Thursday, December 2, 2004 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the International Day of Disabled Persons
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House on behalf of the Government of Yukon to honour and acknowledge tomorrow, December 3, as the International Day of Disabled Persons.
Adopted in 1982 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, this day is meant to serve as a focus for reflection, for understanding and for the support by all countries for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
Celebration of this day, including participation in its events and activities, is also intended to offer insight into the value to be gained by all of us through the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the mainstream of our global community.
The International Day of Disabled Persons reminds us that inclusion in this context means much more than just mere participation. It also means that this participation, whether political, economic, cultural or social, is welcomed and supported by all others in our communities.
The theme of the International Day of Disabled Persons for the year 2004 is encapsulated by the phrase, “Nothing about us without us”. This theme represents the commitment by persons with disabilities to have an active voice in the development of strategies and policies that will affect their lives. In Canada, this voice is over 3.5 million strong. Around the world, this voice is made up of half a billion individuals with disabilities.
The fact that persons with disabilities see a need to invoke this phrase, “Nothing about us without us”, reminds us once again that they have the ability and right to be included in the planning of their own collective destiny. It tells me that we also have a long way to go to meet this goal of inclusion and our own government certainly is working and intending to continue to reach this goal.
I know that I speak for members of this House in offering my welcome and my support to all members of the disability community in the Yukon. Finally, I would also like to invite all members of this House to join me at our local celebration of the International Day of Disabled Persons at the disability expo to be held tomorrow in the foyer of the Elijah Smith Building.
I would also at this time like to also introduce Mr. Colum Mc Cready, executive director of the Yukon Council on Disability, as well as Mr. Jon Breen, disability employment consultant with our workplace diversity employment office, which is also housed in the Public Service Commission. They have also been able to join us here this afternoon.
Mr. McRobb: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Disability Awareness Week in the Yukon. The United Nations has proclaimed Friday, December 3, as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The objective of this recognition is to promote understanding about disability issues and to increase awareness of the positive effects of integrating disabled persons into all aspects of life.
Accessibility and inclusion are two important themes emphasized by disability organizations. Canada has a very good record in accommodating physically disabled persons in our business and social lives. There is a strong moral and political commitment to equalize the opportunities for persons with disabilities. Research, prevention, rehabilitation and community action have all helped to promote the integration of the physically disabled.
Our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was one of the first documents to guarantee the rights of people with disabilities. There’s still room for improvement. Levels of unemployment and poverty for persons with disabilities have increased in the last decade. We need to reverse that trend by increasing employment and income security.
In the last decade, only 41 percent of working-age adults with disabilities had jobs; 55 percent of them live below the cut-off for low-income earners. Persons with intellectual and learning disabilities have many more barriers to overcome. The Canadian Association of Community Living is calling for a true commitment for funding beyond 2005 for the community inclusion initiative.
Twenty thousand Canadians with intellectual disabilities still remain in institutions. Community supports and infrastructure are needed to bring them home to the community. This is especially true of the right to have paid caretakers providing care in the homes of the disabled.
Mr. Speaker, home care has been earmarked as a federal priority, and extra funding has been provided to the territory to serve that purpose. We in this House need to ensure those benefits serve the needs of all disabled persons.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Disabilities Week and in particular disability awareness day.
The International Day of Disabled Persons aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. In Yukon we have the Yukon Council on Disability, which is a non-profit society with a volunteer board that has cross-disability representation. YCD is a resource organization for Yukoners with disabilities on issues of equality, community awareness, government policy and employment.
Yukon is fortunate to have a great number of resources. YCD is one of them. My colleague from Kluane has noted that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees equal benefit and protection of the law and prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental disability. As full citizens of Canada, persons with disabilities have rights and we must work together to ensure these rights and that the barriers of discrimination are removed.
I join my colleagues in urging all Yukoners to take time to visit the third annual Yukon Disability Awareness Expo at the Elijah Smith Building tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. I’d like to thank the individuals involved in organizing the third annual Disability Awareness Expo, offer them my congratulations and join with my colleagues in paying tribute to the International Day of Disabled Persons.
Speaker: Are there further tributes?
In recognition of International Volunteer Day
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to celebrate International Volunteer Day — a day that recognizes the achievements of individuals who give their time for the causes that benefit local communities.
I would like to acknowledge the efforts and services of volunteers at international, national and local levels. Mr. Speaker, most of all I would like to pay tribute to all Yukon volunteers. They continue to play an essential role in our respective communities. In the Yukon alone, there are more than 600 organizations that rely on their efforts. This past year a study was conducted by the Yukon Volunteer Bureau on 67 organizations in the territory that rely on volunteer labour.
Mr. Speaker, it’s worth taking note of the following numbers: more than 3,600 volunteers provided over 100,000 volunteer hours for Yukon organizations that rely upon volunteer service. At the Association of School Councils, 100 volunteers offered over 10,000 hours of their time this past year. At the Canadian Cancer Society, 235 volunteers gave over 5,000 hours of service. At the Filipino Association, 100 volunteers gave over 1,700 hours of time. Without the devotion and dedication of volunteers, programs and services would suffer, and some organizations would simply be unable to exist at all. Vital services are performed by volunteers in sport, recreation, firefighting, health, social services, arts, culture, the environment and many, many more.
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to direct our attention to the achievements of the Yukon Volunteer Bureau. They have been providing leadership in building capacity and supporting volunteers in the non-profit sector. The bureau continues to provide a referral service for potential volunteers to organizations that are in need of their services. This year their staff members have issued a challenge to Yukon schools. Students and teachers are being asked to build community however they can. Whether they decide to plant the Peace Garden or collect food for those in need, this is an excellent initiative for Yukon youth to help build healthier communities. Furthermore, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau has also launched a new program for board leadership development training.
Volunteer trainers who have experience working with NGOs or boards are delivering courses to bolster the capacities of their newer colleagues. This kind of mentorship speaks to the true volunteer spirit. Finally, the bureau’s “Volunteers grow community” campaign has not gone unnoticed. This initiative assisted non-profit organizations to recognize and appreciate the work volunteers provide. The Yukon government is very pleased to have provided support to the Yukon Volunteer Bureau.
Mr. Speaker, I would now like to bring the federal program, called the Canadian volunteerism initiative, into focus. This federally-funded program promotes the participation of volunteers in Canadian society as a whole. The Canadian volunteerism initiative has networks in every province and territory. Here in the Yukon, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau is working alongside the Canadian volunteerism initiative. Together these two initiatives are enhancing volunteer experience and they are providing an excellent service.
Volunteer experience is rewarding for everyone. It obviously strengthens all communities. Volunteers play an integral role in Yukon communities. They continue to have a positive impact upon the lives of all Yukoners. In this decade of sports and culture, the effort of volunteers will contribute in a significant way to the success of many sporting and cultural events in the Yukon, including the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games.
I ask all members to join me in sincerely thanking, first and foremost, all Yukon volunteers for their contribution to our territory. In addition, I would like to recognize all organizations like the Yukon Volunteer Bureau and initiatives like the Canadian volunteerism initiative. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau board members and staff, including Tracy Erman, the executive director, are with us in the gallery today, and I ask the House to join me in welcoming them to this Assembly. Thank you very much.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to proudly pay tribute to volunteers across the world and in the Yukon in recognition of International Volunteer Day, December 5.
Let’s just think for a minute about where we would be without volunteers. Where would we be without volunteer coaches for sports and recreation activities? They devote time and energy that contributes to the improved physical and mental health of Yukon citizens of all ages. Our population is ageing, so on that end where would we be if we didn’t have volunteer organizations that supported seniors to live fulfilled lives, and Hospice to help us leave this world with dignity? Our old age would be very depressing without those volunteers.
