal building in Old Crow and the need for a new subdivision and improved road to that subdivision in Old Crow, but this is the first time it has come to my attention that thereís an ambulance request in there somewhere, Mr. Deputy Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím kind of surprised that the department hasnít heard about that yet. I would like to ask the minister to look into the matter then, because it has been raised to us. And the issue is that when patients are transported from a home to the nursing station, they use the RCMP pickup truck, open box, they go into the back seat, and there is an issue with liability there. If something happens to the patient in transport between the home and the nursing station, that is the issue. So if theyíre not using this vehicle that they presently use now, they donít have a vehicle to use. I think thatís important for the minister to look into, and Iím asking him to do that, and if he can do it right away and, if it is identified as a high priority, that something be done quickly.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am aware that there is an agreement in place between Yukon and the RCMP for the performances of their services. If the current one is identical to the prior one, the Yukon indemnified and saved harmless the RCMP in the performance of their respective duties in the Yukon. Thatís a given. So, if they were conducting themselves in the manner that they are recognized, not just nationally, but internationally, I see no problem. For the member opposite to suggest that there is a liability issue, I believe is incorrect.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, all that Iím asking is for the minister to look into that matter. It may be true that there isnít a problem, but it has been raised to us in our office and thatís why I brought it up today.
In regard to the receiving home, the minister said that there was $584,000 that has been directed to the new group home ó receiving home. I donít see the exact amount of dollars that the minister raised that is going toward this. Is he adding a couple of different lines together that identify this?
Where is that $584,000 coming from that the member read into the record?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The actual line item is $460,000 increase for residential services to plan and construct a new group receiving home, and the balance stems from another line item, because you have to not just build it, you have to furnish and equip it. When you add those two together, you come up with the $502,000.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us if the money thatís identified for the Thomson Centre takes care of all the problems that have been identified, or will we see additional dollars in the next fiscal budget to complete or take care of the health issues of that building?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím very pleased the member has asked that question. That is an NDP project that went completely sideways. Weíre probably looking at another $2.5 million plus to get that building up and running. That money is just to complete minor projects. What we have undertaken, as a government, is to send in a team of professionals ó architects, engineers, the tradespeople who are knowledgeable and understand sprinkler systems and designs, fire alarm systems and designs ó to have a look at the building.
That report is before us, and there are certain areas where we have gone back for further investigation so it meets the current applicable codes for seismic.
When they are completed, I will be happy to share those reports with the members opposite, but it shows a total lack of management in the overseeing of the construction of this building. There is not even an occupancy permit granted by the authority having jurisdiction so that that building could be occupied. The government of the day went willy-nilly ahead and occupied the building. There are quite a considerable number of serious code deficiencies in that building. I am appalled by what we inherited.
To get that building up and running now, we are going to have to look at major capital costs in improvements. It is a very, very serious matter. If you want to see how not to go about constructing a building and how to go about not overseeing design and construction, look to this NDP project. Itís a sad, sad day for Yukon taxpayers when weíve come to incur this kind of additional cost on a building. Itís a beautiful looking building, but itís extremely dysfunctional at this point in time and still only partially occupied for office space.
We will have a better understanding of it, and it looks like we will be going into major renovations come this spring to bring this structure up to the applicable codes and to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion and then occupy it for a number of purposes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister had better get used to his job because heís going to be facing all kinds of problems even with his own decisions. He experienced that with the seniors in Macaulay Lodge and what he wants to do with it, and maybe he ought to take a look in the mirror before trying to put words of description about other people and parties.
This minister didnít have to accept it. I mean, why accept the building? Now, there doesnít seem to be a plan in place that the minister is following. Weíre a year into their mandate, spending a little bit of money here and wanting to spend more, and what assurance is the minister going to give the public that there are no problems with the building? None. Or with any building that is built under their watch or construction?
The member opposite cannot just ó but he will ó just try to paint a picture about how bad other parties were and how good his party is versus others. So far we havenít seen it. Just take a look at the unemployment rate. The members opposite can brag all they want about the type of things they are doing but itís not them thatís driving the economy up at all. Thank God for the private sector.
The member said that the $351,000 is going to minor repairs and that he estimates another $2.5 million to complete the Thomson Centre. I donít believe the member opposite would just rattle off a number without being assured that there is a plan in place for that completion. Can the minister table or give us the plans for the completion of the Thomson Centre? What needs to be done for it to be, what he says, up to code or modernized? Can he give us a bit more detail as to what exactly needs to take place and what that $2.5 million will go to?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The numbers I gave to the member opposite were an order of magnitude cost projection takeoff from one of the reports of the engineering investigation report. That report cost $20,000, Mr. Chair. To date, for repairs, there is a cost of $1,381,235.88. That was for a small leak in the roof at the Thomson Centre. From there, I committed to providing the members opposite with the total report when itís completed and what additional costs we will look at incurring to bring this building back on-line for the purpose determined.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us how old that report is, and are we expected to have an updated one where we can see a more fine-tuned projection of what dollars will be going toward the completion of the repairs to this building?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the initial report was brought forward in late September, and there is a subsequent report on the engineering report thatís underway. Where thatís at and when it will be completed ó I believe it will be early in the new year. And itís being undertaken by local engineering firms in consultation with an outside engineering firm that has expertise in the areas required.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. Is the plan to continue to put monies into this building for it to be properly repaired and used and are we expected to see that money reflected in the budget? I donít believe that the public wants to see this go on and on. I would think that the minister would like to complete the repairs, so are we expected to see that in the budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Depending on the timing of the receipt of these reports and how fast we can proceed. First of all, we have to get a handle on what repairs and what changes are necessary to bring this building up to the applicable codes. That has yet to be determined. It is a B-1 class building currently and it doesnít meet that code requirement. There are a number of deficiencies that were not noted or were not addressed during final inspection. In fact, itís doubtful whether there was indeed a final inspection on the building. There are no records of an occupancy permit having ever been issued for this structure, which is very, very strange and indeed very troubling.
Mr. Fairclough: It is obvious that there is much work to be done in that area. I will just leave that for now and wait for the report to come forward and ask the questions again in the spring.
Today, in Question Period, I asked the member opposite to look at some of the issues raised by the ambulance attendants in Teslin. He has made some commitments to ensure that they do have the proper clothing and that they do have the proper uniform to basically do their jobs.
I believe that thatís the same concern that many other communities also have. Are they expected to see this improvement immediately so they can do their jobs properly throughout this winter, or is the minister saying itís expected in the spring budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We committed to training; continued and ongoing training commences as soon as we can schedule it, hopefully before Christmas, maybe after. Clothing, coveralls ó weíre looking at; that is in. As for an increase in the call-out and various levels of pay for the various categories, depending on their designation, Mr. Chair, I committed to seeking approval in the next session for the next budget cycle. So that should answer it.
We rely on our volunteers across the Yukon and we pay tribute today to the volunteers. They do a lot of excellent work across the Yukon. I, for one, want to recognize their assistance and their capable involvement.
With respect to Teslin, to the end of September, there were 32 ambulance calls ó thatís basically three to four a month. With respect to Tagish, there were 38; with respect to Ross River, there were 50; Pelly Crossing, there were 38; Mayo, there were 42; Marsh Lake, there were 23; Haines Junction, there were 71; Faro, there were 45; Destruction Bay, there were 24; Dawson City, there were 136; Carmacks, there were 29; there were 42 in Carcross; Beaver Creek, there were 21. The area where there are larger numbers is, of course, Watson Lake, and their territory extends into British Columbia. There were 293 ambulance calls in Watson Lake up to the end of September this year.
And, of course, in Whitehorse ground and Whitehorse air, 1,477. We are about 2,000 to the end of here in Whitehorse for ambulance calls ó both Whitehorse ground and air. There is a considerable amount of effort put in and, of course, in Whitehorse we have full-time staffed positions, but in most of the other areas, save and except perhaps the supervisor that is paid continuously, the balance of the staff are volunteers and they do an excellent job. They are to be recognized and our government salutes them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: It took a lot for them to be recognized; they had to come out in the public for that.
