Monday, November 29, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Mr. Hardy: I have for tabling 89 letters from residents of Dawson City outlining their concerns and opposition in regard to the bridge being proposed by the Yukon Party government.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to begin working immediately on the development of a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that is capable of meeting the goal of eliminating child poverty in the Yukon within the next five years at the latest.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to order an investigation, pursuant to section 115 of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Act, to determine if the Yukon Hospital Corporation is withholding benefits rightly due workers.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to grant the families that are currently living in the Yukon while they seek landed immigrant status in this country adequate time and access to the resources they need to pursue their refugee claims to the fullest extent available to them under the law.
Mr. Speaker, I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to end its practice of showing intolerance and disrespect to individuals, families and groups that come to the Yukon from other parts of Canada or from other countries and may find themselves temporarily in need of government assistance to live here in safety and security.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †Child poverty
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last week the minister gave us some fascinating figures on the level of Tylenol 3 and Ativan use in the territory. He conveniently ignored figures from Health Canada showing that the situation may be far worse than the minister is actually letting on.
We also heard the minister pay tribute to the Campaign 2000 fight against child poverty in Canada, so Iíd like to ask him a question about that subject.
How many children in the Yukon are living in poverty, including First Nation children? In other words, how far is the Yukon short of the goal of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The statistics kept on the Yukon do not identify this area. The federal statistics exclude northern Canada, so to say there are children living below the poverty line ó we all identify and know there are children in those situations here in the Yukon, but their numbers have not been identified by the statistical database provided by Canada.
Mr. Hardy: As the minister heard last week, more than one Canadian in every four has to resort to using food banks at one time or another; 40 percent of them are children. If those same figures apply here, at least 3,000 Yukon children would be using food banks if their communities had them. But as he just said, the national statistics donít even include First Nation children or children in the three northern territories. For all we know, the incidence of Yukon children living in poverty may be much worse than the national figures show. What is this minister doing to get an accurate picture of how many children in the territory, including First Nation children, are living in poverty?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is not just jumping to conclusions, heís leaping to conclusions. The whole issue of child poverty is one that we can identify with in the Yukon, but to apply national statistics here in the Yukon is very inappropriate. The Yukon has one of the best social safety nets of any place in Canada, and our government has taken it upon itself to enhance and further develop that social safety net and its related programs. It is one of the best in Canada and it will maintain its position as one of the best in Canada under the watch of this government.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, under the watch of this government, there are children going hungry. There are food banks that have been extended, and they are running out as well. The minister is fond of saying how much this government is doing to address poverty, but the reality is there is no reason why any Yukon child should ever go to bed hungry or be forced to live in substandard housing, and that is a fact of today in this territory if that minister would look around, if he would open his eyes. This government brags about having the largest ever Yukon budget. Thereís a huge surplus in dollars, but a deficit of vision and a deficit of political will. Thereís plenty of cash for the Premier and his ministers to fly around the world, rubbing shoulders with resource developers and foreign investors; yet when it comes to breaking the cycle of poverty, weíre stuck with the status quo right here.
Will the minister make a commitment right now to develop an aggressive anti-poverty strategy that will eliminate child poverty in the Yukon within the next five years?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre endeavouring to turn the economy around here in the Yukon in four years. In our next mandate, it might very well happen that we will eliminate poverty to the best it can be eliminated. There will always be people who fall through the social safety net. Here in the Yukon the social safety net is one of the best in Canada.
That said, our government is taking it upon itself to enhance that social safety net and to develop it in any of the areas we can, subject to the transfer of funds from the federal government and subject to the revitalization of our economy and money flowing from our own sources. We have to have an economy to move forward in some of these areas, and we have probably done more in this area under our watch than the previous two administrations did under their watches.
Question re: FASD, government initiatives
†Mr. McRobb: A former Speaker of this House said this morning that itís time to stop the bickering about the effect of alcohol and drug abuse and itís time to find effective solutions. We intend to do just that. Effective solutions could be available if this government had the political will to implement them.
This Yukon Party government promised to focus resources on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as a matter of top priority. Will the minister tell us where resources have been focused to make FASD a matter of top priority in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We are very proud of the initiatives that have begun under our watch with respect to FASD, Mr. Speaker. Let me share with this House and the members opposite two of the initiatives that are currently underway and working: meconium testing of newborns done at the Whitehorse General Hospital ó that is one of the commitments. The second commitment is with the Child Development Centre. It is a diagnostic team that has been put in place. That diagnostic team has identified and done the appropriate procedures to outline individuals with FASD in their care.
Our governmentís resourcing of these two initiatives has been very, very positive, well-received, and it stands on our record of identifying with the issue of FASD and addressing it through a five-step action plan.
Mr. McRobb: With the largest ever budget in Yukon history, this government has plenty of money to respond effectively to meet the needs of people with FASD, but it hasnít responded.
There is no vision, no plan. There are many problems to face with FASD. Youth and adults with FASD have been left out in the cold. Fifty percent of criminal court offences are adults with FASD. Jail doesnít work for them; it makes them worse. The Yukon Party promised to enhance supported living arrangements for adults with FASD. The government side even voted to amend one of its own motions so diagnosis of FASD would be available to consenting adults.
When can adults with FASD expect this minister to live up to those promises?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have started with newborns. We have moved into the children, and the next step is young adults and adults. It is work in progress, but weíre very pleased with the results our government has achieved today working with the Yukon Medical Association and with the Child Development Centre in this area of diagnosis of FASD.
Mr. McRobb: Well, not too many others out there are very satisfied. One of the items in the Yukon Partyís five-step FASD action plan is to promote prevention programs and to eliminate alcohol consumption by high-risk parents. Prevention is done through training, education, counselling and advertising. Researching the numbers of FASD births will start in January. Results wonít be available until 2006. We know thereís a problem now. We need action now, not in 2006. With all the money this government has at its disposal, whatís being done right now to prevent more babies being born with FASD?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Canada Western FASD Partnership is identified with these initiatives in these areas, and our government is proud to be a part of that group. The areas that Iíve identified for the members opposite in this House are starting with newborns and meconium testing. The second stage is in conjunction with the Child Development Centre, and thatís the resourcing of individuals for the diagnosis of FASD in the people who come into their care. So we are moving forward, and the next step under our watch is adults and junior adults.
These are very positive initiatives. We have accomplished more under our watch in the first two years than the previous two administrations did. That said, look at some of the previous administrations, what they wanted to do. They wanted to amend the Liquor Act, make liquor more available and build a new jail.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline
†Ms. Duncan: For the past two years this government has had little to say about the Alaska Highway pipeline project. It has simply said that the market should decide whether the project goes ahead or not.
My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Is that still the position of the government, that the Government of Yukon should take a hands-off approach and the market should decide what happens?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That certainly isnít our attitude on this side of the House. This government has been working with industry and also with the federal government and moving forward with plans for the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Ms. Duncan: At an energy conference in Calgary two weeks ago, there was a disagreement between oil companies that are involved in this project. TransCanada PipeLines of Calgary has permits that ensure the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway. Another company, BP, says they want the market to decide the route of the pipeline. I quote from Ken MacDonald, BP Canadaís vice-president, ďBP is seeking a commitment from the Canadian government to allow the markets to determine the best manner for delivering Alaska gas to North American consumers.Ē
While the government sits on their hands, the market might not decide to go through the Yukon at all. Why is the Yukon government and the Yukon Party sitting back and letting this happen?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the information of the member opposite, we certainly arenít sitting back. Weíre getting our house in order; weíre getting the Yukon ready for a pipeline. Weíre going to let the producers have ó their dealings on the pipeline are between the corporations. We are committed to have the Yukon ready for a pipeline if and when it comes through our territory.
Ms. Duncan: From day one, the Yukon Party government has been a bystander in the pipeline debate. That hands-off approach is hurting our chances of getting the best deal we can. The project is moving into a critical phase and nobody ó not on that side of the House ó is standing up for the Yukon. TransCanada PipeLines has permits that were granted many years ago under the Northern Pipeline Act. Their permits guarantee that the pipeline follows the Alaska Highway.
Recently another company involved in the project, BP, said they have significant concerns about the Northern Pipeline Act. This corporate tug-of-war could have very serious negative impacts on the Yukon. Why is the minister not standing up to support TransCanada in this debate?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The reason that this government is working the way that this government is proceeding with the pipeline, if and when it comes through the Yukon, is certainly a positive move for Yukoners. Why would any government in the Yukon get involved in an issue that we couldnít have input into or solve? The problem that we had in the last government was they spent all their time on issues that they couldnít solve. We are doing what we can in our jurisdiction to get pipeline ready. That means that we have to work with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. We have to get all Yukoners ready for this. Certainly, at the end of the day, the producers are going to decide where this pipeline is going to go, but I assure the House that if and when the pipeline comes down the Alaska Highway, it will come through the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre programs
†Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the end of the day is coming quickly for this government. I have a question for the Minister of Justice. One of the first things this government did was to cancel work of two previous governments to replace the outdated and unsafe Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Instead of acting, this government chose to study things to death. This government has plenty of money but no vision. There wonít be any decisions on a new jail for at least another 16 months. The Premier says they donít want to warehouse people, they want to provide programs. But programs are needed now, not at some obscure future date.
Can the minister give us any idea what effect any programs currently available to inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are having on inmates with alcohol or drug problems?
†Speaker: †Before the minister answers, I would just like to remind the Member for Kluane that it is out of order to make comments about previous questions. I would ask the member not to do that, please.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to remind the member opposite that the questions he asks are nothing new in this territory. These issues have been here for many, many years.
Mr. Speaker, anyone can provide programs, and a great number of programs, for anyone who has addictions to alcohol or drugs. But no one can ever force anyone to participate.
Mr. Speaker, this government is providing the programming necessary through different avenues in Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and one example is through regular AA meetings and also counselling and addictions.
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about programming and Whitehorse Correctional Centre, this government this year is introducing seven new programs to help the inmates deal with issues.
Introduction to log building, for example, is a very healthy initiative for people who go into WCC. Initial attack for fire suppression training, introduction to small engine repairs, introduction to welding, occupational first aid level III, PITS training ó petroleum industry training services ó and an introduction to wrangling and packing ó these are initiatives that will help the inmates.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to answer the question which was what effect are the programs having on the inmates? Now he will have to answer another question.
The minister should do some homework so his answers have some substance. Itís a serious concern that inmates in the jail may in fact be learning to become drug-dependent. They are given prescription drugs as part of their treatment program. Itís no secret that prescription drugs are being sold illegally on Yukon streets. Prescription drugs are also bought and sold inside the jail.
What is the minister doing to ensure that inmates who are already addicted wonít face increased dependency problems at WCC?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This minister knows what issues the member opposite is talking about. I donít believe Iíve ever known an inmate yet to go to WCC to try to break their habits. I donít know of that.
This government does provide and will have to continue to provide necessary medications to inmates who go into WCC. I believe that the member opposite may be suggesting that no medicine be supplied to anyone who goes into Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. McRobb: I canít believe my ears, Mr. Speaker. Thatís a rather dark view that this minister holds. Where is the hope for reform among inmates? I believe itís there regardless of what this minister believes.
The Yukon Party promised to refocus their priorities to deal with the Yukonís serious alcohol and drug problems. Locking someone up in an outdated, unsafe and seriously depressing facility is certainly no way to address alcohol and drug problems. Routinely sedating people to make them easier to control is also no way to address substance abuse problems.
So far weíve heard absolutely nothing from this minister or his predecessor about substance abuse issues at the centre being part of the so-called correctional reform consultations. If the minister has the vision on how to treat alcohol- and drug-addicted inmates at WCC, will he give us a brief outline of that vision now?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe sedating inmates is merely an opinion of the member opposite, for what itís worth. The substance abuse management program, also known as the SAM program, is offered on an average of four or five times per year. It is a 12-week program that can accommodate eight to 10 different offenders each time. The goal of the SAM project is to reduce recidivism by helping offenders to identify risk factors and circumstances that might lead them to drink and, therefore, into trouble.
The drug and alcohol programs are just that: they are there to provide inmates an option on how to deal with the addictions. I believe that the best solution I can ever think of for inmates is for them not to go in there.
Question re: Alcohol and drug services programs
†Mr. McRobb: A few years ago, the director of northern Alberta addictions services did a review of Yukon alcohol and drug services. Her report had a vision and a detailed plan on how to deal with the territoryís serious alcohol and drug problems. The report and the expert who wrote it were scrapped by this Yukon Party government. There was no new approach, no evaluation of present programs and no plan. Instead, this government opted for going backward 20 years.
Now, after two years of the same old, same old, can the minister honestly state that there has been an increase in the numbers of addicted people who have been helped through Alcohol and Drug Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite is going on about is the creation of a drug and alcohol secretariat under the previous administration, which was another stovepipe of administration. Our governmentís initiative was to dwell on programs and program delivery. To that end, we have created a new 10-bed unit that provides safe withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs. There is a facility awareness. The detox centre is always open, 24/7. On our prevention services, we have enhanced those services from what they used to be ó the outpatient counselling services, the youth services and outreach services.
We have concentrated on the programs. Recognizing the problems there are with substance abuse here in the Yukon, we have not endeavoured to create another stovepipe of administration.
Mr. McRobb: That seems to contradict what the Premier said. He said there are lots of programs available. Now, addicted people simply have to pull up their socks and take advantage of them, he also said. For years, there have been calls for new approaches to our addiction problems in the territory. Homeless, addicted youth are on the streets selling and using drugs. The Yukon Party promised to implement a compulsory student alcohol and drug treatment program for those students facing expulsion. Where is that, Mr. Speaker? The treatment programs offered for adults are also few and far between. There are no treatment programs for families. There are no detox and few treatment programs available outside of Whitehorse.
What new programs is this minister going to implement for primary care of addictions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, letís deal with the reality of the situation. Crossroads was open and was operating under the previous NDP watch. It was closed by that government because they couldnít deal with the problems associated with the operation of Crossroads. Under our watch, that program ó for one ó has been reinstituted. The doors are open; it is working and is in place. That is just one example of many.
Mr. McRobb: This government is stuck in some previous decade. Itís time for it to wake up and do something now and for the future of Yukoners. Once detox and treatment have been tried, an addicted person is left on their own. They are sent home to fend for themselves. Most of them relapse. What a waste of time and money and a lost opportunity. The Yukon Party promised to develop an integrated plan in conjunction with NGOs to address the need for patient after-care services. The minister has had two years to do that. Whatís this ministerís vision for after-care support for people who have done the right thing, pulled up their socks, attained sobriety and need continued support to keep away from substance abuse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the members opposite and the House what our government has done. Weíve assisted allied professionals in the community to develop pre-treatment and after-care programs for clients. We deliver the addiction component of community wellness programs. We assist communities in building their capacity. We provide consultation on addiction-related topics. We facilitate a variety of addiction education workshops to allied professionals who work in Yukon communities, and we facilitate a variety of addictions-related training to allied professionals who work in Yukon communities. We also provide tele-health counselling to clients from around the Yukon. Thatís just a brief overview of some of the initiatives we have put in place or enhanced and developed.