We have problems with drugs and alcohol in our society. They’re threatening the very basic values of our society. What if we didn’t have volunteers working with women and children who come from abusive relationships and homes, volunteers counselling and supporting addicted people and their families, volunteers giving children and adults a warm place to be? The problems with addictions would be impossible to combat without those volunteers.
If we didn’t have volunteers organizing and producing visual and performing arts in our lives, they’d be much less satisfying. If we didn’t have volunteers working to fundraise for research and patient support for several serious diseases that affect all Yukoners and all people around the world, we’d be incredibly bad off. The list could go on and on. We could list many. I don’t think there’s an aspect of our lives or any of the things that go on in our community, or the services that government provides, that there isn’t some volunteer organization or group providing services, and we owe it to them to recognize that.
Mr. Speaker, volunteers give freely of their time, energy and expertise, with no expectation of reward. The Yukon Volunteer Bureau’s theme this year is “Volunteers grow community”. We can look anywhere in our lives, anywhere in every community, and we can see a volunteer in the background, keeping our community healthy, safe, compassionate and creative.
In the interest of all our futures, the Yukon Volunteer Bureau is celebrating International Volunteer Day by challenging youngsters in schools across the Yukon to take an active part in becoming volunteers. Volunteer Canada has launched a campaign over the past month by collecting stories about volunteers and making them known to the media in recognition of their contribution to our lives.
We challenge everyone to take a moment today to thank a volunteer who has made your life better. Mr. Speaker, I don’t think any of us would have to look far to find one.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to International Volunteer Day. “Volunteer” — it’s a simple word with tremendous action, and it has enormous impact on all aspects of our lives and of our Yukon society and international society.
The commitment of a volunteer, giving their time, energy, talent and experience for the benefit of others, benefits us all — especially our Yukon community. Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts and pay tribute to them in the Legislature today.
In remembrance of John Anton
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to John Anton, who passed away on November 2, 2004. John came to the Yukon after completing his law degree at UBC. He was called to the bar in May of 1967 and articled at the firm of Nielsen Hudson, eventually becoming a partner in that firm.
As Erik Nielsen’s federal political commitments took him away from the firm and Buzz Hudson moved to British Columbia, John became the senior partner under what is today under a new name, Yukon’s longest running law firm.
A barrister and solicitor, he soon gained a reputation as one of the brightest and shrewdest defence court lawyers in the Yukon. He greatly enjoyed the courtroom forays, and he often took great pride in winning a debate.
In 1980, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a distinction awarded to lawyers for distinguished service to the law. He was also chancellor to the Anglican Diocese of Yukon and was a member of the Yukon’s first Human Rights Commission. He was highly respected by his peers and staff at the Human Rights Commission and was described to me as being absolutely perfect — unbiased and fair. He really seemed to enjoy the work of the commission.
John also was an enthusiastic badminton player. He became the Yukon champ and represented the Yukon in the Arctic Winter Games. Always a gentleman, he treated all Yukon people with the utmost respect and dignity. He conducted many legal aid cases, probably before there was much compensation available for this type of work. He could be deemed a peer to anyone; whether they were a miner from the creeks or a magistrate in the courts, he was always able to communicate and relate to them.
John truly loved the law and was dedicated to its practice. As such, he became the principal for a number of articling lawyers in Whitehorse. The Yukon has always attracted youth, and the law profession was no exception. He became a mentor to many young lawyers in the community, freely offering his candid advice and expertise. John Anton became one of a handful of lawyers who have practised consistently in the Yukon for over 30 years. Without his presence here, young Yukon lawyers would surely have been without a great resource.
It is indeed with sadness that we offer our condolences to his family as we say farewell to a man who has given so much to the Yukon and the practice of law in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, joining us in the visitor gallery today are John’s brother, Doug Anton, his son Dan Anton, and his partner Jessica, his son Andrew Anton, and his wife Kazia and his nephew Chris Anton. Please join me in making them welcome.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of all members of the gallery, I would like to introduce and ask my colleagues to make welcome the grade 11 classes of Mr. Mike Toews and Mr. Wes Sullivan, who have joined us in the gallery today to witness our proceeding. I’d ask all members to help me make them welcome.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Please join me in making welcome Chief Eddie Skookum from Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation joining us today in the visitors gallery, and former Chief Robert Hager from Na Cho Nyäk Dun. He is currently a counsellor with the First Nation in Mayo, and Percy Henry, a former Chief of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and elder with Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in today. Please join me in making them all welcome.
Mr. Fairclough: We have in the gallery today members of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. I’d introduce them, but again, like the first day of this sitting, there are too many to introduce. It seems like it’s standing room only today and it’s good to see people coming out. I’d ask all members of this House to join me in welcoming them here today.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I would also ask all members of this House to join me in extending a warm welcome to visitors in the gallery today who are new government employees participating in an orientation to the Yukon government. Having learned about the operations of the Legislative Assembly earlier, they are here to briefly also witness the work of us, the elected representatives.
Mr. McRobb: I invite members to join me in welcoming to this Assembly three special constituents from Burwash Landing. They are Mary Easterson, her daughter and granddaughter Justina Michel and Chishana Rivers Michel.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would also like to welcome to the House a former resident of the Yukon, Mr. Bill Whyard.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Cardiff: I have for tabling a written question for the Member for Southern Lakes in his capacity as the chair of the Workers’ Compensation Act Review Committee.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 6
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition and present the following petition to the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, which is signed by approximately 50 residents, mainly from the community of Burwash Landing.
I will read the 11 clauses that form part of this petition.
“This petition of the undersigned shows:
THAT residents of Burwash Landing have requested a school in their community since 1917 when the first petition on this subject was submitted;
AND THAT, now, 87 years later, there is still no school in our community;
AND THAT, a memorandum of understanding, signed by the Kluane Tribal Brotherhood and the Department of Education of the Government of Yukon in 1988, committed the Government of Yukon to consult with and cooperate with the Kluane Tribal Brotherhood to improve educational and cultural opportunities provided to its children;
AND THAT, YTG has failed to live up to the spirit of this 1988 memorandum of understanding and continues to delay establishing a school in Burwash Landing;
AND THAT, the present Minister of Education, John Edzerza, on October 16, 2003, at a meeting with Kluane First Nation representatives in Burwash Landing, promised “to go to bat for the school”;
AND THAT, not one step forward has been taken since that time on this important issue;
AND THAT, the regional school’s location 10 miles away from Burwash Landing means that Burwash residents have no sense of ownership of the school;
AND THAT, the majority of students attending the Kluane Lake School in the past 20 years have been from Burwash Landing and that six of the seven students presently enrolled at the school are KFN members;
AND THAT, the risk associated with busing students, who are the future of KFN, twice daily to the school in all weather conditions is unacceptably high and must be stopped before a serious accident occurs;
AND THAT, a community school is much more than a place for kids to learn. It is a vital community resource that becomes the focus for a myriad of other community activities;
AND THAT, as a new self-government, the Kluane First Nation requires a more active role in the education of its children and that this can only be achieved with a school within the community of Burwash Landing;
THEREFORE, the undersigned ask the Yukon Legislative Assembly to urge the Government of Yukon to immediately implement a process to plan and establish a school in Burwash Landing.