The minister made the commitment of having the proper equipment and training for the ambulance attendants across the territory to make sure that we do have the volunteers on hand. They are asking for the basics ó proper clothing, jackets, winter jackets, uniforms and so on ó to do their job. The minister said that will happen. Where is the money coming from to address that immediately?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I refer the member back to Hansard; he can read the Blues tomorrow.
One of the points I raised ó finally we are increasing our spending by $278,000 for community nursing and emergency medical services. These increases will be needed to support our community nurse practitioner mentoring program and to response to increase ambulance volumes, and that is where part of it will be contained, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that. The other thing that the member said is that we will be seeing an increase in pay for call-outs. Part of my question today was whether or not the minister would consider compensating, in a small way, those who are on call and are packing a radio around all day. Is that something that would be looked at by the department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What weíve committed to ó and I make abundantly clear for the member opposite ó is to address the call-out dollar amount and the rate of pay for the various categories, depending on the level of experience and expertise they have. That suggestion was well-received.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that the department wonít consider the other then? I am talking them packing the radios, being on call and always having to be in the community and within radio distance.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have made a suggestion as to where we were proceeding as a government, and that would be to increase the call-out and increase the amount that we pay. That was discussed, and I committed to moving forward on it for the next budget cycle, beginning in April 1, 2004, to March 31, 2005. That will be subject to the approval of this Legislature ó which, I might add, the member opposite will probably vote against an increase in the amount of money that would be going toward these volunteer people. I find that quite inappropriate, given there is a constant lobbying for increases in various areas. As a government, we have clearly indicated that we would meet the demand where demand exists.
I committed to, not just Teslin, but to some other volunteer ambulance attendants for whom we will be looking at an increase ó I believe itís $15, $18, and $20 ó and we would be looking at raising that and putting in a minimum. That is being looked at. Hopefully it will be in the next budget cycle, subject to the approval of my Cabinet and caucus colleagues. Iím sure when we bring it forward for debate on the floor that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun will be one of the ó I believe heíll be the second one on the side opposite to stand up and vote against it ó perhaps the third.
Mr. Fairclough: We will not be voting against the expenditures that we see benefiting the communities. The member opposite knows. He was in opposition in the past and never voted for a budget so ó all the good things a past government did, did the member not like them? And if he didnít like them then, why is he doing them now?
The letter that I said the village and First Nation wrote to the minister identified this, perhaps compensating the members for being on call and packing radios. So, what the minister is saying is, no; he doesnít even want to address this. Well, thatís the message I have to take back to them, so weíll not go there any more.
The minister also talked in the past about recruiting and keeping our ó oh, one more thing about the ambulances that came to my attention today was ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: If the minister can listen ó was that there was a concern that the ambulance in ó or patients had to be taken from the community Pelly Crossing to Mayo to be medevacíd out by plane. Is it because the airport is not maintained properly or that the planes that are contracted by the government for medical services and evacuations do not use the airport? Is this common for Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and other communities that donít have a large use for their airports?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The airport in Mayo is a full day/night IFR-rated airport. It has ARCALS. Itís well-equipped. The strip in Pelly at the top of the hill does not have any of the navigational aids other than the windsock. Itís a gravel strip. Its maintenance is regular by the Department of Highways, but itís strictly a day VFR strip, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister saying that is the reason, even if itís during the day that the ambulance has to go to Mayo? Why wouldnít they go the other way, perhaps to Carmacks, which would cut the flying time for patients needing to get to the Whitehorse hospital? Is that the same thing for that airport, and is it similar in many of the small communities? Thatís what I was asking the member opposite, whether other communities are facing the same thing.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member should become familiar with the airports in and around the Yukon. There are only a few that are rated for day/night IFR/VFR, that are lit. Those are Old Crow, Mayo, Burwash, Teslin, Watson Lake and, of course, Whitehorse. So a balance can be used for emergency medical evacuation. Itís basically at the call of the pilot. Dawson has lighting, but you can only land after legal dark or before legal light on an emergency basis by either declaring an emergency or being on a medevac. The same holds true for Carmacks. The same holds true for Pelly, but Pelly has no navigational aids, no lighting, and the closest airport aerodrome with the appropriate equipment ó with a CARS station ó is Mayo.
The life safety of the medevac crew is the situation, and itís the pilots who more or less make the call.
That said, itís not the distance one way or the other. You have to look at what the safest way of doing the job is. Yes, that appears to be a little bit backward if you look at a map, but the determination as to which way to go is predicated on the safest way to go.
Mr. Fairclough: You would think that, by the time it takes a plane to land and get up and going and back to Whitehorse, if an ambulance comes straight from Pelly to Whitehorse, it would probably be here quicker. I thought there might be other reasons ó perhaps the fact that Mayo has a doctor in that community.
All right, Iíll just leave that. I understand what the minister is saying. And this person wanted to know why, because they have seen a number of ambulances going into Mayo for that reason. Iíll leave that alone and ask the minister about doctors.
He said the department was doing a number of things to try to attract doctors to the territory and keep them here, along with the nurses. Iíve asked the question in this House with no answers, so I hope I do get an answer now. We do have a number of "orphan" patients here in Whitehorse, and we do have a 10-percent drop in doctors pretty well every year, but it seems to me, from the information Iím getting, that this year is a problem because we do have people with no doctors to go to.
Can the minister give us an update on that, and how are we doing in competition with other places now? I know Northwest Territories has sweetened the pot a little bit and are able to keep their doctors and attract more doctors to that territory. So where are we, and what can we expect over the winter and into the spring?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd encourage the member opposite to probably have a real serious look at what has transpired with doctors in the N.W.T., because they went through a major upheaval and ended up putting the doctors on a contract basis rather than a fee-for-service basis. Here in the Yukon, weíre fortunate currently to have 65 licensed practitioners, and 60 of those physicians are billing the Yukon government on a fee-for-service basis, and we put $50,000 a year or more as a threshold, and there are 60 physicians in that category who bill Yukon health care $50,000 or more. And then we have, in addition to that, three more contract physicians, one the member referred to in Mayo. So there are a number of contract physicians in areas where there is not enough work to retain a physician on a fee-for-service basis. But after looking at the situation that the N.W.T. has gone through with a major strike and firing of hospital boards ó a tremendous upheaval. We donít want to go there. We want to work with the YMA and ensure thereís a fair and equitable arrangement, and reasonable expectations on their part will be met reasonably by our government.
Thatís where weíre at. There are difficulties with the turnover rate in physicians, and the department is currently conducting an exit survey. Under the previous administration ó the Liberal government ó there was an initiative to bring in a new class of licence. That did attract a number of additional physicians here to the Yukon, but it would appear that they remained here only as long as they gained their full accreditation and then they moved on to some of the principal centres in Canada, primarily the Toronto area and other major centres.
So, in some respects, weíre a training ground, a proving ground, for foreign doctors to gain full Canadian accreditation and then they move on. There is quite a turnover in that category but, in addition to that, we have some extremely dedicated, long-serving doctors here in the Yukon who have been providing excellent service for quite a number of years and continue to do so.
One only has to look back in history, to the 1960s when the population here was about 15,000 to 16,000. There were some years when Whitehorse was serviced by two doctors and, in addition to that, look at the medevac statistics for that period of time: one medevac in the whole year. That wasnít too long ago. Our population has doubled since that time, and we currently have 65 positions licensed here in the Yukon.
Yes, we have a turnover; yes, there are those who canít gain access to a family doctor; and yes, we can do more.
Yes, we are looking at doing more. We have asked the YMA to bring forward suggestions as to what we can do to enhance the recruitment and the retention program that we currently have in place. As far as I am concerned, Mr. Chair, the Yukon is one of the best places in Canada to work and there are some wonderful opportunities here, and there will be more under a Yukon Party government, Mr. Chair, because we were elected on the basis of sound fiscal management, restoring investor confidence and rebuilding the Yukon economy ó and that we will do. And we will need more health care professionals.
With a rebuilt economy and more money in the economy, I am sure these additional physicians will be attracted to this area and will choose to practice here. Physicians are, by and large, in a private business. We call it a public health care system, yes, but they are basically their own boss, they have their own private corporations, and get paid primarily on a fee-for-services basis. That system I believe to be quite sound but it does need tweaking and it does need enhancing from time to time. I donít want to get into a debate with the member opposite as to what increases or what changes we are looking at with YMA, because they are going to be soon in contract negotiations with Yukon for the next period of time.