Question re: Youth homelessness
†Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Acting Minister of Youth Directorate. During the spring sitting, the Premier boasted that his government was investing over $1 million additional dollars to deal with the issue of youth homelessness. Since then, the Youth of Today Society has had to give up the Roadhouse Inn as a youth shelter. The Outreach van is only available a couple nights a week due to funding cutbacks. There have been reports of young mothers living in makeshift shacks along the riverbank. Couch-surfing has remained a huge problem and safety issue for youth, especially young women. These are only a few examples of the current situation facing many of this territoryís youth.
Can the minister point to any concrete steps that this government has taken that show an improvement in the situation for homeless youth in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is very proud of our record in this area. We have had to pick up some of the room that has been abandoned by the federal government when they had sunset clauses on the money that they were providing to the Youth of Today Society and to BYTE.
We added additional funding in our last budget envelope in these two areas. In fact, the last initiative that the Department of Health and Social Services was involved in with the Youth of Today Society was to provide them with a small grant that would allow them to hire a writer to access more federal money for these very worthwhile initiatives. So weíve moved forward on a lot of fronts.
The member opposite must remember that these started as federally funded programs with sunset clauses, and their funding fell off the table after a few short years.
Letís look to Ottawa; letís look to the federal government to reinstate this money.
Mrs. Peter: Winter is here again and many youth at risk still need a safe place to stay. Some of these youth are too exhausted from trying to find a place to sleep overnight to take advantage of the available training projects that have been made available for them.
Their needs are being ignored by this government. The minister keeps saying it is a federal responsibility. Itís also a territorial responsibility. This government takes every issue it doesnít want to deal with and then studies it to death. It talks about spending the most money ever by a territorial government but has yet to present a plan to deal with this problem with an obvious solution.
When will this government take the problem of youth homelessness seriously and put their resources into the real programs that will give homeless youth a place to stay?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we are taking very seriously the issues surrounding all the social agenda here in the Yukon and, to that end, we have identified a lot of problems in the way that situations were handed previously and we have resourced them. Demonstrated needs have been met, and this government has resourced those demonstrated needs.
Now, Iím not referring to the youth here, Mr. Speaker. Iím referring to a number of the programs that were put in place by the federal Liberal government that had sunset clauses on them. That has been the problem: that funding has expired and there is an expectation that the Yukon can pick up the additional funding. Let us go in lockstep with our First Nation governments, with other members of the Yukon community and lobby the federal government to put back in place these very worthwhile programs that meet some of these challenges.
Question re: Traffic flow concerns
Mr. Arntzen: † My question is for the Minister of Department of Highways and Public Works. The Yukonís population has increased significantly in the past year, and it is expected to continue to grow. The increased population will result in increased traffic on the Alaska Highway within my riding, as well as the rest of the territory. I have previously asked the minister to install passing and turning lanes at certain key intersections, and constituents tell me that the one that was installed at Lodestar Road at the airport, as per requests from my constituents, has resulted in improved traffic flow and highway safety. There are several other locations where passing or turning lanes are needed. Would the minister please inform me of any plans for construction of such lanes in the near future within my riding?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are in the process of getting ready for the 2005-06 budget, and we are exploring those options. We will be more than pleased to provide the member opposite when we do find out which ones we are going to put in.
Mr. Arntzen: Some of the areas of concern, I might help here, that have been identified are passing lanes or turning lanes at intersections such as Burns Road at the airport ó very heavy commercial traffic area, MacRae, Wolf Creek North and Meadow Lake golf course, and also the Wolf Creek campground.
Would the minister follow up on my request and direct his department to evaluate these locations and get back to me with results of their assessments?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, I will definitely undertake to do that for him.
Mr. Arntzen: If the results of the assessments identify a need, will the minister make a commitment to have the work done this next construction season?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Once we do our review and with money available, we will undertake to do that.
†Speaker: The time for Question Period has elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. I understand weíre going into the Department of Health and Social Services.
Before we begin, is it the wish of the members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 ó continued
Chair: The matter before Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We are continuing on with Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services ó continued
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We just briefly touched on the Department of Health and Social Services last Thursday. I was pleased to introduce the O&M increases totalling $8.424 million for the Department of Health and Social Services. These are primarily volume and price increases throughout the department. Much of the money that we have arriving from Ottawa has strings attached. A good portion will need to go to pay for the rising cost of mandatory programs and services, and there are many competing demands for the remaining funds.
A good portion ó the majority ó of our health budget is non-discretionary. It supports activities that we are required to provide. These include insured health services such as the hospital, physician services, our drug and extended benefit program and medical travel.
With the remainder of the discretionary funds, we support a wide spectrum of programs and activities intended to match our priorities. These range from home and continuing care ó which our government is committed to enhancing and expanding upon ó health promotions ó which our government is committed to expanding ó to support that can let people live in their own homes and home communities for as long as possible. An example of our commitment in this area has been the pioneer utility grant and our indexing of that by 25 percent for the past heating season† ó the cheques are going out ó and a further commitment by our government to increase it by a further 10 percent for this heating season and index it against inflation.
With respect to home care, we are expanding home care through a number of rural communities, one of which is your riding, Mr. Chair, the Southern Lakes ó for the Member for Kluane, who wanted to know the riding.
And there is an enhancement in home care in the member oppositeís riding, Mr. Speaker. We are also into money for childrenís vaccination programs and other public health activities, to environmental health requirements and many, many more. Some of the new funding will be needed just to sustain these services over the next few years.
The trajectory of spending increases has been about $7 million to $10 million annually, and it has been a tough demand on the government of the day to meet the ever-escalating price and volume increases across the Department of Health and Social Services, no matter what jurisdiction. We face some unique challenges in a lot of the services that are needed by Yukoners.
There are a lot of services that are needed by Yukoners: we have an acute-care-facility and the Whitehorse hospital, one of the best ones of its size in Canada, if not the best, but it can only do a limited range of services and we have to buy those services elsewhere. We buy them primarily in British Columbia and, to a lesser extent, in Alberta ó in Edmonton and Calgary. These are some of the initiatives ó I believe last year the number of individual Yukoners who were sent out for operations that could not be performed here in the Yukon was 184. That will give you some of the order of magnitude of the costs that we are incurring.
Medical travel to these jurisdictions, especially when we have to medevac someone, is a high-cost item. It has been identified by the northern premiers in their demands on Ottawa for additional money. One of the initiatives that came forward from Nunavut was an outbreak in one of their communities where the medevac bill alone for that one community was in excess of $1 million. That was to deal with an outbreak that happened in a remote northern community.
Our demands are not nearly as great as Nunavut for medevac services. They still exist, and theyíre still a high priority, and we are proud of the services that are provided and the firms and individuals that provide those services.
The funding we receive for health comes in various forms. Much of the funding is time limited, so we cannot count on it continuing once the funding program is over. Examples of time-limited funding we are working with include the northern health supplementary funding that was negotiated last year, which will last for three years; the $150-million fund for the three territories negotiated in September 2004 will flow for five years; and the five-year health reform fund and the three-year diagnostic and medical equipment fund. Both these funds were announced last year, and there is the six-year, wait-times-reduction fund. So we are looking at funding flowing from the federal government to the Yukon across a broad range, but it is time limited.
It is time limited, and itís causing us some concerns. The temporary nature of these funds has an impact on our decisions about what we can initiate, particularly for things that we expect would need to continue after the federal funding is scheduled to end. This impacts on a lot of other areas of where Government of Yukon has dealings with Canada, and it also impacts on a lot of our First Nation governments and their health care initiatives with Canada.
There are several funds that will be flowing to all provinces and territories, and the Yukon will be getting its per capita share of those funds. Those per capita funds ó rule of thumb ó if a billion dollars is announced by the federal government flowing to the provinces and territories, our per capita share may amount to as little as $23,000; it may be as high as about $600,000 ó just shy of $700,000 ó depending on how the formula is applied. So there are some concerns about the funding and the flow on a per capita basis, and the position advanced by all the smaller jurisdictions in Canada is that funding should flow on a base-plus-per-capita for the smaller jurisdictions.
We are in line-by-line in Department of Health, and I look forward to constructive comments and constructive debate from the side opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I will start out by correcting the member: we are not in line-by-line debate. We are in general debate for the Department of Health and Social Services in the supplementary budget. This gives us the opportunity to have debate in general before proceeding to the lines.†
I would also like to point out a couple of other things that the minister did not say. We are now getting used to hearing the same old tired speech from the minister about the things that he thinks his government is doing and, of course, the case is rather overblown. I do want to get to my list ó a new list of things the government isnít doing.
Letís talk about the pioneer utility grant for a moment, Mr. Chair. The minister tries to make a lot of hay out of the fact that the latest increase to the pioneer utility grant is indexed to inflation. What he is not telling the people, Mr. Chair, is that inflation in the oil and gas sector far exceeds the general inflation rate that his pioneer utility grant is geared to.
Why didnít the government gear the pioneer utility grant to the oil and gas indexed rate? Good question. Thatís where it missed a golden opportunity to do what was right and to protect our senior consumers from the high escalating costs of heating oil and other fuels needed to stay warm in the Yukon winters.
We know about all the money this government has, courtesy of the federal government. This government is benefiting from millions of extra dollars in this fiscal year ó millions of extra dollars. It is good to see the federal government finally paying back to the territory what it took away in previous years. I recall from 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998 when health care dollars in the territory were cut because the Finance minister at the time, who is now the Prime Minister, complained the country was headed into an escalating deficit and it had to cut government spending. I seem to recall that it reduced our health budget by some $20 million a year.
Now this Yukon Party government is Johnny-on-the-spot to be able to benefit from a refund of the money cut by the former Finance minister to the territory. Thatís an important point to make.
I think another important point to make is how the government is spending the money or, better yet, how it is not spending the money. No previous Yukon government has been in such a position to benefit from millions of extra federal dollars to spend on health care as this Yukon Party government is. It has a golden opportunity to do some constructive things with all that extra federal money.
What about taking head-on the problem of alcohol and drugs in the territory? This would have been a golden opportunity for this government to put its money where its mouth is and really tackle the problem that is devastating many families in our communities across the territory. Weíve all heard, in every one of our ridings, how alcohol and drugs is destroying families and hurting our communities. We need to do a lot more about the situation than this government is doing.
What about the CAIRS funding thatís set to expire in January? CAIRS is Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools. Their office is set to close in January, leaving this whole program in limbo, yet the Yukon Party government has nothing to offer. I say that is a shame. Now thatís only one misgiving out of several misgivings that really form a report card on how poorly this government is doing in the area of health.
What about people with FASD ó adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder? There is nothing in the way of programming from this Yukon Party government to help adults with FASD, and I say thatís a shame. What about treatment centres? There are treatment centres across the territory that remain closed, because this government and its colleagues have refused to put any funding toward this important part of alcohol and drug treatment in the territory. I know for example thereís one out in my area that Iím very familiar with. Itís called the Aishihik Lake Wilderness Treatment Centre. I had the fortune of visiting the facility several times when they had programs running. I saw first-hand how that facility was benefiting the clients who attended the programming. Iím also aware that this remains a high priority for the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations and other First Nations in the territory as far as wilderness treatment goes and rehabilitation from alcohol and drugs.
Earlier today we heard the Justice minister say that heís unaware of any inmates who go into Whitehorse Correctional Centre who have an aptitude to reforming their alcohol and drug problems. That is wrong. Thatís a dark view of the inmates. That shows no hope. I say, maybe if this government were aware of the good work that treatment centres can do, it would have a better attitude.
That is only one area. It could be spending some of the millions of extra federal dollars that would do good for Yukoners. What about programs at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, alcohol and drug programs? We heard today in Question Period there are no after-care programs from this government. I say shame on it, Mr. Chair.† We know how important after-care is to people who are trying to rehabilitate from alcohol and drug abuse. We just canít put them through a program and throw them out on the streets and expect them to remain in a state of recovery. The occurrence of relapse is much too high. Aftercare is needed. We know that.
Why doesnít the Yukon Party do anything? Why doesnít it apply some financial resources in that area? Well, I donít know. Maybe itís too busy funding big riding projects like the bridge in Dawson City to even care about those people.
What about alcohol and drug treatment for families or youth? Again, there is very little from this Yukon Party government. What about medical detox facilities? There is no 24-hour nursing available, yet this government has the money to make this happen ó it chooses not to.
What about after-care for recovering alcoholics and drug abusers outside of the correctional centre, Mr. Chair? Iím talking about in Yukon communities and in Whitehorse. No programs are available. Again, this minister and his colleagues had an opportunity to do something about it but chose not to ó shame.
What about increasing the outside travel allowance for Yukon medical patients? Mr. Chair, there is no increase to the allowances in this supplementary budget. Currently, patients must pay up front for expenses, and theyíre only reimbursed at a rate of $30 a day. Mr. Chair, that is grossly inadequate ó $30 a day doesnít even buy a hostel any more, probably doesnít even pay for cab fare to the hostel, Mr. Chair, and not everybody can stay in a hostel.
Itís inappropriate to even think that our seniors and elders should have to overnight in hostels because this government doesnít have the political will to do the right thing.
What about seniorsí facilities in the communities? The minister likes to brag about how they are looking at doing something in the way of facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City. He mentions Teslin and Haines Junction. In reality, Mr. Chair, there is very little happening.
Is there money in the supplementary budget for planning facilities in Teslin and Haines Junction? The answer is no, Mr. Chair, and that is shameful in itself.
What about the retention of doctors and nurses across our territory? Well, again, the government deserves a low mark on its report card in that area. We understand that, for every doctor needed in the territory, five nurses are also needed.
The governmentís response to this urgent need was to essentially try to bribe the doctors into taking on more patients with a $200 incentive. That does nothing to encourage doctors with an already full list of clients to stay in the territory. It achieves absolutely nothing.
There are plenty of other misgivings about that program as well, Mr. Chair, let alone what the imagination could come up with when we consider what could be created within our territory in the way of programs and incentives to attract doctors and nurses to our territory and to keep them here.
The Yukon Partyís plan falls far short of what this territory needs in order to retain and attract professional caregivers and physicians to our territory in order to maintain an acceptable high standard of health care services from Watson Lake to Dawson City to Beaver Creek to Old Crow to Ross River, and every place in between, Mr. Chair.
It falls far short. So what are the ramifications? We already see some communities having to do without nurses, because there are no nurses available. We see a doctor shortage, and we know that more and more doctors want to retire earlier, and they want to work fewer hours in the week. Who can blame them? They need to enjoy life a little bit too, after dealing day after day with crisis situations and quite often situations that are disturbing. These people need a life too. The minister canít simply force them to work 50 or 60 hours a week. We need physicians who will reprieve our existing staff in the territory and allow such services to continue in our communities and in Whitehorse.