Speaker: Are there any further petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to introduce amendments to the Financial Administration Act that would
(1) prohibit any member of the Executive Council who is significantly in arrears on repayment of any outstanding debt to the Government of Yukon from serving as a member of Management Board;
(2) prohibit the Government of Yukon from writing off as uncollectable any debt owed by a member of the Executive Council; and
(3) allow the Department Finance to institute effective collection procedures with respect to such debts, including retaining money by way of a set-off from any money due or payable to the minister.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to honour its election commitment to seek all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum for the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly with the understanding that such a code of conduct should include provisions requiring government members to give important legislation proposed by private members the same respect expected for government bills, by engaging in constructive, meaningful and informed debate, and by voting in the best interests of all Yukon people.
Speaker: Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Deputy Premier, who is also the government House leader. Is it the position of the government that Cabinet ministers should be exempt from ethical requirements of any kind?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I think what the member opposite is getting at is reference to his bill. The member opposite had presented a bill for discussion and debate yesterday, and I just wanted to give a little bit of context for all members of the House that — might I remind the member opposite that our side of the House did not vote against the member opposite’s private member’s bill. Rather, the opposition themselves voted against their own bill.
We on this side of the House made the offer to strike a select committee of all parties to review the bill that was before the Legislature yesterday. We made this offer to sit down with one another, to look at what other jurisdictions are doing in this regard, and to review the legal implications of the bill to see whether the bill is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as to consult with Yukon citizens. So we certainly have brought forth the offer to work with the members opposite.
Again, we did not vote against the bill. Rather, we simply made a suggestion for improvement. Again, I would remind members opposite that it was they themselves who voted against their own bill.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I hate to correct the member on the floor, as she gives information that is definitely not what happened yesterday. We voted against an amended bill that gutted exactly what we brought forward, and she knows full well — and she can put any spin she wants on it, but it doesn’t work. Also, she did not answer the question, a very simple question.
Now, yesterday afternoon we witnessed a shameful spectacle during debate on a private member’s bill to amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. We saw a government member introduce a ludicrous interpretation of the bill that bore no resemblance whatsoever to what it actually said, and she knows this. In its essence, he accused members of this side of the House of being insensitive to the suffering of those who fought and died to defend democracy.
This was an insult and totally uncalled for, and it’s a direct attack upon my father and many other people who have died.
Is it the position of this government that it is undemocratic to expect ministers of the Crown to honour their debts to taxpayers? That’s the question.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We spoke to the bill yesterday that was before the Legislature, to which particular members of the opposition and our side of the House responded accordingly. As I stated earlier, we on this side of the House did not vote against the bill. Rather we put forward an amendment to strike a select committee of all-party representation to sit down with members opposite to take a look at the legality of the bill.
I’d just like to point out, as the Member for Southern Lakes pointed out in yesterday’s debate, there are a number of questions that need to be answered. Furthermore, there are a number of fundamental issues that need to be addressed before we on this side of the House are prepared to proceed with the proposed amendments that the member opposite brought forward yesterday. Members opposite also had every opportunity to bring forward a further amendment — or amendments — that would be mutually agreeable to all parties. They unfortunately did not do so. Rather they just chose to outright flatly reject the bill.
Mr. Hardy: Did this member speak to either bill that was brought forward yesterday? Absolutely not. Did they speak to the democratic reform bill — any of them? Absolutely not. Let’s listen very closely to what is being said here. They’re trying to rewrite history. Now this bill to amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act would have prevented the very situation that has upset Yukoners so much from ever occurring again. It would have meant that no Cabinet minister — Yukon Party, Liberal or New Democrat, or whatever — could get away with fleecing the taxpayers. A choice would have to be made: pay your debts or give up the right to sit in Cabinet.
Yukon people have spoken up very clearly about this. They want this government to settle this loans issue once and for all. The members opposite had a chance to do that yesterday, and they blew it. They turned their back on their own constituents, and they will be judged accordingly, I can guarantee that. Will the Acting Deputy Premier, or whatever this minister is acting as, reconsider the irresponsible position government members took yesterday afternoon and introduce amendments to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and the Financial Administration Act to end this disgraceful situation and prevent it from every happening again?
Speaker: Before the acting minister answers the question — although I’m not going to rule members out of order because I understand that this is a very passionate debate — terms like “rewriting history” — the implication of course is that all members aren’t telling the truth and that, of course, is out of order. I’d ask the members just to focus a little bit closer on the debate.
Acting minister, you have the floor.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, the private member’s bill that the leader of the official opposition brought forward for debate for all members of the Legislature to discuss yesterday was on the table yesterday, on which we had representation made by our side of the House and representation was made by their side of the House.
We did not vote against the bill; we did not reject the bill outright; rather we presented an amendment that basically referred this whole matter to a select committee that was comprised of all-party representation. We had some concerns regarding the legality of the bill; we had some concerns regarding whether or not the bill would withstand a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; we had some concerns that not one Yukoner had been consulted regarding this matter. We had a number of fundamental issues and we made the offer — not the leader of the official opposition or members opposite — we made the offer to sit down and strike a select committee to get down to the basics of this bill to look at the Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. The offer is still on the table; unfortunately the members opposite have chosen outright to reject their own bill.
Question re: Democratic Reform Act
Mr. Hardy: This is definitely going to be a new question; though I doubt if we’re going to get any answers because there have been no answers so far today.
I’m going to direct my question, once again, to the Deputy Premier, who is also the government House leader, and who that amendment was directed to: giving the fox the keys to the henhouse it what is was all about.
Why did he and his colleagues vote against the Yukon Party election platform yesterday afternoon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Without providing any context with respect to which of our platform commitments — I believe there were over 100 of them, of which we have met a majority of them, so far, in two years of being in office — I cannot simply answer the member opposite’s question.
Mr. Hardy: Well, obviously, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wasn’t paying attention to the debate yesterday, just as she wasn’t engaged in any of the discussions. On page 15 of the Yukon Party platform document, we see this commitment, and I quote, “Upon formation of government, strike an independent commission of citizens to hold public consultations on electoral reform in the Yukon.” The private member Bill No. 107, called the Democratic Reform Act, would have done exactly that. It would have set up an independent commission of citizens to hold public consultation on electoral reform. Government members not only voted against this plank in their election platform, they didn’t even have the intestinal fortitude to debate it. They did not debate it yesterday.
Has the government abandoned its promise to consult Yukoners on electoral reform, or does the Deputy Premier want Yukoners to believe that spending $120,000 to send a political pal to B.C. to rub shoulders with the so-called rock stars of political science fulfills the Yukon Party’s election commitment?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we have in our party’s platform, on which we were an elected an issue that we were going to examine electoral reform, and that is currently underway. Now, rather than lead the process, we are examining the process in other jurisdictions. B.C. has just spent $6 million examining such a process and such potential changes, and we have sent an individual from the Yukon who is knowledgeable and well versed in how the political system here works, and he has gone down and spent time with the B.C. people and examined that, and his preliminary report was presented to the House here.
The member opposite is taking exception that we have spent money on this initiative. Well, we are going to be spending more money on this initiative, because we’re just in the initial stages of it, and we have four years in this mandate, in our first mandate, and our second mandate will have five. But that said, we still have the issue of examining correctly and thoroughly the issue of electoral reform, and that we will do.
Mr. Hardy: Interesting. The quote I read earlier said, “Upon formation of government they would set up a commission.” Two years have gone by. Hasn’t it dawned on them that they have formed government? Maybe it hasn’t. A great deal of thought and effort went into this piece of legislation we brought forward. It was non-partisan. It was responsible, and it showed respect to Yukon people. It would have strengthened democracy and helped restore confidence in the political process. When it first came up for discussion, the Member for Lake Laberge — who I see is making comments back there and who is never at a loss of words no matter how inane — presented a lame critique that proved he hadn’t even read the bill.