So, if the member plans on asking questions in that area, there is no way I am in a position to answer them and I will give him a heads-up in that area before he goes there, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister just confirmed that very little will he do in this regard, because they are under negotiations with the YMA. Itís unfortunate because people are coming forward, and it is a concern. Yukoners are expecting more, and Iím hoping that this minister doesnít walk backwards to 1960. He had better keep up to speed. Iíll leave that for another time, because we donít have any answers coming from the member opposite anyway. Heís too busy counting dollars, I guess, and seeing how he can best save them for the Yukon Party, because I guess great things have happened in a year. Well, they say that but the unemployment rate just went up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask a couple more questions, and the minister seems to have a lot of money in the department, so I would like to ask the question that that minister asked when he was on this side of the House. Itís with regard to the outpatients and the $30 a day that they get on the fourth day when theyíre out of the territory. Is this minister going to make improvements in that area?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís an area that weíre looking at in the next budget cycle, but I canít commit at this time to any changes. But what I can share with the member opposite is that, through the Womenís Directorate and Department of Health and Social Services and the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, weíre working on an initiative. Hopefully weíll have an announcement very quickly on. This is a good-news story. It will be helpful, and it will be a good-news story when it comes out. We are working on a number of fronts, but we have to examine ways that we can target the money to more effectively service the needs of Yukoners.
And all Yukoners, Mr. Chair ó those in need, those in a health ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Now, the Member for Kluane is heckling across the floor and making no sense whatsoever, Mr. Chair. Itís a sad day that the level of debate is degenerating from the Member for Kluane to below floor level, Mr. Chair. So that said, there are a number of areas that we are examining as a government. Weíll have announcements when weíve concluded the analysis and weíve concluded discussions, and weíll move forward as a government. But our commitment is to the people of the Yukon, to rebuilding the Yukon economy. Thatís what weíre doing. Just watch; youíre seeing the benefits now.
Mr. Fairclough: I was almost about to call the minister on a point of order for repeating himself unnecessarily.
Mr. Chair, the minister said that we will be seeing improvements to the outpatient subsidy in the next budget. Well, thatís the question I asked. The minister said no.
I asked whether or not the $30 per day ó that weíre going to see an improvement to the outpatient subsidy. Iím not talking about other monies. Iíll ask those questions as we go through this. This is an issue of Yukoners.
If the minister is true to what he just stated about Yukoners, we would see this increase though.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís one of those areas that weíre currently examining, and the examination hasnít been concluded yet, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Examining ó itís not hard to examine this one, Mr. Chair. The department does have money and they can do this. Itís $30 per day that they get on the fourth day, and itís only upon coming home that they apply for the money from government, plus they have to pay their own way there if they are escorts ó they pay their own way there. Itís flipping the bill. We say we have the best system; letís improve this area, and I urge the minister to look at this carefully, and perhaps he can upgrade this $30 a day to the standard government rate. Would he consider that and bring that forward to his committee as he reviews this?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm for the member opposite that if a patient travelling for medical reasons is determined by the health authority to require an individual to travel with them, the department pays for that individualís travel costs. With respect to the current level of coverage, we are one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that pay anything. The Northwest Territories doesnít pay.
Medical travel expenses are forecasted to be almost $400,000 overbudget this year. Thereís an expected volume increase that will cost $189,000, and there is a $200,000 increase due to medical travel costs for non-Yukon residents.
Some of that ó hopefully all of that ó is recoverable.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that didnít make sense, right at the end, where the member said it was all recoverable. Maybe the minister skipped a couple of lines in his notes there and threw this whole thing off, but I asked a simple question of whether or not he would take the suggestions that weíve made on this side of the House and take it forward in his review in a number of different fronts that he said his department has undertaken, and this is one of them. If he would take that into consideration because the unemployment rate is going up, and Yukoners are starving for money here. If they were unfortunate enough to have to go out on medical travel and even escort a family member or friend to do this, then they have to foot the bill. They have to foot the bill for the travel if they are an escort; they have to foot the bill for their hotel room and their meals. The only thing they get back from this minister is $30 a day after the fourth day. So thatís all Iím asking, is if this could be addressed and improved? It needs improvement ó definitely it does. I believe the minister does believe that too. We donít have to be like the Northwest Territories. I think we can demonstrate some improvements in this department, and Iím sure others will follow.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I applaud the member opposite for the tremendous amount of time and effort he has gone to, to identify that this was an initiative that I raised when in opposition, and I raised the issue in opposition because I knew it was one of the areas that I believed any government should look at. As I have advised the member opposite, Mr. Chair, itís an area that we as a government will be examining.
Iím not prepared to commit to the member opposite anything at this juncture other than to advise him that we will be examining this area and we will be doing so over the course of the next while and we will probably have an opportunity ó of course, any change and any improvement is subject to increase in funds coming into Yukon and, in order to do that, we need the member oppositeís help in ensuring we can restore investor confidence, rebuild the Yukon economy, get jobs here, and get the economy going so we can generate the income that is require to pay for the social programs and the enhanced medical travel that the members opposite are requesting. Itís easy to spend money. One has to balance that off with where that money comes from. Itís a double-edged sword and one has to be cognizant of both sides of the equation.
Yukon currently enjoys some of the best funded programs for all of our population, some of the best travel arrangements and benefits for, while on medical travel, as well as some of the best facilities here in the Yukon, save and except the Thomson Centre, but we donít want to go there. Weíve been there and that NDP debacle is going to come back to haunt our government with costs that will go through the roof.
Unreal, Mr. Chair. I trust the member opposite has identified with the initiatives that we have to address, given that currently the federal government funds only 17 percent of our health care programs here in the Yukon. We have quite some ways to go to get them up to the 50-percent level that has been identified as the target area as to what the feds should be paying for. We have quite a ways to go on the revenue side ó in fact, indeed, a long way to go, Mr. Chair.
So, when the member opposite asks a question about the funding, itís equally important to address the revenue side, because if we donít have it, we canít spend it. Iíve clearly outlined the price and volume increases that weíve experienced as a department. I have clearly outlined for the member opposite the areas of the additional funds that have flowed to the Yukon ó as a consequence of our Premierís negotiations with the feds ó where that money has been allocated and where a large amount of it has been already spent.
Help us out here. If you want to spend more money, Mr. Chair, tell us where itís going to come from and tell us how we are going to raise it. It has to be ongoing and sustainable. It canít be a boutique program or an initial infusion of X number of dollars once. What weíre looking for is for long-term sustainable funding. That is what is required when you put a program in place. Weíve seen a lot of federal government initiatives come to the Yukon and there is funding in place for one or two years, or perhaps three.
I have to give the federal Liberal government a pat on the back because what they do with these boutique programs is usually announce them. That funding is going to come out next year or the year after. Then they reannounce it. They reannounce it, but the expectation is that there is all sorts of money flowing into the Yukon for various programs.
And by the time we see it, it has pretty well expired. The program is shut down. Thereís a new federal Minister of Health who is off on another tangent, or thereís a new HRDC minister who has other targets. But it has been a pleasure working with the federal Minister of Health and the federal minister responsible for HRDC. Both of these ladies bring some interesting insights into how money should flow and how it should be targeted. That said, there is a lot here that we can do, and Iíd encourage the member opposite to identify for us long-term sustainable flows of funds that we can rely on to enhance existing programs. Thatís the exercise, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Weíve reached our customary time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and Vote 15, Health and Social Services.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister had a few minutes to express himself. What he failed to do was recognize the suggestions made by this side of the House and improvements to the economy. I donít think heíll ever take up those suggestions at all. One of them was, of course, to do away with sending the Yukon into debt and into a mortgage situation, mortgaging our future. They can spin it whatever way they want. The public knows. Youíre not going to fool the public out there. It will come back on them.
I had asked a number of questions in regard to ambulance attendants. I tried to get the minister to commit to improvements in the outpatient subsidy. There was no movement there. The minister said that it is under review, which means that we may never see it.
We have seen this take place with the members opposite on a number of different fronts. If they donít want it, they will try a different avenue and basically hide it or not bring it forward ó like the Education Act review, for example. Even though itís overdue, that hasnít been coming forward. There are a number of different things even in this department.