The minister goes on about how well the Whitehorse Hospital Corporation is doing. Really it is doing very well, especially considering the challenges it faces, and the lack of help from this government makes it even more startling in terms of realizing what the corporation has accomplished.
We donít hear too much from the minister in terms of the other hospital in the territory, the one in Watson Lake. It raises the question: why doesnít he ever mention the hospital in Watson Lake? Isnít it doing well? I think we need to explore that in a bit more detail when we do get to the lines later on this afternoon.
There are a lot of things we need to explore in more detail, because we have learned that itís folly to just accept what the minister says and to take what this government says at face value. We know that circumspection is needed on practically any claim, and in the area of health care, certainly it is not exempt. We have to look at this whole area very closely.
This supplementary budget provides us with a near-term opportunity to do exactly that. In addition, weíll be looking forward to the spring sitting of this Legislature and dealing with the mains budget for 2005-06, especially the Department of Health and Social Services, and going over it even closer to see what this government is not doing in terms of health care in the territory.
There are lots of issues to put this minister and this government on notice for in this department. Hereís something else. Hereís a report, dated November 2003 ó I believe it came from the last Yukon health summit ó called the Report to the Yukon Public on the Primary Health Care Planning Forum. This document contains several recommendations that are not being done by the government. I would like to ask the minister: has he looked at this document? Why isnít his government trying to do something about the recommendations in this report?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously the minister has no answer for the question. Obviously heís too embarrassed to stand up and have to answer. Again, the government is hiding from public scrutiny. Thatís shameful, especially for a government that campaigned on being so accountable. Itís not being very cooperative in the Legislature with the other parties. You know, it also campaigned on improving decorum. Well, it has failed quite miserably in every one of those areas.
When we see the minister refuse to get up to answer a legitimate question, what does that say about where this government is and what itís doing? Mr. Chair, itís rather shameful. So I would like to ask him again: what is he doing to resolve the recommendations?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Is there any further general debate, or do members wish to proceed with line-by-line?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is rather unbelievable. We have a situation where the Health minister has failed to stand up to answer a question on more than one occasion now, and itís nothing new, mind you, for this Yukon Party government. We saw it last week: the Premier did the same. This minister did the same. Now heís repeating those antics today. Letís go through these recommendations.†
Recommendation 1 says to inform the public about the programs and services at Alcohol and Drug Services. Well, doesnít that sound a little familiar? Isnít that exactly what the Premier challenged CBC Radio and other media to do? Well, letís ask this minister what heís doing about it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: This really is sad, Mr. Chair. We have a minister who refuses to answer questions. He is hiding from public scrutiny. Again, my question was a responsible one, and the minister remained in his seat. He wouldnít get up to respond, yet heís the Minister of Health and Social Services for the Yukon government. What a sad state of affairs this is. Iím asking questions that are straight from the Report to the Yukon Public on the Primary Health Care Planning Forum, dated November 2003, one year ago.
Itís produced by the ministerís own department.
This document contains eight recommendations, Mr. Chair. He refuses to get up to respond when I ask what the government is doing about the recommendations. I just pointed out the first recommendation, which was to inform the public about programs and services at Alcohol and Drug Services. It went on to say that this action item meets the priority of providing more information about health issues and programs. It says that ADS provides alcohol and drug treatment services and supports the effort of community groups and First Nations to prevent and reduce substance abuse ó and it goes on, Mr. Chair.
What is the Yukon Party government doing? Obviously nothing; otherwise, the minister would have something to say and he would probably stand up.
Well, that is shameful in itself, but do you know what is even worse? I remember looking at the newspaper last week and seeing full-page ads put out by this government on some so-called facts on how the Yukon economy has improved under the stewardship of this Yukon Party government.
There is no opportunity to rebut the ad but plenty of Yukoners have raised eyebrows about that ad, especially when, about the same time, the Premier was chastised in the media for not getting out and doing exactly what this recommendation here from a year ago suggested the government should do. Is that shameful or what, Mr. Chair? Well, now we have a minister who wonít even rise to respond to a question. This really is bad.
Earlier today in Question Period, the minister assumed this Yukon Party government would get another mandate in government. I would suggest to him and his colleagues: donít hold your breath. Donít take for granted the Yukon electorate because the people out there are quite dismayed about the record of this government ó and it is a long record ó and they are not impressed by its culture of secrecy and its unwillingness to respond in Question Period. Even in Committee of the Whole, we have seen the Acting Premier of the territory ó this really is shameful ó refusing to answer straightforward questions that are contained in the governmentís own report. This is shameful.
Recommendation 2, letís see if heíll rise on this one. Recommendation 2 was research the need for permanent, continuous live-in alcohol and drug treatment services in the Yukon. What is the government doing about that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me go over what this government has put in place and what this government has enhanced in the area of substance abuse. Substance abuse is a national concern; indeed, it is an international concern. Itís very much a concern here in the Yukon given that the Yukon has one of the highest per capita consumptions of alcohol, and we have a serious drug problem here in the Yukon. When I look at the accomplishments of the previous administrations ó the previous Liberal administrationís game plan was to amend the Liquor Act; provide more liquor in the Yukon and more outlets for liquor and build a bigger jail ó sounds reasonable to anybody who is on cloud nine.
What did the previous NDP administration do about programs? They shut down Crossroads; they shut down the residential treatment program here in Whitehorse ó a much needed program, because they were having troubles with the management of it. Thatís what the two previous administrations undertook and did.
Our government has taken a different tack. We have looked at these problems; we are not building another stovepipe administration like the alcohol and drug secretariat where you use an existing in-house drug and alcohol services. Weíve re-established the live-in residential 28-day treatment program, which includes clinical staff. We have a mental health addictions counsellor; we have another addictions youth counsellor. We have a prevention consultant, and we have a community liaison worker. Weíve also introduced tele-health pilot projects into Watson Lake that provide addiction counselling to residents to that community.
We canít go out in the street and grab people and put them into these programs. They have to want to go into these programs, and in many cases we are the last resort. There are two ways you get into the programs: the court orders you to or you wanted to get into these programs and you want to address your problems with addictions. Sometimes people have to get to the lowest level in our society, or hit rock bottom, before the need is recognized, which is a sad state of affairs. But the department and its various programs are there to help. And we start looking around the Yukon: we have numerous resources in place to assist individuals who want help with their drug and alcohol problems. We have Alcohol and Drug Services that provides training to allied professionals, both in Whitehorse and outlying communities, to help individuals. Alcohol and Drug Services provides detoxification, education, prevention, outreach and treatment services.
Now, can we just pause for a moment there, Mr. Chair, and let that sink in to the member opposite? That it is very important, because it encompasses a whole series of areas. Furthermore, we received funding from Health Canada to conduct an alcohol and drug survey, and this will provide new statistics for here in the Yukon. It will be the first time that new statistics have been developed since 1990.
The list goes on and on. We are very cognizant of what our role is and what our responsibilities are, and the department has reacted. We have enhanced many programs. We have put in place new initiatives, and weíre moving forward.
Mr. Chair, we just donít say ďnoĒ like the official opposition does. It doesnít matter if itís building a bridge in Dawson, itís ďjust say no.Ē The department invests more into emergency medical services in one year than the previous two administrations did during their total tenure. On the capital side, we purchased two much-needed 4x4 ambulances. What do we hear from the side opposite? ďJust say no.Ē
When it comes to building the Yukon economy and developing residential lots for Yukoners, the pat response of the official opposition is ďjust say no.Ē Get on with drilling gas wells that provide a great deal of income to Yukoners, which flows to a lot of the First Nations here in the Yukon: ďjust say noĒ to drilling more gas wells. It doesnít matter if itís advanced education ó letís look at sending a Yukoner to vet school, where she has to pre-qualify. The official oppositionís pat answer, ďJust say no.Ē
Letís bring back the White Pass. The White Pass railroad is one of the largest growing visitor attractions in North America, not just here in Alaska/Yukon, and weíre looking at bringing it back into the Yukon to Carcross ó ďJust say noĒ is the pat answer of the official opposition. On whether to build a new school in Carmacks: ďJust say no.Ē The official oppositionís pat answer is ďjust say noĒ to everything.
But weíre not that kind of a government. We ran on a campaign promise to restore investor confidence here in the Yukon, and that is coming around. There is more optimism now in the Yukon than there was under the previous two administrations. That bodes well for whatís going on in the Yukon. Itís talking about investment in the resource-extracting industries. Much of this investment is done in partnership with First Nations, which bodes well for the future of the Yukon.
It can be 99-percent great with one percent where there are some questionable parts of the equation, and all we hear about is that one-percent negativity. Itís really quite a lot of work to go to the extent that the official opposition does in trying to dig out that detail and trying to find the cloud that may come into existence from some other area and overhang Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Our government is committed to enhancing the social programs and we are doing just that. There are many other areas we will be concentrating on and many other areas we are moving forward on. For demonstrated needs, we have a commitment that we will meet the challenge.
This supplementary budget for $8.4 million in operation and maintenance ó primarily volume and price increases ó is something that I would like to debate. Letís get into line-by-line. Iím sure that members opposite may have an appetite to develop something a little bit more constructive in that area than what is being demonstrated here today by the official opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Isnít this really something, Mr. Chair? The minister says to look over here, but not over there or over there. He wants us to examine a particular part in the budget of his department but he doesnít want us to consider all the other things. Well, Mr. Chair, what is this minister hiding?
We saw him earlier this afternoon hide from public scrutiny. Then he gets up and gives another big, long, old speech about some of the things he thinks his government is doing. Those are all old things.
The minister continues to live in the past. Heís still talking about the past two or three governments. Itís time for him to get with it, talk about today and tomorrow, not be mired in the past. He makes a big deal of the opposition saying ďnoĒ, and he gave a couple of examples. Letís look a little closer at the examples he gave. He said the opposition said no to the Carmacks school with the Yukon College attached. Thatís wrong. Itís the people who are saying no, but the minister ignores that. I think when he points a finger at the opposition parties, itís a misrepresentation. He also says the opposition are saying no about the $500,000 train unit into Carcross. This government has made a sweetheart deal with White Pass on this train unit, but again if the minister were listening to the residents of Carcross interviewed on this program the other morning ó Iím sure you were, Mr. Chair ó he would discover, again, that itís the people who are saying no. So when he says itís just the opposition who are saying no, I would submit this minister and this government are not listening to the people. Otherwise they would know itís not just the opposition parties who are saying no on those items; it is in fact the people. We know the opposition parties speak for the people; the Yukon Party speaks for the government. But the opposition parties ó especially the official opposition party ó are the voice of the people, so when we bring issues into this Legislature, in fact itís really the people of the territory asking the questions.
But this government doesnít get it. Itís too caught up in its culture of secrecy; it wants to avoid being held accountable; it wants to hide from public scrutiny. We know that. There are lots of things about which people donít know whatís going on. Like the other day with the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board witnesses ó six hoursí notice, Mr. Chair. Itís not as if we had six hours to work on the questioning either, with Question Period and other duties within that period. It was strictly ó we felt ambushed, okay? This government has an opportunity to provide proper notice to the opposition, yet it doesnít happen.
Itís like in this department. On Thursday suddenly Health and Social Services was called. Well, it was supposed to be the Premierís department first, and then alphabetical order. What happened to Community Services? The minister was there, ready to go, but we jumped from Community Services, past Economic Development, past Energy, Mines and Resources, and Education all the way to Health. How much notice did the opposition get? The answer is ten minutesí notice. Thatís it. Again, this reflects poorly on this governmentís record, which it campaigned on. Weíre in the Department of Health and Social Services now, I know that.
Iím going to read one sentence from his campaign platform and from the letter in the front of the platform. It says that this new inclusive style of governing will be based on consensus-building, consultation, collaboration and compromise ó not on confrontation and unilateral action. We see the most costly department in the government here and the minister wouldnít even stand up to answer questions.
So much for this new inclusive style of government ó what a farce, Mr. Chair, an absolute farce. Yet the minister only an hour ago expects the Yukon voters to return this government with another mandate. Well, first of all, whenís the next election? Did we miss something here? Maybe the minister thinks heís in Ukraine or something where he can engineer the election results, but I remind him this is the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to another member.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The member might not be happy if I always told it like it is. Once again, I would ask members to act in the manner that Yukoners expect them to act, and casting aspersions upon oneís character or creating an innuendo that they are going to act above the law in the next election certainly is not casting good characteristics upon a member.
Weíll continue on with the debate.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for your reminder, Mr. Chair, and I see the minister over there ó he has no remorse. It is a rather sorrowful day for democracy when we reflect back on the pretence this government was elected by and then examine it in the context of what is happening today. It is a rather sorrowful tale.
Anyway, it is rather unproductive to continue asking this minister questions when he either refuses to get up and answer them at all or he stands up and gives us some tired old speech weíve heard over and over and weíll probably hear over and over again. So Iíll see if the leader of the third party has any questions at this stage in general debate.
Ms. Duncan: It seems to me that it is incumbent on this side to clear the debate. I would like to start with clearing up some outstanding issues.
The minister committed to send me the needs assessment and feasibility studies for provision of care for seniors in Dawson City and Watson Lake. The minister expected these finalized documents by the end of May 2004. I have yet to receive them. Would the minister indicate what the status is of the needs assessment and feasibility studies into the provision of care for seniors in Dawson City and Watson Lake?
The minister committed to send me the studies, but I never got them. Does he have them, and would he make sure that I have a copy of them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I do have them. I do have them in a finalized form, and I will be sharing them with the Legislature.
Ms. Duncan: In the spirit of cooperation, I would ask the minister ó rather than the immediate words that come to mind, which are parliamentary; however, they would lead to discord if I were to ask the minister in which lifetime he intends to share the information ó which session does the minister intend to share the information? Would it be in this session, and would we receive it before December 14? Given that the letter in which he committed to give me the information is dated April 23, 2004, and it is now November 29, is it possible that I could receive those two documents before the end of the week?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When I have an opportunity to return to my office, I will see what the feasibility is of getting them photocopied, but they will be provided to the member opposite this session.
Ms. Duncan: Iím being advised by the Member for Kluane that this session began two years ago, so this session could well last until April 2006, which is the intended date of the members oppositeís call for an election. Would the minister please commit that I could have those two documents, given that they were promised, as I said, on April 23, 2004? In fact, the ministerís words ó and he signed the letter ó were that, ďWe will be pleased to send you copies of both reports once the department has received them.Ē We now know that the minister has received them. Would he be so kind as to share those documents with the members on this side of the House before the end of December?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: I would trust that it is December 2004 that the minister is thinking of.