Speaker: Now the leader of the official opposition knows full well that the characterization “inane” is out of order and I’d ask the member not to use it. You have the floor.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I won’t use it any more.
Maybe that’s why nobody else spoke yesterday, because they didn’t speak — contrary to what that member said. Maybe they probably hadn’t even read it. They hadn’t even taken the time to do that. Or maybe it’s because they can’t stand good ideas coming from this side of the House, and that’s becoming very obvious. Their behaviour was disrespectful and irresponsible.
Why won’t this government let Yukon people have a say in how they elect their MLAs and how MLAs perform their duties on behalf of the public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is but one of a series of initiatives we have ongoing in this area. We’re partway through the process. Our government is examining what we do and what is transpiring in other jurisdictions. Initially it was New Zealand. Now B.C. has a process underway. And in the spirit of cooperation, many things have taken place. We did examine the bill that was presented by the official opposition. There are some serious flaws in that bill, and those serious flaws have to be duly recognized and dealt with. That’s why we are underway with our own process in-house, which will engage Yukoners. Just look at the spirit of cooperation that we have provided. How many motions have been passed unanimously? There have been more motions passed unanimously by all parties in this Legislature during this government’s watch than ever before.
Question re: Fire suppression, sole-source contract
Ms. Duncan: It has been two years and the Yukon Party is becoming very well known for their selectivity: selecting the Premier’s top political staff for raises; selecting key Yukon Party members for key positions without all-party consultation. It has become very obvious in this session in particular that they are selective about what information they provide to the opposition.
On Tuesday during debate the Minister of Community Services did share that the Liard First Nation in the Premier’s riding of Watson Lake has been selected for a $100,000 sole-source contract for fire suppression. There was no competition for this contract, and no other First Nation received the same treatment. Why did the minister enter into this contract with this selected First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned to the member opposite, we provided a contract to the local First Nation to provide training and assistance and in order to get a crew ready to fight fire in that particular region in which, as I mentioned also earlier, we had a very difficult fire season.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that contract was signed on May 17, and contract rules say that any contract above $50,000 has to be tendered. In other words, the public is allowed to bid on it, but fundamentally this is an issue of fairness. The Government of Yukon has arrangements with First Nations who have reached their final agreements. There are several who have not — Liard First Nation and Ross River are two. A fire suppression, sole-source contract was selected for the Kaska First Nation only. White River was not selected. They are a non-signed First Nation, and they were not selected for a sole-source contract. Why was White River not selected for a sole-source $100,000 contract, like Liard and Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were dealing with a very difficult situation in the Watson Lake area. The fire was burning all summer long, and we had to get people prepared to go in there. We were addressing a need and a situation in that particular area.
Ms. Duncan: For the information of the minister opposite, Dawson also suffered under this season’s severe fire situation. The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in are a signed First Nation in Dawson City. They have an agreement with the government. For the minister opposite, White River’s traditional territory backs onto the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s. There are issues of overlap. And yet a fire suppression contract was not offered to White River. The fire suppression contract was selected for the Kaska First Nation only, in the Premier’s riding. Why was that done? Why not offer the same sole-source contract to White River, who also endured a difficult fire season near Dawson City? Why not?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will repeat what I said: we were dealing with a heavy situation of fire in the Watson Lake region. We needed a crew if a fire were to take place. They had to be trained, we trained them, and we put them to work ASAP, and we did so. We had a very difficult season throughout the entire Yukon, and we had to bring in several groups from Outside to assist us in our endeavours throughout the whole summer, and we needed to maximize the local talent wherever we could to help us in that particular area to keep costs to a reasonable amount.
Question re: Tantalus School, Yukon College campus at
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, I’m sure that the Minister of Education thought that the impact of his heavy-handed decision would just go away by now. We have seen another demonstration outside of this Legislature today. It sends a strong message to this government that the community of Carmacks wanted to be heard. And what does the Minister of Education do? He bolts out the back door to avoid facing the people of Carmacks.
This government’s relationship with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, Mr. Speaker, is deplorable. The minister broke his signed agreement with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and has not taken any action since to heal relations. Four committee members have resigned. The minister needs to wake up. What is the minister going to do to get this project back on track?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am going to start by welcoming everyone to the gallery today. I think it’s about time that this discussion really went the way it should. We need to take a fresh look at the proposal for building the school in Carmacks. I must say it is a very beautiful school, to boot.
Since we made the offer to construct this new facility, it has become a political football, Mr. Speaker. Certain individuals are trying to put off this project for their own political gains, Mr. Speaker. That’s my opinion.
One individual whom I consider to be a very credible source told me that the opposition has promised citizens in Carmacks a better deal.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I believe the hon. minister is out of order. He is imputing motives to the other side, and that is clearly against the rules of this Assembly.
Speaker: On the point of order, the Chair, although not comfortable with the terminology, doesn’t feel that there is a point of order; however, I am going to reserve the right to review the Blues and come back if I feel that, upon my review, there is a different ruling.
The Minister of Education has the floor I believe.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In my opinion, what is good for the goose, is good for the gander. If the opposition wants to continue on with their line of questioning the way they do, I feel that this minister also has the obligation to answer in such a fashion, although I don’t want to.
Mr. Speaker, it has been brought to my attention from a very credible source that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is promising people in Carmacks a better deal when they get elected into government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Now that, Minister of Education, is casting aspersions. I would ask the hon. member not to do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that ruling.
Now we’re asking the minister to do something and get off his hands. I hope the minister is not trying to micromanage this Carmacks school project. This project may fail because of the minister’s inability to deal with this extremely important issue. The minister has not met with the community and he refuses to meet with me, the MLA for that area. He needs the community approval to attach a college campus to the school and he definitely does not have it.
We have witnessed today yet another protest outside of this Legislature and the minister is afraid to face the matter head on. What does he do? He bolts out of the building — again. People here in the gallery are saying that the minister is wrong, even though he wants to say that it’s me. It’s the people who are saying he’s wrong, and they are not protesting for nothing. Will the minister do the right thing and resolve this matter today before it’s too late?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will state for the record that this government firmly believes that the children of Carmacks need a bright future. They need a new educational infrastructure, and this government has said from day one that the priorities of this government will be in the best interests of the children.
I can say again today that this government has all intentions, right from day one, to build a nice school for the community of Carmacks. It just appears that there are many hidden agendas that this government has to deal with. As they keep surfacing, I guess we just have to keep addressing them. When we start to have discussions around a new project and the first thing the government is slapped with is a BCR, I believe that that’s dealing in bad faith. I don’t believe that’s the way to deal with another government. When we have government-to-government relationships, that’s no way to deal with them.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education still deals with band council resolutions? He’s stuck in the past. Wake up. First Nations are self-governing now, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. As delighted as we are to have everybody in the audience, we would respectfully ask the folks in the audience not to participate in the debate, please. Thank you very much. You have the floor.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, there has been no movement on this project for over a month and a half since the demonstration on the first day of the sitting. The minister needs to have a planning committee in place for the final design and throughout the construction of this community school. The minister refuses to listen to community members. If the minister believes in community involvement, then he would take the issue back to Carmacks and have them resolve it. I believe that they have already done that. Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation said no to the college attachment to the new school. The school advisory planning committee said no. The Tantalus school council said no. The Carmacks community campus said no. They all said no. I’ll ask my question: what part of “no” does the minister not understand, the “n” or the “o”? Will the minister get on with this project in a way that respects the community wishes before it is cancelled by default?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In my opinion, the member is merely grandstanding. This is not about —
Speaker: The Chair is going to urge a couple of things here. One is that under Standing Order 6(6), when a member is speaking, the other members do not participate. Please respect the member. And that goes for each side of the floor here.