I believe that the minister will try to find a way around it. They say that they will look at ways of saving money. One of them was to not backfill positions. I would like to go to that because the minister in his opening repeated a couple of times that there were 10 positions created in family and childrenís services. I would like to know what those positions are. Are the majority of them social workers? Thirteen positions have been identified in the unionís letter ó are the 10 positions that the member opposite talks about part of the number 13 that the union had asked to be addressed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm for the member opposite that the 10 FTEs in the department are five social workers and five family support workers.
Mr. Fairclough: Are these new positions, or is the minister in fact moving bodies around within the department, which he stated he did?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: New positions.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister can give us some details about how he is making the department more efficient by moving members around within the department.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Moving people around in the department ó I donít micromanage the department. We fund the needs where the needs exist. We have done so and will continue to do so. As to how the department addresses the needs, that is for the well-qualified deputy minister to determine and move forward.
Mr. Fairclough: What positions have been moved around, and to where? Itís not about management; itís just identifying which ones and where they were moved to.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, if management isnít about moving people around and assigning tasks, I donít know what management is all about, and Iíve been at it for quite some time, Mr. Chair.
My role as the minister is to ensure that the various programs that we have determined will be offered are appropriately funded and that the staffing levels are appropriate. As to the deployment of the staff, thatís an internal matter. There was a need identified for additional social workers and family support workers. I committed to the member opposite, and I can distinctly remember the question posed to me in the last session by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. He wanted a simple yes-or-no answer on whether the department would be hiring additional social workers. I responded in the affirmative, and we have subsequently hired 10 additional individuals. The department is doing the hiring through the Public Service Commission, but there are 10 new positions funded within the department.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to get back to the matter but, in regard to renewal or moving people around in the department, who gave that direction to the department? If it wasnít the minister, then who gave the direction to move people around to make the department more efficient ó that is what the ministerís words were.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are over 800 individuals within the Department of Health and Social Services. I do not micromanage the department. I do not get involved in the day-to-day. We have a deputy minister; we have a series of directors that have been tasked with that responsibility. I hope the member opposite is not asking me to micromanage the department because Iím certainly not going there at all.
Mr. Fairclough: I hope the minister doesnít do that but he is famous for doing that in this House. Weíve seen it time and time again. We can give examples if the member wants us to, but the minister should have and should be concerned with whether or not people are being moved around from one position to another and whether or not those people are qualified to do the job. So I ask the member opposite: was it not coming down from the political level to move people around within the department? There have been some major shifts. Who gave the direction? Why isnít the minister concerned about it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, I do not micromanage the department. The department looks after ó itís mandated, it is tasked, with the responsibility, depending on which area of the department the member opposite is referring to; it has a director who conducts the day-to-day affairs. If itís reclassification or a new hire or a new position, this has to all go through the Public Service Commission.
The Public Service Commission is the employer of the people within government. We are the political arm here. Yes, we are ultimately responsible for what goes on, but with over 800 people in the department, I could probably go through the phonebook, and itís a very difficult task to identify with all these individuals. I can assure the member opposite that I remain on policy issues, I remain on legislation, I remain on ensuring the programs that we are mandated to provide are adequately funded and we deliver on those programs.
If there is something to do with the bargaining unit, that is Public Service Commission, Mr. Chair. If itís something to do with the operational conditions within the department, thatís the department itself.
There is a distance between the political arm and the operational arm in government. In case the member doesnít recall from his limited time in government, that exists. That exists for a reason. I donít know if the member opposite can remember what his instructions were when he was in government, as to the distance between the political arm and the department.
I donít do the hiring. If there is a disciplinary issue, Iím not involved in it. If there is a reclassification, I am not involved in it. I would encourage the member opposite ó if he didnít during his time in government ó to come to a better understanding and a better ó perhaps a briefing would be in order as to the respective arms of government and how they all work together and what the role of the political arm is and what the role of the Public Service Commission is in this whole equation. Perhaps thatís in order.
If the member opposite wants, I can see what I can do to arrange a briefing for the member and perhaps indeed for the balance of his caucus, so that they might better understand the process thatís in place here.
Mr. Fairclough: I seem to have touched a nerve with the minister. The minister doesnít seem to be concerned. Thatís surprising. I mean, he just went through this whole thing about other ministers not understanding how things work, but this minister isnít concerned. Perhaps he hasnít been updated, or he doesnít know. I think thatís what itís coming down to. Or perhaps he would like to hide behind some of the direction that has been given.
I asked a simple question. I would expect that the minister would have said he wasnít involved in giving this direction. Is it the department doing it on its own, or is it the minister? Itís a simple question. Why couldnít the minister answer a simple question ó very simple. Instead, he goes on. And weíve seen the Minister of Education do the same thing ó itís a personnel matter, or itís the administration. They donít hand down reprimands and so on, or give that direction.
But, certainly, when it comes to the Internet probe, this government is the biggest spender when it comes to pornography in the territory. Theyíre spending millions of dollars on that, and for what? What are they going to gain from that?
So, is the minister washing his hands of the fact that there are positions being moved around in the department to take care of governmentís efficiency ó I would expect the direction is handed down that way ó and fiscal management?
Is the minister leaving that up to the department then?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Boy, that was a very disjointed, disconnected approach to questioning here in the Legislature, Mr. Chair. I canít make the connection between the investigation that was carried out by the Public Service Commission, in which there was no involvement of the political arm. The member opposite is making the allegation that there was, and that is a totally incorrect and inaccurate position. Iíd encourage him to understand the role of the Public Service Commission, to understand the role of the political arm of government. I can understand why heís no longer in government, not having an understanding of the respective roles, Mr. Chair. Itís sad.
Health is a department that has over 800 employees, Mr. Chair. I donít micromanage the department. Probably on any given day I could not tell the member opposite what the various individuals are working on. My role, as an elected official, is legislation, policy, ensuring the programs function as theyíre supposed to, funding them to the appropriate level, setting new legislation, setting new policy, and letís get on with the job weíre elected to do, and thatís serving Yukoners. Thatís what weíre doing, Mr. Chair, and at the same time, we were elected on a platform to restore investor confidence.
Iím not even allowed to mention what the NDP did with the economy and what the Liberals subsequently did with it when it got to where the Liberals put it, Mr. Chair, because that is inappropriate language, I am given to understand, in this Legislature.
I can share with the members opposite that I did get a phone call from my wife after watching Question Period on that day, and my three-and-a-half year old said, "Look mom, dad has no hair" and, "Boy, thatís nice, he flushed the toilet." So she found it very humorous and it does spell out what had transpired during that period of time.
That said, letís deal with the issue we have before us, and that is the issue of the micromanaging of the department. I can assure the members opposite that I donít do that. I donít go there. There are directors reporting to a deputy minister who is capable of looking after those functions. The department provides the services that we are mandated to provide.
Yes, every now and then there are glitches. Yes, every now and then there are bulges in demands. Itís medical services, itís SA, and our government is committing to meeting the demands where the demands exist.
But on the other hand, we have facilities that were constructed, and yet the demand doesnít exist because of changes in the youth criminal justice system. We have a multi-million-dollar facility that has about 24 or 25 FTEs to look after the facility.
Thatís a big budget item, and there is one youth presently in secure custody in the Yukon ó one youth sentenced to secure custody. So this is in another area that we have to examine, as to whether, with the change in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, it is a good expenditure of the taxpayersí money to continue utilizing that facility in the manner that it is currently set up. Maybe thereís a way we could change its function to better serve Yukoners, to better meet the needs. Those are the areas we look at and examine, Mr. Chair. Yukon is not without problems, but what I hear coming from the member opposite Iím extremely uncomfortable with, Mr. Chair: the suggestion that I micromanage and move people around. We do not, as ministers, deal in that level of detail. That area is the purview of the Public Service Commission. I make that abundantly clear to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, every time the minister is guilty, he feels uncomfortable. He has expressed that over and over in this House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Orders 19(g), heís imputing unavowed motives to me ó the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Chair:There is no point of order here. Please continue, Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít think the minister should give away family secrets. Children say the darndest things. About what their dad is doing ó well, we donít need to talk about it on the floor of this Legislature.