The Childrenís Act: could the minister provide the Legislature with an update as to the status of the Childrenís Act review and when we might anticipate further reports and the current status of all the individuals involved? Is it a full working committee? Are they anticipating more public hearings? Could we have an update on the Childrenís Act review?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † My next quarterly meeting with this working group is scheduled this week. I can report at the end of that but, at this juncture, I can advise the House that this very capable working group is moving forward. Thereís another round of consultation scheduled and progress is being made.
The co-chairs are both moving forward, and it appears to be a very workable way of proceeding with any piece of legislation in which the First Nations have a major interest.
Ms. Duncan: The Childrenís Act is a very complex piece of legislation; itís a very visceral piece of legislation, and itís very difficult. This working group is going to take some time. First of all, can we start with issues around time frames? What is the anticipated time frame for completion of something that might be sent to legal drafts people for legislative drafting?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Two years is what we envision for the total initiative.
Ms. Duncan: Two years will take us to what date?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Legislation ó weíre hopefully targeting the spring of 2006.
Ms. Duncan: Kwanlin Dun First Nation is no longer participating in the Childrenís Act review, to the best of my knowledge. Does the minister have different information from that or an indication as to when Kwanlin Dun might return? Do they have any intention of participating in the Childrenís Act review? This is a very significant issue and one of the Yukon First Nations, such as Kwanlin Dun, choosing not to participate is very problematic for the ministerís review process. What is he doing about it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there are members from Kwanlin Dun First Nation in the working group, and it is a question that can probably best be directed to Kwanlin Dun First Nation, given that I canít speak on their behalf. The invitation has been extended. There are individuals from Kwanlin Dun First Nation in the working group, and all the documentation and material is shared with all, including Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to ask the minister a few questions in this regard. It has been some time since weíve had an opportunity to examine this initiative. Could he outline exactly who is the working group and what is the process that the working group are following? Are they reporting to a steering committee? I have seen some advertisements and some notices of public meetings around, for example, grandparentsí rights. What will be the results of the working group? How will it flow ó from the working group, to the steering committee, to legislation, to the minister, to final reports being circulated? Whatís the process for the Childrenís Act review, briefly?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís not a process that I can outline briefly. There are two co-chairs that steer the process. There are a number of other individuals on the body that governs the whole process and works with the two co-chairs, and then they have support staff.
Where weíre at today, there has been a tremendous effort on their part with a consultation process throughout the whole Yukon, and documents have been assembled as a result of those consultations. From there, we will be moving to the next stage of the consultation process. The drafting people are involved. Iím not sure if theyíre there on a full-time basis, but they have been partaking of a lot of the meetings so that they have an understanding of where weíre going to be headed with respect to the final legislation. But there is probably a lot more work to be done before I can outline the exact road map in detail. The process that was defined by the working group was approved, but it is in very broad and very general terms to allow some flexibility, subject to budget restrictions, on how they can proceed.
We are very confident that, at the end of the day, we will have a document that will be representative of the interests of the many Yukoners who have taken part in this initiative. It will probably not be a document that is agreed to by all, but of the most paramount importance is the children.
Ms. Duncan: I havenít heard an answer yet to one of the questions about the working group. Who composes the working group? I am not looking for the individual names; I am looking for the names of the organizations that compose the working group.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The working group does not exactly relate to any specific organization or First Nation. They all have backgrounds in childcare and on this issue of how we can develop a piece of legislation. Some have legal backgrounds, some have been in the social service, some have been in First Nations and some have strictly been in a setting that allows them the opportunity to cross over lines between the government-run day homes and the private day homes. So, there is a very broad cross-section.
I would have to name the specific names of the individuals. As to their selection, they werenít attached to any specific organization or group. They were all selected based on their credentials and understanding of this field.
Ms. Duncan: Fair enough. Perhaps the minister could just send that information over to me at some point in time.
How do the co-chairs and this working group relate to the government, then, in terms of the development of legislation? Are they doing, for example, an issues or consultation paper that outlines options for Cabinet in legislation, or is it strictly a public consultation and theyíll come back with, ďHere are our final recommendationsĒ? Iím looking for the accountability links and the link from the working group and the co-chairs back to government and back to Council of Yukon First Nations, if there are any. Could the minister outline what that process of accountability and discussion in these consultation papers is, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is an ongoing, evolving process. Weíre not at the point where weíre drafting legislation as yet. There are quarterly meetings that me and the Grand Chief attend, along with the chiefs ó I think itís referred to as a health care or health commission or health committee: the chiefs commission on health or committee on health, which encompasses a First Nation member from all of the First Nation organizations around the Yukon. So thereís a steady amount of input coming into the process, but to say that weíre at the stage where weíre developing legislation is premature. We have an understanding of where weíre headed, but weíre not at that juncture.
Ms. Duncan: The Kwanlin Dun may take issue with whether or not theyíre represented by the Grand Chief, as well as the Kaska First Nation, not formally being part of Council of Yukon First Nations. So is the Kwanlin Dun recognized or is there a sense of representation by the chiefs health committee of Kaska First Nations ó Liard and Ross River ó or Kwanlin Dun First Nation? Or is the minister accepting or sensing that Council of Yukon First Nations is representing those three other Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is not an area that I have any control over. This is a question that the member opposite should best pose to the First Nations themselves and perhaps to the Grand Chief as to how the respective bodies, the self-governing First Nations and non-governing First Nations relate to CYFN. Thatís something that is beyond the purview of this government.
Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the minister, I beg to differ. It is the ministerís consultation process. If the government is going to develop consensus and achieve collaboration, then there has to be some kind of an effort by the government to be inclusive of those First Nations that are not represented by CYFN. The working group is not composed of representatives of specific groups or other governments. What initiatives is the minister undertaking with respect to those three First Nations to develop some kind of an inclusive process? Certainly, at least one of those First Nations, if not all three, has had serious concerns with the Childrenís Act and has made those concerns known to the minister. The minister has embarked upon a process that he says is yet to be defined and in progress. Shouldnít that process be inclusive? Itís clearly not, from the ministerís comments, so what is the minister doing about it? Has he met with the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to discuss these issues and to discuss the progress of the Childrenís Act review ó particularly with Kwanlin Dun looking forward to being a self-governing First Nation?
Iím glad the minister finds this so amusing. I would ask the minister to please answer the question. What is he doing with respect to being inclusive of those First Nations that are not represented by CYFN?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I meet on a regular basis ó a quarterly basis ó with the Chiefs Committee on Health, which encompasses many. If the makeup of the body that is overseeing this initiative were known to the member opposite ó it has been reported in the papers, so I am sure the member opposite is aware as to who plugs in where and what their First Nation background is. KDFN, for example, is well represented at the table.
We have taken every initiative that we can. It is an ongoing and evolving process as First Nations build capacity, but there are a lot of very capable First Nation people who are involved in this process, Mr. Deputy Chair, and we find it very helpful to work with this group.
Ms. Duncan: The minister said that this is an ever-evolving process. What exactly does that mean? Are there consultation papers planned for the next two years? What is the plan for this committee? They are a working group, they are going to meet quarterly, and they are going to talk about issues in the act and ultimately, in April 2006, we are supposed to end up with some draft legislation ó possibly. That is what they are aiming for.
Could he outline the steps of the process in that respect? Is it a consultation process based on working papers that are generally available to the public? Exactly how is this going to evolve into legislation ó this evolving process?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Now we are at the point of policy forums and that documentation is readily available. I am sure that the member opposite has probably seen some of the documentation that is available. If not, I would be happy to provide her ó during this session ó a copy of the initial papers that have been developed by this working group.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate receiving copies of those papers from the minister. The policy paper discussion is anticipated to last for another year, and then the committee will get into more specifics, or what is the process from the policy papers? I would like him to outline very clearly for the public, and I donít want the minister to stand up and suggest that we should all just go read the papers, because itís enclosed in there. This is also where we do the publicís business, and I would like the minister to outline very clearly and very publicly exactly what the process ó although itís ever-evolving ó looks like for the Childrenís Act. Theyíve made much of this process over there. We should have time frames, timelines and some documentation on when information and discussion will be available for the public. Would he please outline that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will send over a copy of the overview as to what was agreed to by all parties as to the process, and that should resolve the matter here for the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Iíll look forward to the timely receipt of that information.
The minister is quoted as saying at the Council of Yukon First Nations General Assembly on September 15, and I quote, ďIf First Nations donít like it, they can draw down the powers themselves.Ē Was the Minister of Health and Social Services making reference to education, which was one of the issues under discussion at the time, or exactly what authority under the Umbrella Final Agreement and individual self-governing agreements was the minister suggesting First Nations draw down?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, as usual, an inaccurate reflection of what I said is being conveyed by the member opposite. What I said is that there is the ability under final agreements to draw down powers in the area that is being examined here, and that has been consistent by this government. Issuing an ultimatum is not our style. That might have been the style of the previous Liberal administration, which is carrying over to the line of questions here, Mr. Deputy Chair, but itís not our line of reasoning.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has a great affinity for suggesting that, if he says it loud enough and often enough, then it must be so. Well, in fact, the quote I gave was quite accurate. The minister has not answered the question. Once again: what specific powers were being made reference to in his quote? Was he thinking child welfare, was he talking education? There are a number of authorities spelled out ó Justice for example. What did he have in mind when he made that comment at the GA?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít have details of my speaking notes to the general assembly or to my responses at that time, but Iíll go back and review them and see what I said.
Ms. Duncan: That didnít answer the question, and we all know it. Would the minister please answer the question: what powers was he referring to when he made the comment? Iím not asking him what the comment was; Iím asking him what powers he was referring to specifically.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, I have to be very accurate in the information I bring to the floor, and I will do so. I am unsure as to the area I was elaborating on at the meeting that the member opposite is referring to. Until I confirm exactly what area, Iím sorry, but itís not a question Iím prepared to answer offhand. I want to be 100-percent accurate in my answers to the members opposite, which I am at all times.
Ms. Duncan: In the supplementary budget there is additional money that has been gleaned from Ottawa. The Canada health and social transfer supplement. There is health reform. There is social transfer. There is health transfer. Weíve received additional health care money from Ottawa ó significant. Now it sometimes occurs that, when these health accords are negotiated, Ottawa prefers that money be spent on specific programs. I would like the minister to outline where precisely the additional health care money is being spent.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: During the debate with the Member for Kluane, all of these areas were covered off and I was hopeful that the member opposite had been listening to the debate at that time. This government doesnít glean money from the federal government; this government has to work very hard at advancing the case for the funding and the additional funding that we receive here in the Yukon.
The capable work of the officials in the Department of Finance, in the stats branch, along with efforts on behalf of the three northern premiers, was successful in tapping into the $60 million pot of money. As the member correctly identifies, that has some strings attached to it, as all federal money usually does. We are very cognizant of the funding arrangements with Ottawa and weíre very thankful for the funding arrangements this government has managed to negotiate with Ottawa, which leads us to conclude that itís only through the very capable auspices of a government such as ours that this was able to occur. I would have thought there would have been a hand-in-glove arrangement between the previous Liberal government here in the Yukon and the Liberals in Ottawa, but such was not the case. That is very well identified with the dismal short stay in office that the Liberals had in Yukon.
We as a government have done our level best to identify funding for specific initiatives for health care here in the Yukon. We have made the case; we have moved forward; and officials, along with the appropriate political leader, have gone to Ottawa or met with other federal ministers in many, many places across Canada to make the case for additional fundings.
We are very thankful that the Government of Canada has identified with the cases that we have put forward and has seen its way clear to provide the funding to us. It is through a lot of hard work primarily on the part of Premier Fentie and the officials in the Department of Finance and the statistics branch that this has come about.
Our government campaigned on putting the fiscal house of the Yukon in order, restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon and rebuilding the Yukon economy. There is a lot of optimism out there about the direction that Yukon is heading, because it is currently a very positive direction, Mr. Deputy Chair ó a very positive one indeed. Part of that positive initiative is clearly demonstrated in the Yukon Partyís attention to the Department of Health and Social Services and our success in obtaining additional funding ó not only from Canada but from some other initiatives ó to put into the budget.
Yes, as the member opposite clearly identified, a lot of it is targeted money, but a lot of it has enabled us to enhance and develop other programs in other areas, which we are doing and will continue to do.
The exercise is to provide the highest consistent level of service to Yukoners in the fields over which we have control. We will do our level best at that.
Ms. Duncan: The additional money ó there has been some announcement about these additional funds being used to assist in the provision of additional home care. Could the minister outline how much money is being directed into the home care program and what additional services Yukoners might expect? What Iím looking for is an answer as to what communities are going to be able to receive home care, given that we have this additional funding from Ottawa.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is $300,000 that is specifically going to be targeting some of the rural areas and enhancements of existing home care programs. Some of the areas where we have to develop capacity is in Southern Lakes and some of the other rural ridings.
Ms. Duncan: The additional services, I believe the minister said, are in Southern Lakes. So are we looking at the community of Tagish being able to receive home care? And does this mean additional staffing in Whitehorse, as well, or is it only Tagish? Could I have greater detail as to the outline of the additional home care services that are going to be provided? And also, does the minister anticipate being able to staff these additional positions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Currently underway is the needs assessment, but weíll be moving forward as soon as that is completed. I donít have the timelines with me here today, but weíve identified the money to enhance home care, and one of the focus areas is the area the member opposite identified, Tagish.
Ms. Duncan: So this needs assessment is another study, and Iím still waiting for the one that was promised at the end of May. When does the minister anticipate that this needs assessment study will be complete and when will the additional workers then be in place? Next fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is referring to a very comprehensive, complex study, vis-ŗ-vis a needs assessment, and weíre hoping that we will be moving forward this fiscal year subject to the availability of health care professionals. These are very highly skilled people in some cases and weíre moving forward this fiscal period on this initiative.
Ms. Duncan: Is it only Tagish that the minister is examining for expansion of home care, or is there a possibility of other communities receiving either enhanced or services? Is it just Tagish or are there other communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The new area would be Tagish and, yes, we are looking at enhancing home care in a number of other areas also. I donít have the details at my fingertips here but we currently have programs across the Yukon and, where there is a demonstrated need, weíre enhancing those programs.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could provide the details that he doesnít have at his fingertips ó but presumably has available in his office ó by letter to both opposition parties and the independent Yukon Party member. The minister hasnít addressed the issue of the staffing. In some cases, specialized staffing is required; in other cases, thereís limited training, I believe, available at Yukon College, and Iíll get into that in a moment. How readily does the minister believe that these additional positions will be staffed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am optimistic that, given the wonderful place that the Yukon is to reside and work, there will be people wishing to move back to the Yukon now that investor confidence has been restored, now that there are opportunities here, and now that there is more going on than a U-Haul economy moving south.
The member opposite might reflect upon the current unemployment rates here in the Yukon, which are some of the lowest in Canada, and probably indeed one of the lowest rates the Yukon has ever had. So itís a matter of recruitment of various levels of health care providers and, as the member correctly identified, some are of a higher standard training-wise than others. But, that said, there is still an ongoing need that has been identified and it is a constant within the Department of Health and Social Services to recruit health care professionals, and not only recruit them, but retain them. We can only do that if there are opportunities here for people to want to see their way clear and make the Yukon their destination of choice.