Secondly, I would ask the Minister of Education to be very, very careful with his words. Now, I believe the Minister of Education has the floor.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I’ll try to be a little more careful with my words, but I would like to correct something right up front. The member opposite mentioned that I’m living in the past with band council resolutions. Well, that’s exactly the information that was sent to me by the First Nation — that they signed a BCR, so I merely stated what was said. I respect whatever form they use; it’s immaterial to me. I respect whatever form they use in their government.
Again, I want to state for the record that I have asked myself several times, “What is the best for the children?” A new school is definitely. The barriers that this government is running into are ones that are going to be very time-consuming to deal with. I certainly hope that there is a new school built in Carmacks before this mandate runs out.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. One of the many empty Yukon Party promises was to bring forth effective whistle-blower legislation. In two years the government has done nothing to meet this commitment. The previous minister’s mantra was that this would be done in due course, whatever that means. Last spring we started the ball rolling with a private member’s whistle-blower bill. The government shot it down again. Since then, the only action from the government has been a single letter suggesting that we look at adopting the federal legislation.
Yukon public servants in this territory deserve more than the stall tactics. What is the minister doing to develop whistle-blower legislation that will protect Yukon government employees who speak out?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: First of all, I’d like to point out for members opposite and all listening today that our government has the utmost respect for all government employees of the Yukon, and we place great value on the health and safety of each and every employee. With respect to the member opposite’s question with respect to our election platform of whistle-blower legislation, we are very much committed to developing whistle-blower legislation.
Legislation, as I believe our commitment states in our platform, to protect the anonymity of public employees who report abuse within government and provide a clear process for full and fair investigation. That’s what we have committed to do, and we are prepared to work and move forward collectively and collaboratively with members opposite. As the member opposite will very well know with respect to the last spring sitting, we did make the offer again to come together with all members of the Legislature to look at the various issues and options and solutions with respect to developing whistle-blower legislation. We unfortunately have not heard back from the members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Would the members opposite listen at all? Let’s see how they’ve shown respect to the public employees. The first thing they did was to begin an investigation into computer use; that’s what they did. In his previous life as the opposition member, the Premier had a lot to say on this subject. And if you check Hansard back in 2001, on October 31, you will find the present Premier cautioning the Liberal government not to wait for the federal Liberal proposed legislation. He scolded the minister of the day for the delay in meeting their party’s commitment for YTG employees. This was during the third Legislative sitting of the previous government. This government — we’re now in the fourth sitting. My question to the minister: was the present Premier wrong to make those comments, when he was on this side of the House?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will reiterate for the members opposite, for their information, that we are very much committed to developing whistle-blower legislation and that we are very much willing to look at all options across the country. Recently, the Government of Canada tabled a bill with respect to their interpretation of whistle-blower legislation. It has received some criticism; it has received some accolades. Mr. Speaker, there have also been other different forms of whistle-blower legislation that have been presented in other jurisdictions. Nova Scotia has proceeded by way of a change to regulations. Saskatchewan, for example, has proceeded by way of amendment to their labour standards act.
So there are a number of pieces of legislation that we are very much willing to move forward on with members opposite to take a look and examine all the issues, the options and solutions associated with whistle-blower legislation. We’re even prepared to look at other countries, countries like Australia, which has benefited very much from effective whistle-blower legislation. But we wish, again, to proceed with members opposite. We wish to have full consultation with their unions, and we wish to have full consultation with Yukoners as well. We’re prepared to do that. Are the members opposite?
Mr. Fairclough: Over two years have gone by, and there’s a lot of talk from the minister, but really no action. The need for whistle-blower protection has never been clearer. We’ve recently seen action gagging government employees. They’ve been told not to talk to the media and not to talk to their MLAs. I could cite example after example of this, but I don’t want to create additional difficulties for people who are genuinely afraid of repercussions from this government. Yesterday we heard from the president of the Employees’ Union say that public servants could be reprimanded or even dismissed for speaking out. They have no protection. That was said yesterday. So will the minister stop stalling and honour her party’s commitment by bringing forward effective, Yukon-made whistle-blower legislation in the next sitting?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Just to clear the air, as members opposite are aware, the Public Service Commission oversees various grievance and appeal procedures that have been negotiated between the government and our two unions, the Yukon Teachers’ Association, as well as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
If employees feel aggrieved by their work situations, they are encouraged to raise their concerns with the department, their union representatives or the Public Service Commission and use the procedures established for hearing employee concerns. Again, procedures — I will reiterate for members opposite — that have been negotiated collectively in our collective agreement between our two unions and the Government of Yukon.
At no time would any employee be disciplined for following established procedures. Again, when we talk about a communication protocol, I would just like to add to the member opposite that that communication protocol has been in place for many years, not just during the term of this government but governments preceding our government and the governments preceding that government. They’ve been in place since 1984.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government motions.
Motion No. 383
Clerk: Motion No. 383, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 17(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Melissa Atkinson to be a member of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am pleased today to speak to Motion No. 383 and Motion No. 384, which bring forward the names of individuals to be appointed to the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators. These appointments have received the consent of members of this House.
The first motion is Motion No. 383, which will appoint Ms. Atkinson to fill a vacancy on the Human Rights Commission. Ms. Atkinson is a long-time Yukoner and a member of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation in Dawson City. She is a practising lawyer currently employed by the federal Department of Justice as a Crown prosecutor and is a member of the local Canadian Bar Association. She is also appointed to the Judicial Council. She sits on the Continuing Legal Education Committee, the Adult Resources Centre Board, and is a director of the Yukon Public Legal Education Association. We are proud to appoint Ms. Atkinson as a member of the Human Rights Commission.
Thank you, Ms. Atkinson, for allowing your name to stand for this very important appointment. She is in the audience.
Motion No. 383 agreed to
Motion No. 384
Clerk: Motion No. 384, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 22(2) of the Human Rights Act, reappoint Barbara Evans as Chief Adjudicator of the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators, and reappoint Michael Dougherty and Renzo Ordenez de Leon to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Motion No. 384 is for the appointments to the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators. We have all-party agreement to reappoint Barbara Evans as chief adjudicator and Michael Dougherty and Renzo Ordenez de Leon as members of the Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators.
Barbara Evans was first appointed as chief adjudicator on the Panel of Adjudicators in 2001 and has served admirably in that role. She is self-employed and has her own business. Ms. Evans has extensive knowledge and experience in dealing with Yukon issues. In addition, she is an active participant in the Yukon community and sits as an employee representative on the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Michael Dougherty is a well-known member of our community and has been a member of the panel since 1998. He is experienced in mediation, decision writing and conflict resolution. He is an educational assistant and substitute teacher and is very involved in his community. He serves on a local school council and volunteers with the Downtown Urban Gardeners Society, Friends of the Whitehorse Public Library and Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition.
Renzo Ordenez de Leon has also been a member of the Panel of Adjudicators since 1998. Mr. Ordenez de Leon has a university degree in political science and teacher education. He has worked in many fields, including a supportive hiring worker and is active in mediation, counselling and conflict resolution.
The reappointment of these individuals — Ms. Evans, Mr. Dougherty and Mr. Ordenez de Leon — will ensure continuity on the Panel of Adjudicators. I would like to thank these individuals for their service in the community.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 384 agreed to
Motion No. 348
Clerk: Motion No. 348, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the government House leader
THAT the membership of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, as established by Motion No. 21 on March 25, 2003, and amended by Motion No. 301 on May 17, 2004, be further amended by rescinding the appointment of Eric Fairclough and appointing Steve Cardiff to the Committee.