All right, letís get back to business. The minister will not say what positions are being moved around in the department. So Iíd like to ask a question thatís a bit more focused. With respect to family and childrenís services, have people been moved around in that branch who, say, do not have a social work background, but are doing social work?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I could not tell the member opposite. I donít get involved at that level.
Mr. Fairclough: No concern from the member opposite? He must have information in front of him. How can the minister say that he cannot find the information? Itís not about managing. I want to know if people are there who have been moved around internally. Thatís a concern for the minister, and if it isnít, then the minister is not doing his job. Heís not giving direction down to the deputy minister and below.
So Iíd like to ask the question again: within family and childrenís services, are there people moved around, like the minister said, who are doing work that they are perhaps not qualified to do? Letís make it easier that way.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I hear the member asking me a question about is whether we have unqualified people within the department. The political arm of government does not hire and does not fire. Thatís the purview of the Public Service Commission. I do not micromanage the department.
The suggestions and allegations being made are completely out of order and completely unrelated to my role as a minister. This is a very, very disjointed approach that the member opposite is taking on this area, and Iíd encourage him to move on to another area where he might have a better understanding of the respective roles of the political arm of government and the Public Service Commission in government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, if the minister canít answer the questions, perhaps somebody else could take over that portfolio. The minister said that ó and it has been stated over and over in this House ó there is high stress and high burnout in family and childrenís services. Now, to take care of some of that workload, the ministerís solution was to move people around. The ministerís solution was to move people around ó bring people in from the communities and within family and childrenís services. Thatís the ministerís direction. Itís not about micromanaging. That was the ministerís direction. That was how he felt that there was a solution.
If the minister would like another one that he has done, just look at the ambulance attendants ó the burnout there, the fact that volunteers took a break. The ministerís solution was to bring in grader operators to drive ambulances. Thatís the ministerís solution.
I want to get to family and childrenís services here. The minister canít hide from this. We want to know. Are the people who have been moved around in that department ó it could be over-qualification. Letís say a social worker coming in from perhaps the communities, doing routine paperwork.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Whether someone is over-qualified, under-qualified, whether they are reassigned or associated with this area or that area ó that is not something that I get involved in as the minister. That is the area that the department administers and looks after. There is very much a disconnect between the political arm of government and the Public Service Commission. I would encourage the member opposite to respect that difference.
Itís a serious suggestion that there is political interference. That appears to be the allegation the member opposite is making. There has been no political interference, and the suggestion that there has been is totally unfounded and wouldnít occur.
That said, Mr. Chair, the other area Iím extremely uncomfortable with the memberís remarks is with respect to the burnout for the Teslin ambulance people. Iíd encourage the member opposite to read the correspondence from the supervisor in Teslin. There is no mention that theyíre taking a break because theyíre burned out. Go back and read the correspondence. Iíd encourage the member to be accurate when he reflects upon third party information. Can I encourage the member to at least be accurate when he reflects on third party information? Because the information heís putting forward and repeating and repeating and repeating constantly is inaccurate information, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thatís in the ministerís opinion. If you want to talk about inaccuracy, how many times do we have to ask the question, and finally sometimes it takes a month to ask a question over and over again in this House to finally get to the bottom of it. Itís because there are inaccurate answers from the ministers ó done on purpose, I believe.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Itís out of order to make a statement that ministers provided inaccurate information on purpose. Iíd ask the member to retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough:If that so pleases you, Iíll retract it.
The public knows and the minister knows, and he will be uncomfortable to answer that question, because he knows the unparliamentary word ó just fill in the blanks.
This is not about micromanaging or anything. The department has done this ó or has the department done this: have they moved people around within family and childrenís services to take the workload off those who have high caseloads and so on? Has that been done by the department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm the department has hired 10 more individuals. Thereís a constant recruiting process for social workers. There is a turnover, given the number of people within the department. With 800 people in the department, Mr. Chair, thereís going to be a turnover. Thatís a given.
Thereís a constant hiring and rehiring. As to the movement of people within the department, itís an area the department is completely at liberty to do. Thereís a collective bargaining agreement in place; thereís a classification system in place, thereís a whole series of checks and balances in place. These individuals are employees of the Public Service Commission. There is a disjoint between the political arm of government and the day-to-day operation of the department. I do not micromanage the department.
We as elected officials do not get into that detail. There may or there may not be what the member opposite is suggesting. Itís not an area that I deal with, nor should I, nor can I, for that matter. And to confirm the obvious, I will not get involved at that level of detail.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister already has gotten involved. Just take a look at the ambulance service and the volunteers there. The direction coming down from the minister was to use grader operators for drivers, and the highways crew found out about it through CBC radio, and that I find appalling. The minister didnít answer the question though. Take that aside. The department has moved people around, and he says thatís ongoing, so are there social workers who will be taken out of communities and brought into Whitehorse to reduce the workload of the social workers here? Are they brought in to do social work? Are they brought in to do routine paperwork?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím uncomfortable with what the member opposite is suggesting with respect to the ambulance situation in Teslin, and I asked my officials to tell me what transpired with respect to the Department of Highways. I was told that this arrangement was made at the deputy minister level, that we needed a backup plan in the event the ambulance was required in Teslin. I wasnít involved in that process. What we are speaking of is a group of volunteers. For the record, Mr. Chair, the volunteers deserve recognition and acknowledgement of the good work theyíre doing in the Yukon, and our government is committed to ensuring that they are appropriately recognized, that they are suitably trained, and that there is the appropriate coveralls and exterior clothing made available for them, as well as reliable equipment.
Weíve been through the budget in that area and the member knows full well that you canít run to the corner automobile dealership and buy an ambulance and have it here in 30 days or 60 days. These are specifically specíd pieces of equipment and their delivery time is quite extensive.
On the issue of moving people around in the department, if it occurs, that would be a department initiative and obviously the member must know someone in rural Yukon who is a social worker and is providing him with this amount of detail because this is not known to myself and I am certainly not involved in the movement of the people around.
But our government is committed to meeting the needs where the needs exist. Weíre demonstrating that and, if the member is uncomfortable with us meeting the expectations of the majority of Yukoners, save and except those in the opposition ranks and some of their immediate colleagues, so be it. We will still endeavour to meet their expectations but we will do so in a consistent, fair and reasonable manner.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister was so uncomfortable he didnít answer the question. Should I ask the question again? Are social workers and social services workers brought into town to take off the workload of social workers? Are they doing social work or are they doing routine paperwork?
We ask questions in Committee of the Whole to get some answers. We canít get the answers in Question Period. Thatís why an official is brought in. The information is provided to the minister.
So itís a simple question and surely the minister could answer that one.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít know if a social worker is doing paperwork, meeting with clients, travelling to meet with clients. All I know is that there is a job description for that social worker and that is controlled by the Public Service Commission. There was a need expressed by the department for more social workers. Those positions were funded by the political arm. The department, through the Public Service Commission, has hired more social workers, more family support workers, and I would go on the basis that they are conducting themselves in the manner that has been described that they conduct themselves now.
From there, I donít know where I can go. I do not micromanage the department. I canít tell you if a social worker is currently filing a form, answering the telephone, filling out another form or in a client interview. Those are part of the job. I would go on the basis that these people are hired through a process that identifies them with the appropriate skills that are necessary to perform the job as defined in the job description that is established by the Public Service Commission, which does the classification.
Now, I am not stepping into that arena with the member opposite because the next thing I will see is that I am lambasted by the official opposition for delving into the day-to-day operations. I do not do that. There is a distinct disjoint between the political arm of government and the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I can tell the minister is still uncomfortable because he didnít answer the question, and Iím going to encourage the minister to speak with an official ó it would take 30 seconds to talk with the official that he has here in the House so we can get an answer. This is about social workers and social service workers ó two different things. The member knows itís two different things, two different categories here.
So are they brought into town from other communities, outside of Whitehorse, to do social work or routine paperwork? Are they brought into town to ó letís go one step back. Are they brought into town here to take the workload off the social workers here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, once again for the member opposite, I do not micromanage the department. I couldnít tell the member opposite at any given time what the social workers are doing. All I know is that they have a job description, theyíre classified, theyíre employed by the Public Service Commission.