Thatís being undertaken and that is one of our commitments as a government ó that we would restore to the best of our ability investor confidence and rebuild the Yukon economy, which would see the need for people in all sorts of categories.
As I said earlier, there is an ongoing issue of recruitment of health care professionals. Itís an uphill task. Some are trained here in the Yukon; others are not. We can only do what we can with the programs that we have in place. It is always subject to the availability of workers. They are much needed and I am sure the member opposite would agree with me and echo the message that the Yukon is one of the best places in Canada to work and raise a family and live.
That said, I will look forward to her cooperation in ensuring that that message is amplified all across Canada ó indeed, the world.
Ms. Duncan: The additional money received from Ottawa will enable the government to enhance the home care services that are available. Where else will the additional money be targeted? As I understand it, there has generally been an increase in the cost of drugs ó flu vaccines, for example, and others go up in cost quite significantly and quite regularly. Those are costs that the minister and the government have little or no control over. Is drugs one area where the minister anticipates this additional funding being spent and are there some other areas where this additional money is going to be targeted?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd ask the member opposite to pay attention and Iíll go over my notes again. The O&M increases total $8,424,000. Most of them are volume and price increases. There is a large increase in hospital claims costs and there is also a new agreement with the doctors here in the Yukon that has increased our cost for medical services. Other major increases include an increase in social assistance, home care, an increase in the volume of children in care, as well as an increase in the complexity of care in specific cases. Costs to operate the residential childrenís homes have also increased. There are also a series of small increases Iíd be happy to cover in line-by-line.
We do have some other ó capital increases total $863,000. Of this, $826,000 is recoverable from the Infoway and from the diagnostic medical equipment fund. The majority of increases are a result of revotes. New items include capital costs related to opening seven new beds at Macaulay Lodge and 12 news beds at Copper Ridge Place.
This is basically where weíre at. In increasing childrenís residential services, thereís an overall 9.2-percent increase in the volume of children in care over the previous years, which translates into 6,000 bed days. This resulted in more positions, an increase in auxiliary staff, and we had to get into overtime during periods of staff shortages.
We had also an increase in respite, clothing and foster care payments. There was also an increase in reciprocal hospital costs due to a number of days and higher in-patient per diems. We had 184 operations performed out of the Yukon in the medical facilities primarily in British Columbia and some in Alberta, and theyíre charging more to Yukon for these services than they were the year previously.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with respect to the out-of-territory hospital claims, are they still generally 50:50 between B.C. and Alberta, or is it predominantly British Columbia, say 70:30? What roughly? Iím not asking for precise figures, but what is the split between B.C. and Alberta, and are the rates comparable? Does British Columbia charge us the same rate for, letís say, cardiac surgery, that Alberta does, or is there a difference between those two provinces?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The rates charged in Alberta tend to be lower, but because of the physiciansí referral arrangements, theyíre primarily with British Columbia. So we tend to send a greater number of patients requiring treatment that cannot be provided here in the Yukon to British Columbia rather than to Alberta.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to our own hospital, the Hospital Corporation financial statements end March 31, and then the minister tables them. The financial year-end is March 31, and the corporation, within six months at the end of the financial year, delivers the minister a report of the operations of the Yukon Hospital Corporation. Does the minister have them yet, and when does he anticipate tabling them in the Legislature? It says in the act that the minister shall table a copy of the report in the Legislature as soon as possible. When are we likely to see the Yukon Hospital Corporationís annual reports?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As soon as the minister receives them.
Ms. Duncan: I trust that will be soon, and letís hope itís before the Legislature ends.
Also under the ministerís responsibility in legislation is the Health Care Insurance Plan Act, and Iíd like to discuss this with him this afternoon for a bit. One of the sections of the act calls for the director of the health care insurance plan ó it used to be YHCIS but now itís the health care insurance plan ó to make an annual report regarding the administration of the plan. The last one I could find tabled in the Legislature was 2001, so would the minister endeavour to indicate whether he has seen such a report of the operations of the health care insurance plan, and when might we expect that report?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: My understanding of this report is that it was discontinued during the Liberal government and the report tabled was a holdover from the previous NDP government. Weíre going to be bringing forward ó my officials advise me ó the HCIP report.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís new information to me. Perhaps the minister could indicate when we might see the YHCIP report? He says that his officials plan to bring it forward. Would we see it in the spring sitting or before we rise for Christmas?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am advised that it will be available in the spring.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
With regard to the way that we track doctorsí costs, pharmaceutical costs, and this information that is gathered by the department ó Iíd like to start at the very beginning: doctors are assigned a code, as I understand it, for each operation for which they see someone. I donít mean ďoperationĒ like ďsurgical operationĒ, but for each time they see a patient, there is a code for an insured service. For example, letís say the code for seeing someone about their blood pressure is code XYZ. Each time a patient is seen by that doctor, that is an insured service that is entered and tracked. Itís tracked by health care number, not by specific patient. That is why we have the health care numbers. So we know, then, if a doctor is seeing 100 patients for blood pressure situations. What we donít know is whether or not that visit resulted in a prescription.
For example, a patient can go see a doctor, and it can be for their blood pressure but that could mean any of a number of things. They could prescribe medication; they could order blood tests; they could send them on for further tests, or simply check their blood pressure. There is nothing that checks the amount of prescriptions by a doctor. There is no code for that.
And so there is no way to monitor that. So the minister might receive ó the department under the Health Care Insurance Plan Act assesses what the doctors are doing and the insured benefits that theyíre covering, but it does not check the level of prescriptions.
In the Yukon, we also have pharmacare, childrenís drug and optical and the chronic disease ó those three drug programs. Those are monitored in terms of their use. So we know, for example, those who are entitled to pharmacare ó and the minister has stated outside of the House the number of Tylenol 3 prescriptions under the pharmacare program that are issued. Those statistics and the reports, because the Government of Yukon pays for them, are monitored by the government. So there are audits, in essence. There are audits of doctors and what theyíre doing, on the one hand; there are checks and balances between what the doctors are doing and what those who have a Yukon health care card are receiving. There are also checks in terms of those who are eligible for pharmacare benefits and childrenís drug and optical and chronic disease. There are records of that usage, as well. But there are clearly some gaps.
We donít know ó and we have no way of knowing in our health care insurance plan and the way itís administered ó if there are a great number of prescriptions being issued by any doctor. And those who are not eligible for pharmacare or chronic disease or NHIB ó non-insured health benefits ó we have no way of monitoring if there is an excessive number of prescriptions. Now, PharmaNet will, to some degree, alleviate some of the gaps in information.
Is the minister aware of the way that the health care insurance plan works, the way they gather information? Does he see that there are some gaps in that information being gathered, and has he discussed those gaps with the YMA?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I am aware of the issue of how the billing works. The member opposite is assuming that all the doctors here in the Yukon are working on a fee-for-service basis; not all of them are. There are a number of doctors who are working on a salaried position.
With respect to the breakdown of the diagnostic codes on the billing, I am not sure if the member is aware of how detailed that is or how that area works. Where the member opposite appears to be heading is trying to make a correlation between the prescribing habits of doctors and the drugs that are in that category that may be considered problematic to society. The three drugs here in the Yukon that are in that category are Valium, Ativan and Tylenol 3. For 2002-03 the quantity of oral tablets sold for Valium was 12,735 tablets. This is for the three programs for which Yukon pays:† pharmacare, chronic disease and the childrenís drug and optical program.
Ativan in 2002-03 was for 5,374 tablets; Tylenol 3: 62,605 tablets. The corresponding price that was paid for the Valium was $4,814; for Ativan: $1,420; and Tylenol 3: $13,982. The total number of tablets supplied was 80,714 in 2002-03.
The next reporting year was 2003-04. Valium actually went down from 12,735 to 9,075, for a total price of $3,547.
Ativan, which is now more the drug of choice, if you want to call it that ó or itís more widely prescribed because it is, Iím given to understand, more effective ó is up to 10,036 tablets, for a total price paid of $2,883.00. Tylenol 3 has actually gone down from 62 to 58, 570, for a total price of $13,103.00.
So the total number of tablets sold in all three categories, from 2002-03 to 2003-04, has actually gone down from 80,714 to 78,481 tablets. Now this only covers the three programs, which are clearly outlined on the top of the listing. The Member for Kluane wants to know the street price of these drugs, and I can assure him that that is not known to me. Itís probably information more readily available to others than to myself.
The issue is that there is separate billing for status First Nations here in the Yukon and that is captured by Health Canada and INAC ó whether itís an insured or uninsured benefit determines which program it comes under ó and they track but they do not distinguish between northern British Columbia and Yukon. They track all across a specific area. So their numbers are going to be something else.
What I am advised is there is an increase in the number of prescriptions, but the quantities that are prescribed have actually been reduced. This is done by a number of physicians to ensure that nobody gets a large supply because we do get into the other areas where seniors and elders may have drugs that are prescribed and paid for by various plans stolen from them, and that is in itself an illegal act. But there are a number of other issues.
That said, no computer program in the world is going to control or address an illegal act of theft of somebodyís prescription, so there are always going to be ways and holes in the system that we as a government will not be able to address. Weíll never get the system perfect because there are all sorts of illegal ways around the system.
Ms. Duncan: Well, letís start at the beginning ó first of all, with the issue of the diagnostic coding and the health care insurance plan. It was set up very specifically for a reason: to safeguard the physician and to safeguard the patient and the taxpayer from any abuses anywhere. Itís very clearly set up. There is a gap in that system in that it doesnít track prescriptions. Again, I will go back to my example of high blood pressure. You can go in to see your physician and the physician can record, ďThe patient was here to see me for high blood pressure.Ē Any one of a number of treatments can be prescribed including a prescription, but right now there is no way for the system to distinguish prescriptions. Although a doctor is audited ó did they perform the service that was requested and did they provide it? This is a safeguard for the YMA as well as for the system.
There is talk in this Legislature and in the media about whether or not there is over-prescribing. We donít know, and there is no way to track it under our current system.
Has that specific issue been discussed by the minister or by officials with the Yukon Medical Association? The YMA is a self-regulating profession ó I understand that. I also understand that the question has been raised: has YMA discussed it with the minister? Has the minister discussed this gap in our system that doesnít track the prescribing habits of doctors with the YMA? Has that issue been discussed with the YMA? Does the minister intend to discuss it with the YMA? Do they intend to make any changes to the system that would track the prescribing habits of Yukon physicians?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the information that I have shows that the doctors are monitored for patterns of practice but the outcomes of what the doctors prescribe is not something that is tracked in any of the systems here in the Yukon or in any of the other jurisdictions that weíve examined in western Canada. So this would probably be a very good topic for another research study, and Iíd encourage the member opposite to write to her Member of Parliament to see if we can get some more federal money up here to do a research project to substantiate where we can get this kind of funding to move forward on a project, should it be justified. But given the scope of the practice, we are talking health care professionals here ó doctors. The Yukon Medical Association is self-regulating, but they do have a professional standard that they uphold, they do have an ethical standard that they uphold, and they also have a moral standard that they uphold. So if the member opposite is suggesting impropriety on the part of the doctors, or some doctors or any doctors, I really take exception to that. I donít want to go there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the record will reflect that the only person who has raised that issue has been the member opposite. This act was written very clearly and very carefully to cover scope of practice. The minister has a responsibility. Heís being asked a reasonable and legitimate question on the floor of the House ó the question that has been raised ó and he finds it intensely humorous once again. Once again, the minister chooses to laugh when members on this side raise a point that members of the public are raising.
I stated on the floor of the House that the YMA is a self-regulating profession. Iím very well aware of that. There are codes of ethics and oaths that exist not only for the medical profession, but for teachers, for lawyers and for others. This is an issue. The act covers patterns of practice. At the moment, the diagnostic coding does not cover prescribing habits. I am asking the minister ó if he would deign to answer ó whether or not the issue of tracking prescribing habits has been discussed with the Yukon Medical Association. Itís a straightforward yes or no. Has the minister or his officials discussed whether or not tracking prescribing habits of doctors under the patterns of practice would be acceptable or amenable; would they be interested in such a tracking; and is the minister prepared to examine it? Has he discussed it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís an issue that I personally have not discussed with YMA.
Ms. Duncan: Have the officials?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd have to determine the answer to that question. I do not know.
Ms. Duncan: I would appreciate it if the minister would determine that and get back to me.
The minister has read into the record a number of drugs and the level that have been prescribed under the pharmacare chronic disease program. This information is available to the minister; would he make available ó and it is not private and confidential, because it is tracked by numbers, not by patients and doctors ó the pharmacare numbers for 2002-03 and 2003-04 to this side of the House ó the pharmacare and the chronic disease numbers and the childrenís drug and optical benefit?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíll send over a list of the three drugs that have been identified. If we want to get into everything else, weíre talking a great amount of tracking time and cost that we would be incurring. I can send over a copy to each of the opposition ó
Ms. Duncan: We are not talking a great deal of time and effort here. That information is prepared either quarterly or annually. The pharmacies submit the claims to pharmacare. Pharmacare must know; they pay the bills. Itís a matter of finding out how many for each drug has been paid. Itís not rocket science. Itís not difficult and itís not a huge amount of effort on anybodyís part except for the minister to actually do his job. I would respectfully request that he do it.
I would like the numbers for 2002-03 for pharmacare ó not the ones the minister chooses to give us ó all the numbers. Itís not just Valium, Ativan and Tylenol 3s. Iíd like to know the volume and price for drugs under pharmacare, the chronic disease and the childrenís drug and optical program for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Will the minister provide those before December 31 to all the members on this side of the House?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Is there some specific drug that the member opposite would like us to track?
Ms. Duncan: I would like the pharmacare, the childrenís drug and optical and the chronic disease program drug costs, the names of the drugs and the drug costs for 2002-03 and 2003-04. Will the minister provide it before the end of December?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The total cost is readily identified. As to the breakdown, I will get the member the total cost. Weíll probably be able to do that by the end of December, but the three categories that Iíve sent over the information on are rather self-explanatory, and they do encompass pharmacare, chronic disease and childrenís drug and optic programs.
Ms. Duncan: And the record will also reflect that these are selected drug quantity and costs. I would like all the information, not what the minister chooses to provide, and I would appreciate receiving that at the earliest available opportunity as Iím quite positive it is tracked.
The minister has indicated that largely the costs in the supplementary are volume and price driven, and he also stated that with respect to the children in care, the complexity of some of the issues and the cost of the group homes have also increased. Have there been any additional initiatives undertaken with respect to dealing with children in care that are contained in the supplementary or that are being undertaken within the department? The minister wasnít completely dismissive of work done by the Child Welfare League of Canada and others ó the Anglin report. Have any of those initiatives that I have spoken with him at length on in previous sessions been followed up? Is there any additional money in the supplementary for any of those initiatives, and are we currently fully staffed in the area of children in care?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again, back to the Anglin report and the Child Welfare League of Canada report ó two famous initiatives under a defunct Liberal government. Itís kind of sad that we have to rehash some of the initiatives that, while well-meaning, didnít demonstrate what they should have demonstrated.