Motion No. 348 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, 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: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. I believe the Department of Health and Social Services is the matter under debate. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We’ll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 12 — Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 — continued
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will continue with Vote 15, the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services — continued
Mr. McRobb: It’s amazing the Minister of Health and Social Services doesn’t have much to say when the camera is not on.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Point of order. You know, I thought we were going to start this off on a good note today, but the member opposite is going contrary to Standing Order 19(g).
Chair: I believe the Chair has ruled on this previously when members were accused of making statements or acting only for the purposes of the television camera. I would ask members to respect the previous ruling and to not include that in debate.
Mr. McRobb: Well, let’s see just how far the minister is willing to go to start things off on the right foot today. Yesterday, I was asking for some very simple information that has been routinely provided in the past, and I would like to ask him a similar question today. I would like him to provide some material on how his government has spent the public’s money on childcare services, and I would like him to provide the information in sufficient enough detail that would provide us the opportunity to scrutinize and get the answers we need to determine if the money has been spent in the public trust and to determine where the money went.
Of course, I would like this breakdown done on an annual basis since this government has taken office. Would the minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If it were as simple as the member opposite believes it to be, we would accede to his wishes immediately, if not sooner, but the issue before us is that virtually all the money — save and except for a small amount for planning in this area — is contained within the main estimates. The lack of time management on the part of the official opposition and the third party in the spring debate resulted in them not spending the appropriate amount of time scrutinizing the budget that was brought forward at that time. It was the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon that addressed a number of social areas, and it’s regrettable that the official opposition critic for Health didn’t devote the time necessary to that specific area. It was our position that we should have spent more days in the spring session examining the budget more thoroughly. I am here to debate the supplementary budget, and I am fully prepared to debate that component of the supplementary budget that is contained herein.
But to go back and ask for prior years’ monies and prior this year’s monies that was all contained in the mains when we’re here to deal with the supplementary, this is just another clear demonstration of the lack of time management on the part of the official opposition.
Mr. McRobb: We are appealing to the minister for his help. He is not being very fair about it.
The time was quite limited for debate in the spring. The government side wanted us to accept 32 days but there was no agreement. He wouldn’t agree, and it resolved to 30 days. We are talking about two days’ difference. So what? That’s a red herring.
The debate today — some six or seven months later — is about the supplementary budget. I am requesting the information on this year’s spending because this supplementary budget is only one financial vehicle containing funding for childcare spending. The mains budget that he wants to talk about was only one other financial vehicle. There are several more pieces of the puzzle out there, Mr. Chair, that are very difficult to find, let alone put together. We need to see the whole picture. The minister has the information. He says that it is very difficult to put together.
Well, let me ask the minister this — we are appealing for his help — can he tell me what information can be put together to help us understand where the money went?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that is fully contained in the mains that were on the floor for debate this spring, which the member opposite and his party voted against. And the issue of the number of days that we had for debate this spring, I as government House leader wanted to go along with a minimum of 32 days. The official opposition and the third party wanted 28 days. So we are talking about four days of general debate. I wouldn’t agree to 28, Mr. Chair. The member opposite is exactly correct, because I couldn’t see how it was possible for the official opposition to scrutinize the largest budget ever in the Government of Yukon in that short space of time. It is obvious now that there was an error on the part of the official opposition and the third party in their time management. That is becoming abundantly clear, and the onus of responsibility is on the third party and the official opposition to budget their time in the Legislature correctly.
The member opposite, the Member for Kluane, Mr. Chair, is going all over the wall asking the official, asking my department to ask my officials to put together all sorts of detail which, by going back and examining the mains this spring, they could come to the same conclusion that they would do after we go to all the work that is being requested of us. So the simple answer, Mr. Chair, is we are here to debate the supplementary estimates that we have before us.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is not being very helpful, even though we asked for his help. He continues to point to the mains budget; however, the mains budget contains only estimations and it’s only one piece in the puzzle. I’m asking for his help and suggestions on what information is available. Now the minister makes all kinds of grandiose declarations and press releases out of his office about how the money is spent, and so on. We want to scrutinize that spending to ensure the minister’s word can be upheld at any level of scrutiny. We are concerned that his credibility in the public has been damaged and we want to correct the record if indeed he deserves to have it corrected. So our concerns are for the best interests of this minister, and he should recognize that, if he helps us, maybe we can help him.
Can the minister tell us what information is available to help us understand where the money went that he spent on childcare this year?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer is that the money that we spent on childcare here in the Yukon this year went to childcare.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that’s not very helpful. The minister made some claims that half of what he was spending in this area went to increased worker wages. What evidence can the minister provide to substantiate that claim?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, the various daycares are independent operations. The direct operating grant goes to the operations, and how they determine what to spend the money on is completely within the purview of the various operators. We are very, very proud of having assembled a working group that examined the areas of childcare, day homes and daycare. That working group developed a four-year plan, and that four-year plan is being implemented by our government. The four-year plan has specific costs attached to it, and those costs were clearly identified in the spring’s budget — the mains — which the member opposite will go back and examine in detail.
I am even prepared to provide the calendar of courses that are available in the accounting field at Yukon College to the member opposite so that there is an opportunity to further enhance the skill level in this area, rather than spend all the time on time management. The member opposite has a choice; he can devote some of his efforts to time management and some of his efforts to improving his skill level in the accounting field so that he can more fully comprehend the areas under scrutiny here today.
Mr. McRobb: Oh my, isn’t that funny. Well, pardon me if I don’t laugh. Pardon me, because it’s the same tired old rhetoric from this member who chooses to launch into personal attacks when he cannot respond to reasonable and legitimate questioning of his spending and actions involving the public’s money. That’s shameful, but this minister doesn’t care; it’s water off a duck’s back. It’s the same story with a lot of other things to do with this minister. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks about his actions; he stands up and launches personal attacks when information that is requested in this Legislature should be provided.
Well, Mr. Chair, the minister thinks it’s funny. This is a serious issue. The minister has issued several press releases over the course of the past couple of years and he makes grandiose statements such as one contained in a press release from August 5 of this year, and I will quote from the release from his own office. It says, “The additional $675,000 for childcare operators will be split evenly between increased wages for staff and operational costs of facilities, including day homes.”
I want to test that statement the minister made. In order to do so, I am asking the minister to provide evidence to support his side of the issue. However, the minister has refused the request to provide that evidence. Without the department’s evidence — the minister’s evidence — that leads us to speculate and perhaps use untested evidence. Such untested evidence could include information produced by our office lately, where we have called childcare centres throughout the territory and we have done an unofficial review of this issue.
Mr. Chair, what have we come up with? Here’s what we have found: that since 1995, the wages of childcare workers have increased from $10 per hour to about $10.30 per hour. Mr. Chair, that is ridiculous — three percent in almost a decade. Yet this minister says half of a $675,000 tranche was to go to increasing childcare workers’ wages. How can that be? So I’m putting on the table what our information says, and I want to ask the minister: is he prepared to counter the information I have tabled with something of his own to prove his statement that half of the money he spent has increased the hourly wages for childcare workers in the territory? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this side does not speculate. This side has recognized the importance and the need of the day home and daycare operators here in the Yukon Territory. To that end, we put together a working group of these individuals, these capable individuals — capable, dedicated individuals. We have a four-year plan now, and we’re implementing that four-year plan. We’re not hiding behind anything, we’re not speculating. We are meeting the demands head-on. We are endeavouring to ensure that the highest possible level of daycare is provided here in the Yukon. In fact, it is my understanding that, currently, we have the second-best system in Canada. The first and probably the most widely recognized system is located in the Province of Quebec. The second-best is recognized as Yukon.