My role as an elected official is to fund the position, set the legislation in place, set the programs in place, and ensure that the regulations are in place. From there, the department has the lead role in the day-to-day conduct of business. That is the way government operates. Once more for the member opposite ó as a minister, none of the ministers on this side of the House micromanage their department. It might have been that case with the member opposite when he was in government; I do not know. Maybe he constantly crossed the lines in his government, between micromanaging and doing whatever he did. Darned if I know sometimes, but I donít think we need to go there.
This debate is on the supplementary. The supplementary deals with the additional money that our government, through the good auspices of the Premier of the Yukon and his colleagues, the Premier of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, managed to convince the federal government we needed ó more base funding.
They came up with an arrangement that resulted in $20 million flowing to the Yukon over three years of additional funding. Now, that is $6.666 million this year. Iíve spelled out where this money is earmarked for. Some of it goes to volume and price increases. They are some of the main drivers. The drug formulary is another big driver and the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Weíve identified where we are putting more money into family and childrenís services. We have identified a lot of the other initiatives that our government has put money into, and we are moving forward as a government.
Now, the member opposite might be trying to make hay about specific areas, because to ask me to look at micromanaging the department ó itís not an area where I am going, nor will I go.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I donít think the minister knows the meaning of micromanaging if he canít answer the question. I am sure that if the Premier were here, he would fire him on the spot. But, since the Premier is not here ó sorry, I am not saying in the House, right ó the minister has a leeway, I suppose.
Letís ask a simple question, then: how many FTEs are there in family and childrenís services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In family and childrenís services there are a number of divisions. Does the member opposite want the total overall or does he want a breakdown by the various areas?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Total? Because it gets into the justice ó it gets into a whole series of areas.
Just one moment and I will see what we can come up with.
Subject to confirmation, itís approximately 79 FTEs.
Mr. Fairclough: I thought I was going to get the standard answer, that the minister doesnít micromanage the department. In fact, what he did do was talk with his official, just like Iíve been asking him to do, and he found a number. I would like to ask the question, even backing up a little further. There is a social worker, or social service worker, whoís coming in from the community of Carmacks into Whitehorse here to take the workload off the social workers. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If that is occurring, itís an arrangement that is made internally in the department. You know, itís not an area I get involved in. The deployment of staff is something the department looks after and we meet the needs where the needs exist. Thatís what our government is all about and thatís what weíre doing.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister knows he can answer the question. Weíve heard debates in this House from the minister opposite when he was on this side of the House about how many bolts there are in a grader blade, and it went into quite the detail. It was okay for the member opposite, when he was in opposition, to ask those questions, but now some very good questions are being asked of the minister and he canít answer them.
Iím talking about the community that Iím from, the community of Carmacks and, during one of the busiest times of the year, there is a social worker who is being pulled out. That is my concern. And if itís not a concern to the minister, it should be.
This is not the only community. Can the minister tell us: what other communities are social workers being pulled out of to alleviate the workload of social workers here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department moves staff around to meet the demand where the demand exists. Itís a function of an effective, efficient management. I have a book on management somewhere in my library. I will probably send it over to the member opposite. Itís a course I took a long, long time ago and it might give him a better understanding of the respective roles and responsibilities.
Mr. Fairclough: I can see how he took the advice of that book when it comes to paying bills and managing money of his own, Mr. Chair. I think he should give it to the rest of his caucus members to read first ó first read it and then pass it on.
Is this not important? If we canít ask the questions of the minister here, with an official in the House, then how are we supposed to get an answer? Write to the department? Well, the department is here sitting with the minister. Why canít that be a yes or no? Why is the minister locked up on this? What is there to hide? Itís a simple question. I am not even going into any details at all on it. Itís not about management; itís about numbers and what is going on in the department. Itís our right as the official opposition and opposition to ask those questions.
By having social workers leave the community ó does the minister feel that the needs of the communities are taken care of by having one less social worker?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department is here in the Legislature with me. I do not see 800-odd individuals up in the visitor gallery. Thatís a given. The issue as to whether there is a social worker being tasked a little differently than how that individual was previously tasked ó that determination is made by the department. It might be that this individual is extremely capable and her skills can be utilized in a different way. I donít know. I donít know the details, nor am I prepared to get into the details of this undertaking.
The department moves in a manner it deems most appropriate. It is guided by the requirements to meet the terms and conditions of the Public Service Commission. There is a bargaining unit in place. Obviously, the department is not doing anything inappropriately or the member would probably be encouraging this individual, who he has now identified and is receiving information from about what is transpiring in the social services area in his community of Carmacks. You know, thatís the way things unfold sometimes. But if something was being done incorrectly, Iím sure the appropriate grievances would be filed, perhaps. But, again, that is out of my purview, and that is an area that is overseen by the department. These individuals are employed by the Public Service Commission.
They have a job description, they have a classification, and the department does its best to meet the demands where the demands exist. Thatís what our government is all about, and perhaps the department has identified this individual from Carmacks whom the Member for Mayo-Tatchun knows quite well as a very capable individual, and that personís skills are being utilized in a like manner, in a different location. The reasons and the justification for it I donít know ó I donít know. All I know is that the department goes the extra mile to meet the demands where the demands exist. Thatís what good government is all about.
Mr. Fairclough: The public is demanding that the two ministers with outstanding loans pay them back, and it hasnít happened. And the same ministers are in government. I asked a simple question of the member opposite. I asked what other communities. Carcross is another one, and I didnít get any information off of the member about Carmacks. There are several people who are working at those offices. Carcross is another community that has a person coming in to Whitehorse. How many other communities are there? That information, certainly, the minister is able to give, Iím sure.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, let me help the member opposite out with respect to the communities in and around the Yukon. In the southeast, thereís Watson Lake. Then as you come up the Alaska Highway, thereís Teslin, Whitehorse, Carcross, Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Beaver Creek, Carmacks, Faro, Ross River, Pelly, Mayo, Dawson and, of course, Old Crow.
There are some smaller centres in between. Thatís the way it is all around the Yukon. Those are the Yukon communities. I would have thought and been of the understanding that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun would have understood what the Yukon communities are. If the member wishes, I can supply to him outlining where these various centres are.
Mr. Fairclough: Send it over, if it gives the member some pleasure to do that. The minister still didnít answer the question. Thatís pretty bad. Itís a bad record that the member opposite has. I suppose weíre going to have to write a letter to the department ó go the long route ó because the minister refuses to do his job. Iím sure the backbenchers there are just ready to take over because of this incompetent minister.
Chair:To call a member incompetent is insulting and Iíd ask all members to treat each other in this Assembly with respect.
Mr. Fairclough: The term has been used in the House in the past, many times. Iím just using a term that has been used, and if it hurts the members opposite, then Iím sorry.
Since the minister will not answer questions in that field, family and childrenís services ó he refuses to answer questions in Question Period in that regard, and Iím sure that there are some people wondering and shaking their heads about why this minister could not answer the simplest questions.
Iíd like to ask another question in regard to wilderness treatment centres. Why isnít the minister supporting treatment centres that have been run by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is a totally incorrect statement.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what he is doing, and what his department is doing to support treatment centres run by First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department is providing staffing and individuals to put on the various programs at a lot of the First Nation camps, and I am given to understand that the process is working very well in a lot of areas of the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister says that they are doing very well. Can the minister tell us which of these facilities are presently being used by government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: At this time of the year, in the winter, none of them, Mr. Chair. That has been the way that it has been traditionally. They are used in the summertime and the summertime alone.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís totally incorrect and the minister knows that. Tatlmain Lake, for example ó it is used more in the wintertime than it is in the summertime. Somehow the minister is getting his wires crossed.
So again I would like to ask the minister this: if not in the wintertime, how many of these First Nation-run facilities is the government using in the summertime?
Chair:Order please. The member just made a statement that the minister was incorrect and he knows it, which would imply that he knowingly put forward a falsehood, which is in contravention of our Standing Orders. I would ask the member to, again, withdraw such a statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough:Well, Mr. Chair, I will withdraw that, if it pleases you as a Chair. I know that, being part of government, it must hurt everybody on that side of the House to hear statements like that.