Our government has moved forward and identified the cost drivers in the areas and we have met the issue of capacity and funding the various childrenís residential services. As I pointed out, there has been an increase of 9.2 percent in the volume of children in care over last year. That translates into almost 6,000 bed-days. That resulted in more positions and an increase in auxiliary staff and overtime during that period. I donít think that at any given time, given the largeness of the services that the Department of Health and Social Services provides in so many areas, that we are 100-percent staffed at any given time in most of these areas. There will always be vacancies, there will always be recruitments and there will always be issues surrounding staff.
The Department of Health and Social Services is one of the largest, if not the largest, employer in the Yukon, and it is very, very thankful of the quality of the health care professionals that weíve been able to attract here to the Yukon. We are very hopeful that everything will be such that these individuals will see their way clear to remain here and dedicate their careers to Yukoners.
But as to whether weíre fully staffed or not staffed, that information I donít have. That is something the department gets into and deals with. The labour force here in the Yukon works for the Public Service Commission, and as I said earlier, Mr. Chair, there is always staff turnover. There is always a steady recruitment of all categories throughout the Yukon in the Department of Health and Social Services.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, one of the key, very strong recommendations of the reports in question was that the caseload carried by Yukon workers in the field was exceedingly high, was far too high, well beyond anywhere that is acceptable. Has that caseload been reduced, and what proof does the minister have that it has been reduced? Has that issue been addressed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we resourced 10 new positions.
Ms. Duncan: And the caseload has gone up. The number of children in care has increased. So 10 new positions were resourced on the one hand ó that information came from the minister. On the other hand, the minister has also stood on his feet and said there has been an increase in the number of children in care. Will he answer the specific question: has the caseload of the social workers in the Yukon, particularly those dealing with children in care, been reduced to where it is now, as similar to that of the caseload carried by workers in other jurisdictions? Has it been reduced, and what proof does the minister have that it has been reduced?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I donít have numbers, but I know considerable progress has been made in this area.
Ms. Duncan: Well, weíre being asked to simply accept that there has been progress made. Would the minister provide documentation, a letter from the deputy minister that gives an average of the caseload carried by the social workers? Will the minister provide something other than his assurance that there has been progress made? Quite frankly, Iíd like to see evidence of that.
I would like the minister to provide such so that we can assess for ourselves in comparison with the Child Welfare League of Canadaís report where the numbers are spelled out as to how many cases a worker should be carrying. Let us assess that. Will the minister provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If it does not entail a great deal of work and if it does not impede the very dedicated work that individuals in the department are doing, we will undertake to see what we can do to see what the caseload is. But there has been progress; there has been considerable progress and there has been a concerted effort by this government to resource a number of additional positions in the Department of Health and Social Services, in child and family services, and there has been a concerted effort by officials in that department to meet the demands.
The department just recently hosted a dinner for all the foster parents here in the Yukon and it was extremely well-attended and this demonstrates our governmentís appreciation to those individuals who are providing this type of care to others. Thatís just one area. The overall issue is that the department is functioning much better than it was under the previous Liberal administration.
Ms. Duncan: The minister mentioned that there has been a new agreement reached with the YMA. What time period does it cover?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is a four-year agreement. The exact expiry date ó weíre just trying to find the date but it was retroactive for a short period of time. We donít have the exact dates but it was negotiated and agreed to this summer and I believe it was retroactive to the beginning of the year; so 2004 would be the first year, so probably to the end of 2008 or 2007. Iím not quite sure ó 2007 or the beginning of 2008.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister outline what specific recruitment and retention initiatives are in that contract?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was a retention bonus at the end of year one, and there was a retention bonus at the end of year three. There was a lot of other very innovative attractiveness to this new contract for the Yukon doctors that would go across the board. I just asked my officials if it was a public document, and if it were Iíd be happy to share it with the members opposite, but if itís not I know we went to great lengths to address the needs of orphan patients and a couple of other areas where we saw a need along with YMA, and we were successful in agreeing to a four-year term for the Yukon doctors. Weíre looking forward to a good working relationship with YMA over the next four years.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has indicated that there were some very innovative and new recruitment initiatives. Perhaps he could determine whether or not he could outline those for the House. Does the minister have an answer to that question? The minister said there were innovative recruitment and retention initiatives in this new contract with the doctors. What are the innovative measures in the agreement? What did we do thatís new and innovative in this contract?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It came to a four-year agreement without labour strife. It moved forward on a number of fronts with a retention bonus for the doctors and other provisions ó it would probably be best, because my memory is not what is should be in this area, given that this was an initiative that we dealt with in the spring ó I donít want to provide information that is not completely accurate. I will ask the department to prepare a summary and we will send that over, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I was asked a specific question by a member of the medical community at a public function recently ó I will get to that in a moment, and I will ask the minister to answer it.
Part of the reason we have run into a shortage of medical professions in Canada was the reduction some years ago ó in the early 1980s ó of seats in colleges and universities for medical professionals. That was part of the problem. Provinces that have these medical facilities contracted the number of people who were able to get in ó they reduced the funding. As a result, we are now facing a doctor shortage.
I had a medical professional ask me if the Yukon had considered ensuring there was a space available for a Yukoner at one of these medical training facilities, similar to the veterinary colleges. The medical professional asked me well before the information about the current issues around Yukon purchasing a seat, learned of this and they asked if the Yukon government had given consideration to doing the same. I am asking that question on behalf of this individual, who doesnít happen to be one of my constituents, but who asked me this specific question. So I am asking the minister: have we given consideration to working with any of the medical colleges or the universities or medical schools outside of the territory or, for example, Red Deer College. Red Deer is affiliated with U of A; we have had a number of nurses go through there. We have had a number of very distinguished doctors who are graduates of F.H. Collins, and some practice here and some practice outside of the territory. Have we given consideration to purchasing a seat for a Yukoner at a medical college or university outside of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there are a number of different strategies in this area, and some of the new federal money has a human resource component to it. We would move forward on this initiative in conjunction with discussions with YMA as to how best steer this money that is hopefully going to flow to the Yukon under some new federal initiatives that have been announced, but we havenít received the details of them yet.
Ms. Duncan: I encourage this individual to raise that again at the appropriate moment.
Is there any possibility that some of this additional HR money might go to Yukon College to either the home care program or additional nursing training at the College? Is there any possibility of money being used for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as with all federal funding, there is usually one, two or three announcements as to the extent and volume of the money, and it is usually quite a large pot of money. But in most instances, the devil is in the details, and we have yet to determine how and specifically how much and what we could call the strings surrounding this money will be from the federal government. So until we work through those details, it would be premature to announce that weíre going to be moving money into any of these areas. But that said, in the new pot of federal money, there is a human resource component that we can probably direct to a number of initiatives here in the Yukon, but at this juncture I am not able to share with anyone, because the quantities of money and where they have to go in order for one to obtain these monies is not yet determined.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister outline the current situation of the Thomson Centre, when it might be anticipated reopening and for what purposes it will be used, and the current status of that particular structure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Thomson Centre will hopefully be reopened next summer. Weíre not completely ó mental health/medical detox will be one of the components. There has been space made available to a number of NGOs that have needs in close proximity: Hospice and the Red Cross, for their lending program. Weíre still working through the details of these initiatives. Other areas are being determined. It would be premature for me to announce what is on the table for consideration.
Ms. Duncan: Next summer, so, summer of 2005 is when the minister anticipates Thomson Centre will be opening. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre hopefully going to have parts of it open at that point, yes.
Ms. Duncan: When is it anticipated that the Thomson Centre will be fully operational and fully utilized once again?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís still a work-in-progress in many, many areas.
Ms. Duncan: Oh, Mr. Chair ó whatís the current ó it started out at a million dollars in repairs. What is the current total that has been spent on that building since what started out with mould in the roof has since gone well beyond that, and it is becoming familiar as a construction site as opposed to a location for physiotherapy. What is the current bill for the repairs to the Thomson Centre?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well that the problems with the roof were uncovered, because it was under her watch. From the information Iím aware of now, the problems with the roof were clearly identified as going to cost in excess of $1 million to repair. That was under the previous Liberal governmentís watch. There wasnít a clear way of identifying the funding that flowed to this project of restoring the roof on the building, but the roof is only part of it. We have doors that are rotten, windows that are rotten, some mould in the drywall, intrusions of frost into a number of areas, and a building thatís not conducive to good health. Weíve had quite a number of experts in the building looking at various facets of it, but the alarming part of it is, when one tries to track back where the problems began, documentation is not what it should have been or it has gone missing. So there are a number of issues there.
Iím hopeful that we can share more information with the members opposite as we go along, even right down to issues like the sprinkler systems not conforming to the applicable codes. For the sprinkler systems in that building, the design and how sprinklers control an area for flows hasnít really changed for quite a number of years. There havenít been any major code variations but, when the system was installed, it didnít conform to the code ó which really hasnít changed since that time.
So we have a number of issues that weíre fighting through. Weíre going to do our level best to get this building back onstream, but it has to be a building that is a healthy environment. I wouldnít be surprised if, by the time we furnish it again ó because, bear in mind, when Copper Ridge Place was opened under the previous Liberal administration, most of the furniture and fixtures were removed from Thomson Centre and moved up to Copper Ridge to open that facility, so thereís going to be quite a horrendous capital cost for furniture and fixtures after the building is reopened.
So we will probably exceed more than half the original cost to repair the building and get it back on-line. Itís a sad day. If we want to look at how to make a project not work ó the building itself looks great, but thatís about it. Itís not as functional as it should or could have been.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in that dissertation by the minister that blamed every previous government for every ill that ever faced the Yukon Territory, the minister didnít tell us what the current status of the bill is.† How much money has been spent to date on the capital reconstruction of the Thomson Centre? That was my very direct and very specific question. How much is the bill to date on the reconstruction?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The order of magnitude expenditure is about $1.4 million or $1.5 million. Iím not sure of the exact numbers, and there is a further $2 million that has been budgeted for repairs. But just where weíre at in the budget envelope, I am not aware of at this juncture.
Ms. Duncan: So how much of that $2 million that has been budgeted is in the particular supplementary that is before us? The capital expenditures have ó I donít see the Thomson Center specifically identified. Perhaps the minister could point out the line item, or is it not in the supplementary and was in last yearís mains? Itís in last yearís mains? So thereís no additional money in the supplementary, and the $2 million we voted on this spring has not been expended yet? Is that the answer?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, some of the money that was budgeted last year has been expended, Mr. Chair ó obviously. But the member opposite really didnít debate the budget this spring. She spent little time in the House debating the Health budget and now she wants to go back and wonder why itís not in the supplementary. It is because there is no request for additional money in this supplementary for the Thomson Centre. The money in the supplementary for capital is primarily revotes for other areas.
Ms. Duncan: † My colleague from Mayo-Tatchun just pointed out to me that on page 8-5 there is an additional $10,000 identified in capital. It is on page 8-5, Thomson Centre renovation; $2.7 million has been voted to date. I would remind the member opposite, who is most familiar with the rules in this House, that we donít comment on membersí presence or absence during debate.
There is an additional $10,000 that has been identified. So, has all of the $2.7 million been expended then, and we are just looking at $10,000? Is work ongoing?
As I understand from the ministerís remarks, these additional funds are not going to lead to the Thomson Centre opening in the summer of 2005, and that we will be looking for additional money in the spring. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am advised that the $10,000 is a revote for an outstanding work request from a property management agency.
Ms. Duncan: If we voted $2,700,000 to date, and we are requesting an additional $10,000, and the revised vote is $2,710,000, I fail to see how the minister classifies that as a revote. This is additional money. You canít revote additional money. Itís new money that is being added, and the repairs still arenít going to be done. That is what I heard from the minister.
I donít have last yearís budget in front of me, but the minister said we spent something like $1 million, so we will now be up to $3.710 million and the Thomson Centre is still not anticipated to be fully opened by the summer of 2005.
Is that an accurate reflection of our discussions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am advised that the Thomson Centre renovations are a revote; itís an approval of a revote for an outstanding work request with the property management agency. This stems back quite some time. It has been kept in abeyance or just outstanding for one reason or another. I do not know the details of that expenditure. All I know is that we have one heck of a problem with the Thomson Centre, and it has taken a lot of effort on the part of the current government to identify what and how we can go about getting this building back on track and back into the stream.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a few other questions for the minister. The social assistance rates additional funding thatís required, the minister has indicated that there is additional funding. Is this again a volume increase? As I understand it, there has been no increase to rates. The minister might also want to outline and explain his comments made on refugees this summer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There has been an increase in the number of recipients. There has been no increase in the SA rates yet. The only category weíre looking at increasing is for those who are disabled. The overall across-the-board amount that is paid out per client for the record period that we have is $36, but there has been an increase in the number of SA recipients.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister said he is looking at an increase in social assistance rates for the disabled. Is that the only increase that is anticipated, or is there an additional increase being anticipated overall in the social assistance rates? It has been quite some time.
The other issue is the qualifications for social assistance. Has there been any change anticipated in that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, weíve been in extensive consultation with self-governing First Nations over the course of this summer, given that their SA tracks Yukon, and we have committed to raising the rates for those who are disabled, and I believe that is coming forward ó itís somewhere in the system right now, but I donít exactly know when that will be approved.
Ms. Duncan: Is there no increase anticipated for non-disabled recipients of social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In the Yukon, we currently have the highest SA rates for some categories and, in other categories, we are only second to Nunavut and N.W.T.
Ms. Duncan: That still didnít answer the question. Is there no increase anticipated for the non-disabled individuals who are recipients of SA? The minister said we have the second highest or the highest rates. Is there no increase anticipated ó that is the specific question ó for the non-disabled recipients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated clearly, the government is going to be increasing the rates for those who are on social assistance who are handicapped.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any change anticipated in any other of the requirements or regulations surrounding the availability of social assistance? In my discussion some time ago, that was the issue ó the manner in which social assistance was delivered and the regulations that govern it. That was the issue as much as the rates. For example, I believe it was the Yukon Party that changed with respect to the manner and time frame in which a single mother might avail herself or make use of, draw down, social assistance. Itís not a place anyone wants to be, and itís an unfortunate circumstance. Occasionally those regulations are not conducive to individuals being able to receive social assistance.