But that doesn’t stop there, Mr. Chair — that doesn’t stop there at all. It is our intention to ensure that we continue to provide as much as we possibly can provide to daycare by the way of support in the capital areas, by support in the operating grant areas, by support in facilitating their annual general meeting and by support in the training of individuals who are employed in this field, and a whole series of areas that the member opposite, when he was part of the government of the day, did nothing with.
Furthermore, the member opposite voted against this tremendous amount of money that we as a government increased for daycare, and now he is trying to speculate — speculate, Mr. Chair — on what has gone on in the past. We are here to debate and deal with the supplementary budget. I would encourage the member opposite to manage his time better than what is being demonstrated here today and concentrate on the issue of the supplementary estimates for the Department of Health and Social Services.
Mr. McRobb: This is absolutely disgusting — how that member and this government stand up and deny information that should be routinely provided. This is absolutely disgusting. He revels in this; he is laughing. Well, it mocks this Legislative Assembly. People who are elected to serve in here have the understanding that if they are on the opposition side, they are entitled to ask questions and get answers. It is our job to ask questions on behalf of the public to examine the spending plans of the government. I am trying to do that. Instead, the minister refuses to provide any information, and he thinks it’s funny. Has the minister no conscience?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Point of order, Mr. Chair. The member opposite, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), is imputing false or unavowed motives to another member.
Chair: There is no need to comment on the point of order; there is no point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Nevertheless, I will secede in acknowledging that, in fact, if we wanted this debate to continue, it would probably go on for a number of days without any product being delivered from the minister, because that’s the way he is. It’s unfortunate, very unfortunate. In my own mind, it questions the whole meaning of democracy and accountability. The minister is playing a mock violin over there, and he thinks it’s funny. Well, a lot of people don’t think he’s very funny. They don’t think this government’s very funny and what this government did yesterday to the democracy act certainly wasn’t very funny — or the accountability act. That wasn’t funny either. Yet the member —
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We are dealing with the supplementary estimates. We are in the Department of Health and Social Services. The topic areas that the member opposite is going into are contrary to the Standing Orders.
Chair: I will remind all members that we are in Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05, Department of Health and Social Services, and that’s the matter for debate.
Mr. McRobb: Exactly, Mr. Chair. So would the minister provide the breakdown information on childcare that I’m requesting?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, that is contained in the mains. We are here to deal with the supplementary, and the supplementary is what I am prepared to deal with.
Mr. McRobb: Is the minister saying the information requested is entirely contained within the mains and no other documentation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no documentation contained within the mains or the supplementary. There is money. The money that has been earmarked for childcare, day home and daycare operators was virtually all in the mains this spring. Due to the lack of time management by the official opposition and the third party, there was a lack of debate on these areas, and this is not a very good display of time management today. We have before us the supplementary estimates for the Department of Health and Social Services, and I’m prepared to go line by line and elaborate on the specific areas.
Mr. McRobb: So all the money spent on childcare in this fiscal year is contained in the mains budget that was printed way back in February of this year, and there have been no changes to those figures. Well, that’s interesting. I’ll go check those figures, and by the time we get to the line in the department we’ll be in a position to test what the minister is saying.
The information requested, however, goes beyond the total. We’re wanting to know how the money spent translates into the hourly wages of the childcare workers. Does the minister have any information at all to shed light on that area?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have to qualify what I have said. There has been an announcement by the federal government on more money for childcare. Now, if that flows this fiscal period, that may have to be captured in another supplementary to close out the year-end. But we have heard the announcement. It’s probably one of a multitude of announcements from the federal government. We do not have the details as to the amount of money, but there is probably more money coming in this area. If it does come this fiscal period, it will be contained in a further supplementary, and it will be disbursed by a consultation process that the day home and daycare operators and the department had in place in the past, and we’ll go back and examine further ways of flowing the money for the intended purpose. But that is the only caveat that I can put on what has transpired to date.
So that is an issue, and the member opposite is out trolling and has come up with a bunch of red herrings, and I’m sure that they are not very tasty. But that said, our government has made a concerted effort to flow as much money to day home and daycare operators as we possibly can. We have a four-year plan and we’re moving forward on that initiative.
Mr. McRobb: Well, let’s examine what the minister just said. Now, first of all, he didn’t answer the question about the amount spent in terms of hourly wages for childcare workers and how that money translates into an increase. He didn’t respond to that question. Instead, what he said raises another question. He said now that the mains budget doesn’t contain all the spending in this year, which contradicts his own words that he stated several times earlier: that all the spending was in the mains.
Well, I might be fishing, but there is a fish that is flip-flopping all over the boat. I wish the minister would get it right. Either everything is in the mains or it is not. Now we are hearing a different story.
All we are looking for is a breakdown in sufficient detail to analyze what the minister has told the public to see if it is factual. The minister is refusing to provide that information.
Let me ask him: does he or his department or anybody else in government monitor the hourly wages of these workers?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am not a medical person, but it sounds like we have a migration of trans fats to brain cells.
Chair: Order please. Insulting language such as that has no place in this Assembly. I would ask the member to retract that statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I retract the statement that we had a migration of trans fats to brain cells.
Mr. McRobb: This is a sad state. I sincerely hope that somebody from the media or whatever is out there listening to this and can understand what is going on and expose this government for how it is behaving on this matter.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of questions in general debate. One is on the Health and Social Services supplementary budget.
I have a motion on the floor and have asked the minister this year in the mains to increase the funding available for the kids recreation fund, which is a very worthy initiative. There is no additional funding contained in the supplementary for the kids recreation fund, although the minister committed he would take it under advisement and look at that, and there is additional funding available to the minister.
Will he reconsider that and include additional funding for the kids recreation fund next year in the mains?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member indicated, it is an area that we’re very cognizant of, and in all likelihood there will be an increase in the mains next year in this very important area.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you. I will be delighted to send that to the administrators in all the sports and arts and cultural groups who have additional enrolment because of the availability of the kids recreation fund. I’ll look forward to additional funding in the mains this spring, although it was promised in the supplementary.
I have one last question, and I’m delighted that the Minister of Education is also here. It has to do with the issue of vision screening in our schools and the children’s drug and optical program. We have had volunteers who do voluntary vision screening. Children are sent home with a note that says that the child has had vision screening and they recommend that the child see an optometrist based on what the volunteers have learned. Schools also take the initiative and send home the children’s drug and optical program, which is available for parents to access. The problem is that there’s a disconnect between Education and Health. The children’s drug and optical program is difficult to access — I’m hearing from parents and teachers who are associated with children in need. There’s no follow-up in that the Department of Education and Department of Health aren’t communicating to say, “Yes, there was follow-up done on this child, and they’ve accessed the program,” or “There has been follow-up, and we need to bring the optometrist into the loop as well on this.”
I was also asked at a recent school council meeting if there was any intention by the government to expand the optical program to make it similar to the children’s dental health program where every child is examined. If you have three or four children and are involved in the private sector, then $50 or $100 per optical visit can be quite expensive. I’m asking the minister specifically: will he communicate with his colleague, the Minister of Education, and departmental staff and the optometrist and check up on the follow-up of the program and how well the program is working? I understand it’s difficult to access. Thirdly, will he consider additional expansion of the program? Given we have the vision screening done by volunteers, will he consider expansion of the optical program for optometry visits for parents?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member is very accurate and correct in what has transpired in this field, and there are two different systems — one in Whitehorse and a rural system. There is room to improve on the service delivery model. It’s an area that we haven’t concentrated a great deal of initiative in. I’ll be the first to admit that. Its budget is not what it could be given the preventive side results in added benefits on the acute care side. It has been our thrust to move more into the preventive side across the board. That said, it’s subject to the availability of funding, and it’s an area that we’re going to be looking at. There are probably ways, and as the member correctly pointed out, that a collaboration between the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services would result in improvements. Let me assure the member opposite that we’ll examine that possibility. It’s working; it’s working in Whitehorse because of the great amount of volunteer efforts that’s put into it, and that’s duly recognized.