Chair: The debate can continue.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked the minister if he can tell us what treatment centres run by First Nations are used by government, be it summer or winter. How many times do I have to ask the question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The government does not run them; we support them.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít the question. Pay attention, Mr. Minister. How many of these treatment centres that are run by First Nations does government use?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The First Nations run the facilities. The government supports the facilities.
Mr. Fairclough: Are any of the facilities used by government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím advised that the government supported programs this last summer at Tatlmain Lake and Ethel Lake ó a large program with KDFN, with the Kluane First Nation and with Champagne-Aishihik. But the program at Champagne-Aishihik wasnít out at Aishihik Lake. It was an in-town program that was supported by the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us whether or not any of these organizations ó the First Nations that are running these facilities ó have come forward and asked for additional help to ensure that the programs are up and running properly, like they have been in the past?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Where the member is headed, Mr. Chair, is that the Selkirk First Nation had a large grant from the federal aboriginal healing, and there was a request for us to take up and provide the additional funding to augment and to add to it. We have funded facilitators and trainers at Tatlmain Lake, but this arrangement that the Selkirk First Nation came to with the federal government ó weíre not involved in that equation, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: And the rest have not come forward to the government for additional funding; is that what Iím getting out of the minister? Does the minister not agree that facilities like these ó they were up and running and actually had people going through them on a regular basis, rather than sending them down south ó would save government money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we did not send anyone Outside recently that Iím aware of.
As to the requests from the First Nations, weíre working with those First Nations that have self-government agreements on a government-to-government basis, and weíre providing trainers and facilitators for their programs, subject to availability and how the programs fit together, and weíre moving forward.
As to whether there have been other requests to the government for funding, the funding source for these programs is, by and large, the federal government, Indian Affairs, and some of the other programs they have in place, and we as a department assist where we can and when weíre asked to assist. But these programs by and large are operated by the First Nations, and if weíre asked to assist and asked to help out and we can, we do so.
Ms. Duncan: Itís a pleasure to enter into the debate this afternoon. I have a few focused questions Iíd like to ask the minister.
This spring, when we talked about the additional ó and the minister spoke about the additional funding coming forward as it is done in the supplementary. $6.66 million was the Northern Health Accord money; $1 million was CHST. There was a question as to how much the surplus would be ó the primary health care transition fund. And $4 million was supposed to be health care reform and equipment. That added up to $11.7 million. Thatís a review of the debate this spring.
Now we have the supplementary before us. The CHST, Canada health and social transfer, which was thought to be $1 million, has actually turned out to be $2.4 million. Iím wondering what the difference is. Where did it come from? The health reform, $979,000 ó what was that based on? Itís in the income, in the transfers page. So health care reform ó my question is: what is that based on? Is the minister planning to do some kind of report? He spoke about it in the spring. My figures at a quick add show that itís about $1.7 million less than what we thought. Perhaps thereís an explanation for that as well.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The $2.4 million is mute. That hasnít been received by the Yukon from the federal government. The $900,000 is set in trust and it is subject to an agreement being reached between Canada and Yukon. Itís for primary health care, home care and catastrophic drugs. Until some guidelines are established for these initiatives, that money just remains there. Itís an initiative that the federal government has to agree to and there has to be a national agreement in place before these monies can be expended.
Ms. Duncan: The minister ó letís talk about the Canada health and social transfer. He said the money hasnít been received but it has been booked. He anticipated receiving this spring $1 million, but weíve now booked $2.4 million. Thatís a good thing; Iím not arguing that, but it has been booked so therefore weíre voting on it; we have reasonable expectations that weíre going to receive it. Why is the amount different to start with? Presumably if itís booked and voted on, heís planning to spend it. Weíll get into that in a later debate.
Iím looking on page S-2: financial summary.
In the income, it says Canada health and social transfer, $2.4 million. This is the increase in Supplementary No. 1. Earlier, in the spring debate, I reviewed the notes this afternoon, and we were only expecting $1 million. Thatís what Iím questioning: why the different amount?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Not every dollar that comes through the CHST is for health. Itís a basket of services.
Ms. Duncan: Iím aware of the Canada health and social transfer, but in the spring, the minister said we were expecting $1 million and it came in much higher ó $2.4 million. Did the federal government bury some of the Health Care Accord money in it? I donít think so, because the amount is what the minister expected it to be. Is there extra program money in that figure? Why is it different? Iím just asking the minister why itís different from what they anticipated.
He can get back to me in a legislative return if he wishes, and I can go on to another question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As to the revenue stream, weíll provide the member with a written response as to how it developed, but it was Finance that made the determination as to how to book it. It wasnít Health and Social Services.
Ms. Duncan: Fair enough. Just for the record then, between the Finance and Health officials who are going to answer, what Iím asking is: the minister had anticipated a $1-million increase, and it was higher, so Iím just looking for an explanation of the difference, thatís all, and a legislative return is fine.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I think weíll still be in general debate on this area next week, Mr. Chair, and Iíll provide the information to the member on the floor.
Ms. Duncan: The out-of-territory costs. In his opening remarks, the minister ó and I was trying to note everything down ó noted that air travel, or out-of-territory costs, had increased by $400,000, and that money is contained in the supplementary. Is that only air travel, or is there a significant increase in our costs from B.C. and Alberta for medical services as well? Is it both?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: Could I have a close-to-exact breakdown? We had anticipated, with the additional air services, that there would perhaps be a decrease in our travel costs. Iím wondering if that has actually been realized and if, in fact, the air travel is being evenly divided between the two airlines serving the territory.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What weíre expecting is for the medical travel expenses to be $389,000 overbudget this year. The volume increase is $189,000, and the increase in medical travel costs for non-Yukon residents is up, and that $200,000 is hopefully fully recoverable ó thatís the medevacs ó when individuals from other jurisdictions are involved. We do bill them, and most of the time itís recoverable. There are occasions when there are some write-offs. So thatís the biggest driver.
There are additional costs being incurred, both price and volume increases in both Alberta ó Edmonton and Calgary ó as well as in Vancouver. B.C. costs are up significantly more for the same services than are Albertaís. But there is quite an increase in service costs for medical practices and services that are provided to Yukoners in those areas.
Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of areas that I would like to follow up on with the minister in that respect.
The $200,000 costs ó those are, we hope, recoverable. My understanding is, actually, that there is a fair amount that seems to have been written off over the years on that particular one as well. Itís not the best receivable on the books, in terms of collection.
Of the $200,000 ó naturally, we hope to collect it all, but we are making best efforts. Thatís what I was interested in.
The additional price and volume from B.C. and Alberta ó are our patients generally going 50:50 or are we making more use of B.C.?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is still mostly into B.C. and it depends on the relationship with the doctors here, where they have that relationship, as to where to patients are transferred. There is also the issue of where a bed may be available. So, there are a lot of conditions. There are a lot of pressures on the systems in Alberta and in B.C. and itís sometimes very difficult to get a bed when itís required.
So, the department does everything they can but it depends largely on the relationship that the Yukon physician has with the respective area, and that relationship is more with British Columbia than with Alberta.
Ms. Duncan: I would also like to put on the record that itís my understanding that the patient can also have some input into that with their doctor, in terms of if they have family in Alberta ó given our enhanced air link with Alberta, it makes sense. So I think the patient also has a role to play and has input on that.
I have raised ó and previous Health ministers had noted to the B.C. and Alberta Health ministers that the Yukon government has a very good working relationship with both those provinces in terms of us paying our bills and our patients receive excellent care. Is that relationship continuing and are we also on alert, if you will, with the situation with nurses in Alberta?
I understand that theyíre in fairly difficult negotiations right now, so is B.C. prepared to take any patients going to Alberta, and are we continuing our good relationship with the other two provinces ó just briefly?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Chair: Order please. The Chair would like to take a moment to welcome a visitor to our gallery. We have in attendance Sandra Gabb, who is a resident of the beautiful Southern Lakes riding, and Iíd like to ask all members here to welcome her.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the relationship that has been established with British Columbia and with Alberta is continuing. It has been long-standing. There has been a lot of work done as of late with the health authorities in the respective jurisdictions. The situation in Alberta is unfortunate but, when the doctors look it over, they go where they can get beds. As I indicated earlier to the member, most of the Yukon physicians have an association with British Columbia, but thatís not to preclude them, when thereís a need, to go into Calgary or into Edmonton and to those medical centres in those respective areas.