So is there any ó thereís no change anticipated to the rate. Is there any change anticipated to any of the regulations surrounding the availability of social assistance?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís look at some of the initiatives our government has moved forward on in this area. We have increased the child tax credit. That has been a significant benefit to Yukoners in a number of categories. We have excluded support payments in calculating the rent payment for social assistance housing or those who have rent charged to income. These are initiatives that have been longstanding for previous governments, but previous governments have failed to deal with them effectively. We have moved forward in a number of areas, but with respect to the social assistance rates that are currently available, they are the highest or the second highest in Canada. And we are presently in consultation with a number of groups, specifically First Nation groups, on this area, and we havenít finished all the consultation.
So, other than to tell the House that this government is firmly committed to increasing SA for those who are disabled, the other areas and the other initiatives will be dealt with after the consultation process has been completed.
Ms. Duncan: There is a consultation process in place currently? Who is that consultation process with? The minister made reference earlier in his responses to discussions with First Nations. Is there a consultation process, for example, with the Anti-Poverty Coalition? Who are the current consultations with?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít have the level of details as to the consultation process that is currently underway. I did meet a short time ago with the Anti-Poverty Coalition, and they did forcibly, very effectively, advance the issues that they have to deal with here in the Yukon. This is an NGO that is held in very high regard for their efforts on behalf of those less fortunate here in the Yukon. But I can confirm once again for the member opposite and for this House that our government is committed to increasing the SA rates for those who are handicapped. We have a review process underway, the details of which I am not involved in to the extent that the member opposite would like me to get involved with the details. I canít elaborate on how extensive that consultation process is. I know itís taking some time, and I know it is extensive, but irrespective of the timelines and how effective it is, Iím sure the members opposite will find their way clear to point holes in it somehow.
Ms. Duncan: So weíve clarified then that there is no anticipated increase for the non-disabled recipients of social assistance and that there is some kind of a consultation process in place that may or may not see changes made to regulations that would make the social assistance a better program for those individuals. And it would be some time ó the minister is unaware of any information with respect to discussions around regulations that would make the social assistance program a better program and better able to provide the services to those in need.
I will reserve any other questions for the line-by-line debate. At this point in time, I believe my colleagues wish to enter into general debate.
Chair: As we have reached our normal time for a break, do members wish a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute break.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, in general debate on Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. McRobb: During the leader of the third partyís questioning, I managed to develop a few more questions and, if the minister can show some cooperation in getting through these, we might even be able to clear this department today. So thereís an opportunity there. Iíd like to ask him: would he provide us with an overview of whatís happening at the Sarah Steele Building?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The previously discontinued 28-day residential drug and alcohol program has been reinstated. It was abolished by the NDP government and our government saw a need for the Crossroads type of facility, and that facility was re-established.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister seems to be mired in the past again. I asked for an overview of whatís happening at the facility ó he mentioned a 28-day treatment program. Is that it, Mr. Chair? Is that all thatís happening at that facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Sarah Steele Building is the centre of operation for the drug and alcohol program here in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Now, we know the minister must have done some analysis before moving those programs into the building. Can he tell us what analysis was done and what the objectives of that transfer were?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, what we had to do was renovate the facility and provide some equipment. So, thatís exactly what happened. There was an amount of money to upgrade the mechanical in the Sarah Steele Building and to re-establish the program. Itís the centre for drug and alcohol services.
Mr. McRobb: For the residential treatment, is there 24 hour staff on duty at the facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Mr. McRobb: Is that staff on the same floor as the people being treated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I wouldnít know if they are on the same floor at all times.
Mr. McRobb: Is there evening programming offered at the facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is programming that takes place in the evening.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask about the Bamboo Crescent B&B. Does the minister have the total cost of the contract for that facility, as well as the total cost of putting clients into it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Which facility is the member opposite referring to?
Mr. McRobb: The B&B.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I do not have those details.
Mr. McRobb: All right, weíre not getting too much information. Would the minister undertake to provide us with that information? A simple nod would do, Mr. Chair, and we can move on. Iím just looking for a nod or some acknowledgement from the minister. I see none. Maybe he can get up and respond.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Could the member be specific as to what details heís looking for and for what purpose in this area, and if he could elaborate further on this B&B?
Mr. McRobb: The minister can review Hansard for that. Itís all there. Obviously he wasnít listening hard enough. I did indicate that we need to move on. Weíre not making too much progress if we have to go over and over the same question.
I want to ask him about ambulance service. Can he explain how the hiring of auxiliary ambulance staff is in the public interest?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. This is entirely the purview of the Public Service Commission, which does all the hiring. I do not get involved in the day-to-day operations.
Mr. McRobb: How many auxiliary ambulance personnel are in the territory? Can he indicate the number for that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I do not know.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís his department and he has an official beside him. So whatís all the secrecy about? Can I ask him about the trainer to train ambulance staff? Is he contemplating a trainer for Whitehorse and the communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there has recently been an individual tasked with the rural ambulance attendants training. As I understand it, that individual is continuing his rounds through the Yukon communities and dealing with the various areas.
Mr. Chair, that said, it was this Yukon Party government that put more into the emergency medical services than the combined NDP and Liberal governments that preceded us. We spent in excess of $250,000 on new equipment. We increased the honoraria for the volunteers serving in rural Yukon, a dedicated group of volunteers across the Yukon. In addition to that, weíve put a lot of effort into the training program, and there is an individual who was hired locally and is tasked with the responsibilities of the rural ambulance training coordinator.
I am not sure of his exact title, but itís somewhere along that role, Mr. Chair. The exact title is secondary to his very responsible role of maintaining the high-quality standards across the Yukon in our emergency medical services personnel.
We have also enhanced the clothing and equipment and this bodes well across the Yukon for this group of volunteers. We have also had an opportunity to move some of the older equipment, retrofitting it and using it for other purposes in rural Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Again, the minister couldnít resist going back into history and giving us his version of events. I donít know if that version is accurate but let me say this: I am somewhat sceptical. There is one big reason to be sceptical and that is a point that was made earlier this afternoon. That was how the federal government, back during the period he is referring to, was paring back health care budgets in the territory and how now the federal government has reversed that and is giving us millions of dollars more.
In that context, it really begs the question to the minister: so what? So what? Even if what he said was true that this government is ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to section 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives. He is suggesting that what I said was not true.
Chair: There is no point of order. Again, I will remind all members that in our Assembly we consider that all members are honourable and all members are honestly representing their constituents at all times.
Mr. McRobb: What the minister didnít say was where this rural ambulance trainer was located. Can he identify that for us?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I believe this individual resides in Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister identify for us at what stage the transfer of emergency medical services is?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, I cannot.
Mr. McRobb: Well, why not, Mr. Chair? This is the Minister for Health and Social Services. This affects his department. Can he give us an update about whatís going on regarding the transfer of EMS?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís our governmentís intention, and Iím very sure that weíll realize our intention, to provide the highest consistent level of service to those who require services across the Yukon. As I said earlier, we have enhanced emergency medical services with the addition of over one-quarter of a million dollars in capital funding for new equipment ó two recently acquired four-wheel-drive type I ambulances. For the member opposite, type I ambulances are now the standard in North America, not the small Suburbans that heís constantly referring to.
Further to that, weíve enhanced the funding for the volunteers across the Yukon. The honorariums have been significantly increased across the board, for the first time since the 1970s, Iím given to understand, Mr. Chair. That in itself bodes well for our governmentís recognition of the tremendous efforts and dedication to their respective roles that this group of individuals provides to Yukoners.
Further to that, weíve enhanced the clothing and other costs have been borne for the supply of some medical equipment that stocks the ambulances. The other initiative that weíre very proud of is an annual competition attended by all the rural areas that can see their way clear to attend. This goes on for a weekend and it does show the skill levels and raises the level of skills across the Yukon for those individuals who come to the competition. It points out the areas where weíre highly skilled and how quickly one can respond to the various situations. Weíve very, very proud of this annual get-together in this area. Itís something that we are enthusiastic about.
As to some of the other initiatives, Iíd be happy to get the member a full briefing as to the differences between a type I, type I and type III ambulance so that he can fully understand and comprehend the tremendous differences between these three different types of ambulances.
Mr. McRobb: † Now the minister offers us a briefing on the budget. Well, isnít that a reversal because he refused our request earlier in this sitting when we asked him for briefings on the budget. Now it seems, after weíre well into it, he has changed his mind for some reason. Isnít that something?
The minister failed to answer the question. Instead, he said, ďI want you to look over here and there but not in that area you asked me about.Ē Iím wondering about the transfer of emergency medical services; whatís happening and whether the transfer to the Hospital Corporation has been agreed to in full by the corporation and where the agreement in principle is at for the transfer. Can he respond to those questions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, itís our governmentís intention to provide the highest consistent level of services with our EMS personnel. To that end, our government has spent more than the previous two governments combined in enhancing emergency medical services. We purchased two type I four-wheel-drive ambulances, and the briefing I offered the member opposite was on the differences between a type I, type II and type III ambulance. There is a considerable difference, with the type I now being the ambulance that is most widely used in North America. It is a cube-type vehicle. It can effectively accommodate two stretchers. Thereís room for the medical people to move around inside the ambulance, and itís equipped to a standard that is unbelievable.
I had an opportunity to have a look at one of these new type I ambulances just recently, and it amazed me how well equipped it was. It also has standardized carrying capacity. The stretchers are uniform and consistent across the Yukon, as well as standard types of equipment, i.e. the oxygen system, so that theyíre all standardized throughout the Yukon. These are details that Iíd like to take the credit for, but I canít given this is an initiative within the department as to how to spec out and select the various types of equipment. So it is a very arduous task to understand the intricacies of the various types of vehicles, let alone the vehicles, the equipment types that are contained therein and their function and their use. Iíve been asked to sign off on a number of sole-sourced requests for standard oxygen defibrillator-type units so that theyíre consistent with everything else that Yukon has in place currently.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, those are also details that werenít asked for. I asked the minister about the transfer of EMS to the Hospital Corporation, and so on. He goes in, starts to elaborate on what the inside of an ambulance looks like. What kind of an answer is that? A couple weeks ago I speculated whether it was him behind the wheel of an ambulance. Iím beginning to think that speculation was bang-on, because it seems thatís the utmost thing on his mind, is these white-elephant ambulances he ordered. Now he has given us details about what the inside of them is like. Well, maybe he should wait until we ask that question, if we ever do. Right now, weíre on to a much more serious question. Itís about the transfer of emergency medical services, and the minister is being evasive in his answer. I want to ask him: when will this transfer take place, and will it be a successorship or a sale?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím not aware of those details.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if heís not aware of the details, how can he assure us that the utmost highest standards of emergency medical services will be provided throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Unlike the member opposite, I have the utmost confidence in the department and the officials to provide the level of service that they are being called upon to provide. That is consistent with the roles and the responsibilities, and I am hard-pressed to agree with the member opposite that they may deviate from those high standards.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís a good thing that the staff and management at the Hospital Corporation emergency services are so competent. Itís a darn good thing, because they help to make up for deficiencies in this ministerís answers. He canít even answer about what would be a major event in this department. He refuses to answer. Again, we have discovered thereís a culture of secrecy with this Yukon Party government. Why is it hiding from public scrutiny?
Why is that? Well, Mr. Chair, hopefully we will find out.
Now I want to speak about the ability of the ambulance staff, particularly in Destruction Bay. The minister mentioned a competition, and itís my recollection that the crew from Destruction Bay actually won the competition ó so, kudos to them.
I want to ask the minister about home care. There are extra home care dollars coming to the territory, thanks again to the generosity of the federal government, which has reversed its total approach to health care funding. Instead of taking away $20 million, itís giving us all that money back and more.
How much of this money will be put into home care in the territory and where will it be spent?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is speaking of the new money, we havenít any idea.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isnít that something, Mr. Chair. He has no idea where the home care money will be spent. He has no understanding of the transfer of emergency medical services. He doesnít know why the government hasnít increased public awareness about alcohol and drug services to people. What kind of a minister is this, Mr. Chair?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: He says, ďvery capableĒ. Well, if he is capable, why arenít we getting answers to these questions? Why is he unable to respond to the simplest of questions? Well, something just isnít right.
I want to follow up on home care and ask the minister: what services in home care are available in Yukon communities and how is this service working in conjunction with the First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would think by now that the member opposite would be aware that self-governing First Nations have their own programs in this area, and Iíd encourage him to contact the respective First Nations.
Mr. McRobb: Well, only a partial answer, Mr. Chair. Can the minister indicate what services for home care are available in the communities, and is there any intent to make this a client-pay service?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is referring to a means test or charging for this home care, thatís not an area that our government is even considering, so Iíd encourage the member to take the high road. The issue is one of expanding home care and, as I indicated previously, our government, in this supplementary ó if the member opposite wants to discuss this supplementary ó has identified some $300,000 for expanding home care. The new area that weíll be looking at is the Southern Lakes, and specifically the Tagish area, so thatís the area weíll be enhancing ó a very limited, non-existing program. The needs assessment is being completed. It will be done and in place, subject to the availability of appropriate personnel, this fiscal cycle, which ends March 31 this year.
Mr. McRobb: Isnít that interesting? Weíre starting to get some information from the minister about the previous question, which he refused to answer, that being: what services are available in the communities and how will the extra home care funds be spent? He has now indicated that most of those funds will be poured into the Tagish area.
Well, Mr. Chair ó I know youíre familiar with that area, and so am I ó there are elders and seniors living in the area. No doubt there is a need there.
But Iím wondering how fair this is in the context of the whole Yukon. Can the minister indicate to us why he chose that particular area and how does that area rank in terms of priority for this need?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite would pay attention to the response, heíd avoid a lot of repetitious questions. We are providing home care in virtually all Yukon communities. The home care program in the Tagish area was identified as being seriously lacking and required enhancement, so Tagish, in that area, is the first area weíre going into and doing a needs assessment, and we will be enhancing the home care services provided there. But this expansion of home care applies to all Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with a page that outlines how much home care resources will be allocated for each community in the Yukon so weíd know exactly what it is heís doing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, I canít, given that itís quite fluid, and itís very flexible to meet the ongoing and ever-changing demands and needs of home care.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there you go, trying to pin this minister down on anything is like trying to nail jellyfish to the wall. Itís all of a sudden very flexible; he canít provide any firm numbers. Well, isnít that interesting? I remember not so long ago, when he was on this side of the House, he would find that type of an answer completely unacceptable. Weíll try again at some future point to get that information. I know itís not going to be easy. After all, we know this minister has a number of other things on his mind. I want to ask him about the home care again, because itís my understanding that Yukonís spending on home care is currently the lowest in Canada; in fact, it amounts to less than two percent of the entire health budget.
Home care is a cost-saving service; we know that.† Is the minister aware of any economic analysis on home care versus other alternatives and is it something he can provide in terms of information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The statistical review of the Yukon will give you the number of those in the age category who may require home care. There are some who require various levels of home care and different levels of home care but the preference by virtually all with whom we have spoken is to remain in their own home for as long as possible and, further to that, to be provided with the assistance that they may need.