There has been an improvement in transportation, which has lowered the overall cost per patient travelling and lowered it overall considerably. Itís the wonder of competition, Mr. Chair, that has done that for Yukon.
But then the number of people weíre sending out is increasing all the time. So we see some savings, but overall weíre seeing an increase, and theyíre volume- and price-driven. The services are up considerably.
I did have the percentage increases in British Columbia, and I believe they were about a 20-something percent increase in the cost of services that were performed in B.C. They were up, and Alberta wasnít up to that same level, but it was also up. So you know those are the drivers, and what we pay for the services that are provided to Yukon residents when they are sent out for medical attention to these respective areas.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to ask the minister about the cost of drugs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Medical drugs ó sorry, Mr. Chair.
The national Health ministers were working toward a common drug formulary. There was some work done. We follow Saskatchewan now. There has been some work done on that. I wonder what progress there is and what has happened since.
The issue is a significant one because the cost of medical drugs has increased significantly, as the minister has noted. What progress have we made on the common drug formulary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Given the long-standing relationship that the member opposite has with the soon-to-expire Prime Minister of Canada ó you know, heís going to go and heís going to try the stuff there pretty quick because itís going to be decriminalized, I understand, and heís going to have the $250 for the fine, too.
Maybe thatís the approach the member opposite should take ó find out from the soon-to-leave Prime Minister of Canada as to what the price of the product is.
As to what weíre spending here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, the drug cost constitutes 77 percent of the chronic disease expenditure and 100 percent of the pharmacare expenditures. From April 1, 2003 to August 31, 2002, the number of pharmacare clients has increased 3.4 percent, which compounds the increase in this program. A portion of the Northern Health Accord supplement will be used to offset these costs.
What we are seeing is the largest increase in specific areas, and thatís in the drugs and the drug formulary. Thatís pretty well the situation right across Canada. Itís the fastest increasing cost area ó the drug formulary.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that and that is why Iím asking the question, because this has been at Health ministers and premiers conferences for several terms of several different governments. The question Iím asking is ó for example, in New Brunswick, far fewer drugs are approved under different programs then they are in the Yukon. We follow Saskatchewanís formulary. But the ministers and premiers were talking about working toward a national plan to say these drugs are going to be approved and the rest, you know, youíre on your own, because of the cost, and also because there tends to be quite a sales pitch from the drug companies, to put it mildly. It puts the patient and the health care providers in a very awkward position.
My specific question is: what progress are we making nationally on this and a common drug formulary, or what progress are we making even with Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta in reducing the number of drugs or coming to a common drug formulary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The whole formulary issue is that itís in place. Yukon is a part of it. We are into buying groups. Itís allowing us to hold the cost in a number of areas but itís still escalating and I agree with the member opposite: some of the best marketers are the drug companies currently. In fact, there was a recent article in the National Post and the Globe and Mail about the most widely recognized brand names internationally, and the most widely-recognized brand name internationally is Coca Cola, or Coke. The second most widely-recognized brand name internationally is Viagra. That, Mr. Chair, is marketing.
That is darn good marketing on the part of the drug company.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís way more information than I needed, and it didnít answer the question, with all due respect to the minister.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: It was an answer, thatís true. But it didnít answer the question.
Some of the questions surrounding this issue are things like chronic disease ó whatís currently listed, what isnít, what do people want listed. Itís an issue that comes up before the minister and the Health department all the time. I know we follow Saskatchewan. There was also talk of taking some drugs off the list. The list seems to grow; it never seems to shrink.
Again, is there any progress in reducing the list? The eastern provinces approve way fewer drugs than the western provinces.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The drug formulary arrangement weíre into is too new for them to start de-listing drugs, but there is always a pressure on the system to list new drugs. One only has to associate oneself with the marketing initiatives that one sees on television on a continuing basis. An individual will go to their physician and say, "Hey, what about this new drug or that new drug?" Then there is a demand on the system to incorporate it into the programs.
The savings that government is currently realizing come about as being in a buying group and large purchases of quantities over a long period of time and committing to that type of purchase ó recognizing the needs. Thatís where the savings are being realized ó in a buying power group. Upward pressure is continuing. There are always demands to expand the list of drugs included in the formulary. That is ongoing. There has been no change there.
Ms. Duncan: Has there been any change in the financing or a look at the pharmacare program ó an examination by Cabinet? Should we continue to provide all our seniors with free drugs, as we do now? Thatís the pharmacare program but, also, what about other issues around the provision of drugs to Yukoners? Have there been any changes or any examinations of these programs by Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I advise that there have been no changes to the existing formulary and existing arrangements for drug programs. What I have tasked the Health and Social Services Council with is to conduct a review of this area and to report back. Itís work in progress, but that is as far as we have gone to examine this area ó but currently there is no change.
Ms. Duncan: Have we seen a reduction in the price we are charged by pharmacies? We seem to see a reduction in other areas when competition arrives. Has there been a reduction in the price the Government of Yukon is charged with more businesses in this area of providing drugs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, like the airline business, competition is on the scene and there are more dispensaries and pharmacies here in Whitehorse. Itís competitive, yes, and there has been a net saving to the government for prescription drugs as a consequence.
But you can identify with the existing pharmacies that are currently in place. It has resulted in lower costs.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd just like to delve for a moment into the area of vaccinations, related to drugs. The cost of the flu vaccine saw a terrific increase a few years ago. So Iím wondering ó and weíve had a new vaccine this year. Was it also increased? Was there a major increase in the cost of that vaccine to the government? The other ó just in vaccinations generally, there has been quite a move to vaccinate university students against meningitis outside of the territory, and students were charged by some provinces for some of these vaccinations. We have quite a student population at Yukon College. Are we looking at charging for vaccinations, and have their costs significantly increased over the last year or so?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There have been increases in costs, Mr. Chair, and currently there is the A/Fujian flu, and the cost of that is between $140 and $180 ó if you pay for it ó per inoculation. You know, weíre talking big dollars. A/Fujian ó this is the latest one thatís supposed to be out on the market ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít know about that, but if you were to go and buy this off the shelf, thatís its retail cost. But the straight vaccination thatís available this year is purchased in bulk. It has a limited shelf life. Itís only good for this flu season. It is developed and predicated on what types of flu were around last year. Itís constantly evolving, and weíre having more and more come and request vaccinations now. So thereís a volume as well as a price driver on these flu shots.
Ms. Duncan: For the record, what I was asking the minister off-microphone was if the $180 was what provinces were charging. As I mentioned in my preamble, some provinces have undertaken a strong campaign, for example, to vaccinate university students against meningitis and then charge them for it. So my question was: are we going to undertake a similar campaign with our Yukon College population and are we going to continue to provide vaccinations, including expensive flu vaccinations? Are we going to continue to provide those for free to Yukoners?
And perhaps when heís on his feet the minister could also just address for me ó he mentioned earlier a young child ó the chicken pox vaccine has been much discussed in the United States. Are we looking at that for our Yukon children? They undergo quite a series. Whatís the current thinking on that vaccination? He can just provide me with the information either right now or on Monday, if he wishes.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Where weíre seeing the meningitis vaccine used is primarily for university students. They go off to university, and theyíre inoculated at no charge. With respect to the chicken pox vaccine here in the Yukon, I will have the information for the member opposite next time we are in general debate on this, as well as some other costs surrounding some of the other vaccines. But we are in a buyer group and it is bringing down the costs. But more and more people are requesting flu shots and vaccinations, so our overall cost is going up on a regular basis.
That said, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we report progress on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
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 Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 4, 2003:
Health Care Insurance Programs, Heath Services Branch: Statement of Revenue and Expenditures for the fiscal years 1997-98 to 2002-03 (Jenkins)
Yukon Child Care Board 2002-03 Annual Report (Jenkins)
Yukon Health and Social Services Council 2001-02 Annual Report (Jenkins)
Yukon Hospital Corporation Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2003 (Jenkins)
Government Contracting Summary Report by Department (April 1, 2003 Ė September 31, 2003) (Hart)