That is what my initial response to the member opposite was: that the program is designed to be flexible. There is a growing need in a number of Yukon areas. The first one that has been identified by our government as an area where there is a demonstrated need is Tagish. A needs assessment is being undertaken there.
For the member opposite to suggest that we have a handbook that spells out all the guidelines and all that we do in each area and how it compares in a statistical overview ó all we have to have is two people in one community and one moves into another residence with family or maybe into a home, and that skews the statistics by 50 percent. Our numbers are so small that percentages in many, many cases here in the Yukon are meaningless. I would encourage the member opposite to grasp an understanding of that very area. Statistics are statistics; but with the small numbers that we have to extrapolate percentages from, in many, many cases these numbers do not mean what they mean in a major centre.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís a given. Mr. Chair, the question was put in a general context about the economic analysis of home care versus alternative means of care for seniors and elders. The minister once again took the answer to the extreme. Mr. Chair, it is very hard to glean any information of importance from the minister if he is going to continue to play that type of a game. And if he has some reflection or any conscience on this, maybe overnight, weíre totally prepared to accept any material that he would care to forward to us on these matters tomorrow, and certainly we would feel compensated for the lack of information today.
I want to switch gears slightly and ask him if he can provide us with an update on the multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the architectural rendering of these facilities has been developed in consultation, and the department is going to be making a presentation, I believe itís this week in Dawson City, and I believe the following week in Watson Lake to the chief and council, the mayor and council in Watson Lake and to all interested parties in these communities.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Can the minister provide for us the information that will be presented to the public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíve already committed to providing to the leader of the third party the review from which the information was extrapolated. If the member opposite were paying attention, he would have heard that exchange, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: The review is only part of the material that is possibly available, so I will stipulate for the minister: I am asking for all the public materials related to both of these facilities that will be given to the public. Can he provide us with that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am not going to commit to all the information, because there is a considerable amount. The study itself is about an inch and a quarter or an inch and a half thick on its own, let alone all the other information that has been gathered. We have a considerable amount of material but, as I said earlier to the leader of the third party, I committed to provide her with the information on Watson Lake and on Dawson City. That will be done, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Hopefully that will be done in the not-too-distant future.
Can the minister give us an update on what is happening with respect to the seniors facilities in Haines Junction and Teslin?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows ó he was in attendance, I am given to understand, not in a constructive manner in a number of the meetings in Haines Junction. That said ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, clearly that type of language is not consistent with the House rules. If any of us in here are permitted to say, ďwhen the member was in attendance at a public meeting, his or her behaviour was not very constructiveĒ ó if that is permitted, then we need to change the rules.
Furthermore, the minister is wrong. I attended two meetings and the input I gave was very constructive. I heard from the seniors and other people afterward. They all credited me for the input I gave.
Chair: The Chair is prepared to rule on this.
The Chair has no knowledge as to what happened at the meeting or how people behaved, but I would ask that members not characterize other members as acting in an unflattering manner.
We can continue debate, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I didnít say his manner was unflattering; itís just that he didnít add to the debate in a constructive manner.
Chair: The Chair gave the member a considerable amount of latitude, and Iíd ask the members to respect that latitude and not take advantage of it. I would also, once again, ask members not to make unparliamentary or unflattering references about the hon. members in our Assembly.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, with respect to the review that was conducted along the north Alaska Highway, there is a draft report that has come back. I havenít gotten into the details or specifics of the one on the member oppositeís riding or the details or specifics on the Teslin overview. There are a couple of numbers that are contained in the report that we have asked the department to go back and quantify ó to confirm. I understand their timelines are such that it will be done early next year, and Iím hopefully going to be in a position to see a final copy of that report sometime next year.
Mr. McRobb: Oh, yeah, here we go ó simply political delay tactics by this minister and this government, stringing along the people in Teslin and Haines Junction to believe that some action is forthcoming from this government. Here we go. Now the planning ó the feasibility studies are bumped into the next fiscal year. Well, that means there may not be funds in the next fiscal budget to accommodate construction of the facilities. If thatís the case, then weíre looking at an election budget the year after. Anything can happen then.
This government had the opportunity to do something. Now, what itís telling us is that that opportunity wasnít good enough.
The minister is somehow not satisfied with some numbers contained in the study and heís asking the consultants in the department to go back out and re-consult on those numbers. At the same time, heís telling us that he hasnít had much time to look at the study. If heís not thoroughly familiar with the study, why is he choosing to bump these facilities really out of the term of this government? Why doesnít he accept the studies and proceed to the next logical step? The money is available. This government has lots of money at its disposal thanks to a generous federal government. Our transfer payments are being supplemented by millions of dollars. This is happening across the country. Just the other day I saw on the news that the British Columbia government is going to enjoy a huge surplus, apparently between half a billion and a billion dollars, which can be attributed to the generosity of the federal government by increasing the provincial transfer payment. Weíre getting a slice of the pie too. Itís not of the same magnitude, but in per capita terms it is. This government has the opportunity, the need is there, and the minister is ignoring the need.
I recall previous discussions on this matter in this House, and the minister was in denial. He would only refer to the general Yukon population statistics and cast doubt whether a seniors facility was really warranted for the north Alaska Highway. That was despite testimonies from several people, including me, informing the minister about the senior-type of demographic in that region. The numbers in that region are skewed much higher than in other regions when it comes to the proportion of seniors and elders in our society and the size of that group.
Now, what I presume is that the draft study that is on the ministerís desk reflects that unique part of the Kluane region, and it justifies the need for a facility. But the minister chooses to ignore it; he wants to delay the facility. He really doesnít want to build one there at all. Heíd rather, maybe, spend the money putting some chrome on the bridge on Dawson City, for instance.
The minister has some explaining to do. What in the study does he feel legitimately delays this project? Can he tell us what the numbers are? Heís sending them back out to reaffirm.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That will become rather self-evident to the member opposite when I send over a copy of the report. The issue before us is that there was a community initiative from individuals in the member oppositeís riding, as there was from Teslin, to get us as a government to examine the feasibility of a multi-level health care facility, a seniors facility, in the two respective communities. Our government undertook to do that, and our government budgeted the appropriate monies for this, which the member opposite voted against. He voted against money for this initiative; voted against money for the initiative of building or looking at the feasibility of a multi-level health care facility in these two communities ó specifically a seniors complex. Iím sure if we have to budget further funds to examine the next phase that the member opposite will once again vote against this initiative.
Our government is cognizant of our responsibilities to all Yukoners, and if there is a demonstrated need, we will meet that demonstrated need.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I voted against this governmentís budget, because it wasnít doing enough in terms of developing seniors facilities that are obviously needed in some Yukon regions. And it wasnít enough to see the pittance set aside for a feasibility study when there is basically a petition in place with more than 100 signatures on it from seniors and elders in that region requesting such a facility. So the minister took the whole thing a large step backward. Thatís what was unsatisfactory about his budget, never mind the other parts of it, like the millions of dollars for the Dawson bridge and so on. Itís no wonder we voted against the budget. But so what? Mr. Chair, that was half a year ago. Weíre on to the supplementary now. When will the minister be providing us with the report that is on his desk?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: When I have a final copy, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: When will that be?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Hopefully, it will be sometime next year.
Mr. McRobb: Sometime next year. Well, isnít that sweet, Mr. Chair, really sweet for the minister. That provides all the flexibility in the world. Yes, sir, to have a report that everybody was waiting for titled ďDraftĒ, Mr. Chair, enables the minister to hide the report from the public. And now heís sending the troops out to go and revisit the numbers. Well, isnít that sweet too, because who knows how long thatís going to take ó months. It might even take a year. How disgusting.
You know, if the minister had any conscience to be accountable, he would stand up and give reasons for delaying these projects for as long as heís going to ó he would try to justify his actions. Do we see that happening? Not a chance, Mr. Chair. Not a chance.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The last rambling phrase by the Member for Kluane just accused the Minister of Health and Social Services of not having a conscience. I believe thatís clearly in contravention of Standing Order 19(i). It is insulting language in a context likely to create disorder.
Chair: The Chairís recollection of the statement is different from the memberís, but Iíll review the Blues. Again, Iíll remind all members to treat each other as honourable in our Assembly and to refrain from using insulting or inflammatory language.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I hope to talk to you after you review the Blues.
Well, it doesnít appear that there is much more ground that can be covered in this area because the minister isnít very forthcoming with information. It seems the minister has no compunction about not being straightforward and forthcoming with information. It seems we have to challenge the minister to attempt to get information that should normally flow. Itís my recollection that, in the past, when a minister delays projects that are important to regions of the territory and affect hundreds of people, itís the responsibility of the minister to stand up and do some explaining.
Well, we see something that is about 180 degrees away from that type of approach, Mr. Chair, and it speaks loudly for the whole approach taken by this government. It is an approach that really promotes the culture of secrecy. There is no compunction to be accountable over there at all. Otherwise, why would we have such a hard time trying to get very simple information?
I was at two meetings with the departmental person and the consultant contracted to do the draft report that is now sitting on the ministerís desk. We were told that this information would be coming to the minister by December at the latest, and it would be made public. Now the minister has changed all that, saying it will be sometime next year. Thatís it; thatís all he is telling us.
Well, thatís rather unacceptable. I know that people back home will be rather disappointed to find out this information. Maybe they will have something to say to the minister himself. Maybe he will think twice then, Mr. Chair, because, again, we are standing in here and we are asking on behalf of the people. The minister is giving responses on behalf of the government. He shouldnít ignore what we are saying, because our requests are grounded within the public. I bring these requests and questions to him after considerable dealings with the people in the communities on this issue. Yet he thinks itís funny, he sloughs it off and treats it like itís not important.
Well, Mr. Chair, it is important to a lot of people out there. Iíll tell you that. Itís darned important. As a matter of fact, it was a top priority of people in that region. I communicated that to the Premier within two days of his election and several times since. So, where has it gotten us? Well, letís see: after more than two years, we have a draft feasibility study that isnít good enough any more for this minister. So he is going to send the crew back out to consult.
Well, Mr. Chair, where are we going to be a year from now? Will we finally have some numbers? Then what? This minister is very difficult to deal with in terms of trying to get some information, in trying to get him to understand the importance of some of these issues to people outside of his own riding. Iím sure people in Teslin have something to say too. We donít hear from the Teslin MLA about it though. Maybe heís not concerned, but Iíll tell you that Iím concerned.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: He asks, ďWhat can you do?Ē I know it must be tough for him. I know it must be tough, but surely the Member for Klondike can have some compassion for other members in this House, especially his own colleague.
Now I want to ask the minister another question or two based on my notes. I think a good area would be to close off this discussion about seniors and elders facilities with some questions on Copper Ridge Place. Now weíve had a discussion previously about Copper Ridge and Iíve had the opportunity to review those pages of Hansard and I would like to ask the minister if he can provide us an update on whatís happening at that facility, especially in terms of numbers of nursing staff and the ratio of staff to patients. Can he give us an overview on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well that we are bound by guidelines that determine the level of staffing that we are required to have in the various facilities to care for those who are ill or infirm.
That ratio is consistent across Canada. That said, it was our government that budgeted the additional funding to open seven more beds at Macaulay and staff them accordingly, and also to open up another wing, or a pod, at Copper Ridge Place ó another 12 beds in that facility. This bodes well for our governmentís commitment to Yukoners who are in need of extended care. As the member opposite knows also, Macaulay is a level I and II, which requires somewhat different staffing criteria from Copper Ridge Place that requires some individuals who are much more qualified for level III, IV, and V care.
We did spend an inordinate amount of time recruiting the health care providers for these facilities. They werenít readily available at first. We did our level best. Both these facilities now have the beds open, and weíll probably be looking at opening up more beds at Macaulay in short order.
This clearly identifies with our governmentís initiatives to meet the demands where the demands are, and we have gone the extra yard; actually, itís longer than a yard, itís the extra miles. You could even say itís a Norwegian mile, which is longer than most.
With respect to the facilities in the other communities, McDonald Lodge in Dawson City has been full at some points. Currently it is less than full and that facility is staffed and operating as it was intended.
As I pointed out to the member opposite this week, officials from the department will be in attendance in Dawson City with the architectural rendering and proposed layout for a multi-level care facility. Also, the following week, they will be in attendance in Watson Lake, showing how the facilities will work together and demonstrating to that community our commitment to provide a multi-level care facility that will serve the needs of all the residents in that community who require our assistance.
Mr. Chair, our government committed to examining the practicalities of a facility in the member oppositeís riding, the Member for Kluane and the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin. So we have spent some time with the same individual who did the study on Watson Lake and did the study on Dawson City. The same firm was hired to return to the Yukon and conduct the undertaking that was needed to substantiate the next step. We are firmly committed to meeting the demonstrated need where the demonstrated need exists. So I would be sharing with the members opposite the study on Watson Lake and the study on Dawson City and also, when the study on the other two communities comes out in its final form ó itís still contained in a draft ó that will be also forwarded to the official opposition and the third party.
We really have nothing to hide. Weíve done a lot of very good work. We have done a lot of good work on these initiatives across the Yukon. When I look at all the very positive initiatives that our government has brought forward ó well, letís look at them.
Letís look at restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon. Letís look at rebuilding the Yukon economy. Letís look at the restored interest in the resource extraction industry in the Yukon. Letís look at the visitor industry. Letís look at bringing the train back to Carcross. The official opposition just says no. Letís look at sending a Yukoner to veterinary school. The official opposition just says no. Letís look at building a new school in Carmacks. The official opposition just says no. Letís look at developing more gas in southeast Yukon. The official opposition just says no. Letís look at developing residential lots for Yukoners. The official opposition says no. There is a demonstrated need for four-wheel-drive ambulances. The official opposition just says no. Letís look at building a bridge ó a Yukon bridge at Dawson City. The official opposition just says no. It just goes on and on and on, the litany of ďjust donít do it.Ē
This whole approach is what got us to where we are today, where we had an exodus of Yukoners.
We had an exodus of Yukoners because they couldnít find work here in the Yukon. They had to go to our neighbouring jurisdictions to find work and thatís the reality of what has transpired. Today, you know, if you want to look at the analogy Iíve used before in this House, the NDP put the Yukon economy in the toilet, the Yukon Liberal Party came along and they flushed it ó
Chair: Order please. The member is well aware of the discussion that we have had on that reference in the past and I would ask the member to refrain from using that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I was just carried away with the expressions of the moment.
Weíve gone on at great length with respect to the initiatives that our government has undertaken and the areas that weíre currently examining and theyíre all very positive initiatives for Yukoners ó very positive. Yukoners for once have optimism again.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel and the Member for Kluane says yes, it is a train. And it will be coming back to Whitehorse.
There are a lot of very positive initiatives in the Yukon and, seeing the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
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. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, and has instructed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:52 p.m.
The following document was filed November 29, 2004:
Dawson City bridge, letters re: Yukon governmentís plan to build a bridge across the Yukon River† (Hardy)