Ms. Duncan: I’ll look forward to improvements in that program — hopefully in the spring budget. The minister is fulfilling a commitment to take a look at it. I have no further questions in general debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed line by line. Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, operations and maintenance expenditures.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Ms. Duncan: I would like a breakdown of that line expenditure, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The $92,000 breaks down as follows: there is a portion of the salary for the First Nations training corporation, network administrator position, cost shared with Ta’an Kwach’an Council — that is $10,000; 100 percent of that is recoverable; Vuntut Gwitchin youth program one-time contribution to establish the healing camp to be used by a number of First Nations. This is the program that has been underway. That was $35,000. There was a .5 FTE to manage increased volume of ATIIP requests, records and libraries resources for the partial year. The ongoing requirement for 2005-06 will be 1.5 additional FTEs. That was $32,000; in addition to that, for the Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act, there was a one-time cost for legal drafting of the regulations that amounted to some $15,000.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the line, policy, planning and administration?
Mr. McRobb: I have a policy question, Mr. Chair. In terms of the federal money this department has received, can the minister identify an amount as well as his spending plans for that money?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That doesn’t have anything to do with the supplementary, and it’s not in the supplementary.
Mr. McRobb: So what, Mr. Chair? Can the minister provide that simple information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I draw to your attention the fact that we are in line-by-line on Policy, Planning and Administration. The supplementary request is for $92,000, and I have provided an explanation and a breakdown of that $92,000. That’s where we’re at. This is what’s on the floor for debate today, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I see, Mr. Chair. When we’re in general debate, the questions are too detailed, but when we get in the lines, the questions are suddenly too vague. You just can’t win for losing, Mr. Chair, and I’m beginning to just learn more about how this game works. I’m hoping the minister at some point will be willing to provide that information, because this is an important question.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the line, policy, planning and administration?
Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $92,000 agreed to
On Family and Children’s Services
Mr. McRobb: Could we get a breakdown on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Certainly, Mr. Chair. That breaks down as follows: there is $20,000 for lapsing Children’s Act review funds to complete the consultation. There is additional funding approval for youth justice renewal fund for a communications strategy publication relating to the Youth Criminal Justice Act for $8,000. There is an increased amount for the number of children in care, plus the increased rates resulting from special needs. That is just about $1 million. There is an increase required for five social workers to support the family services program — part of it remained unfunded — that was $400,000. Then support at residential children’s homes increase for special programming for $754,000. There are others — the decrease in adoption subsidy was $12,000. We moved some money around for the four-year plan for early childhood development education care — $55,000 — but childcare operating grants went down by $49,000 and the childcare subsidy, due to less demand, was reduced by approximately $300,000. So, we net out at $1.868 million.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has just mentioned the youth justice renewal fund, and we have engaged in the past in a vigorous debate around the future status of the young offenders facility. What is the current status of that particular facility? I may not have used the correct name, but the minister has additional money in here for youth justice renewal fund. Is that a new initiative, and what’s the current status of the facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The young offenders facility, Mr. Chair, is still underutilized. It usually has only individuals in there on remand, and we are examining ways of using the facilities for some of the other individuals we have in care. There are issues surrounding it, and we haven’t gone further down the road than an examination of this area, and nothing has been determined. With respect to the money, the youth justice renewal fund applications were approved in excess of the $75,000 budgeted. This is an additional funding for that area, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has said that the young offenders facility is basically under examination for future uses. I would expect that that would include some consultation with others. Is any of that information public, or can we access it? What sort of ideas do the minister and the government have in mind for that facility, and what about the staff? Have there been any discussions with any staff? Have they all had other positions? What’s their current situation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We are required by statute to have the capacity, so the staff is still in place and still functioning. There is usually an individual or two there on remand so it is fully staffed and fully operational. We are examining options to utilize this multi-million dollar facility and use some of the facilities for other purposes, but we’re not down the road far enough in the consultation process to get out. We have to know the confines of where we can do and what we can do with that facility, but by statute we still have to maintain the facility.
Ms. Duncan: Do consultations include working with the staff who are currently employed? They’re underemployed by the minister’s accounts, but we have to have them there and they have a job, but they must be wondering what’s going to happen. I have heard from them directly that they’re concerned about their job security and job future, so do the consultations include the staff?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: They will, but it’s not envisioned to have any staff reduction whatsoever irrespective of what transpires in that area.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister about the Children’s Act review. How many meetings have there been and are minutes taken of these meetings? Is that something he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There’s a Web site on this initiative and all the information is contained therein: minutes, policies that are being developed, reviews that have been undertaken and locations of all the meetings. It has been a very thorough, comprehensive review that has been undertaken by the Children’s Act review panel. It’s very comprehensive and we’re looking forward to some very definitive output coming forward from this group.
Mr. McRobb: And the five social workers who were added in the supplementary budget, are they all in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: They’re five of 10. As to where they’re located within the system, I’m not aware. It’s for the Public Service Commission to determine where they’re working. At this level, there is a demonstrated need. That demonstrated need has been met and, as to where these social workers are working, I couldn’t tell the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: But the appropriation is within his department, so I would like the minister to commit to returning with some material that identifies the location of where these workers are. Is he willing to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can provide that information to the member right now. These social workers are working in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that kind of a response doesn’t serve the public very well. I’m asking whereabouts in the Yukon, which communities, those social workers are located. He mentioned they are five out of 10, so I’m presuming there are 10 more added in this fiscal year, half of which is provided for with the funds in the supplementary budget. I would like the minister to undertake to return with written documentation outlining where these workers are located — which communities. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I’m given to understand that it is Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: And that is all 10 workers, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I’m not splitting hairs here. I indicated that it is the Public Service Commission that determines where the staffing goes and where they move to. Mr. Chair, there has been a demand for additional social workers. That demand has been primarily in Whitehorse. We’re doing our level best to meet that demand, which is primarily in Whitehorse, and there have been demands in some of the outlying communities. There was a recent recruitment to fill a vacancy in the community of Carmacks, but by and large these positions, to the best of my knowledge, are in Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, can we get the minister to provide us with a list of where all the social workers in the Yukon are located in terms of which community they’re based out of? Will he return with that information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I refer back to the supplementary budget here and what we have before us. We have the issue of a $400,000 increase required for five social workers to support the family services program. I’m given to understand that all of these five workers are in Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: So, once again, we have a situation where the minister is trying to limit the scope of our questioning to only one piece of the puzzle. I want to state that in no one location is the information I’m requesting.
Now if we just went back to the spring, imagine the question then and the answer then. Would it be accurate today? The answer is no. We’re not quite sure what other funding vehicles are out there with appropriations of this type. This government commonly uses special warrants. The minister has mentioned other supplementaries that are forthcoming in this fiscal year. The pieces of the puzzle aren’t even identified yet, yet he keeps referring us back to the first piece. Well, that doesn’t tell us the whole story, does it? Once again, the minister has somehow found a reason to hide from public scrutiny. It’s a rather simple question. We would like to know what the placement of these social workers is throughout the territory. Again, is the minister willing to provide that simple and straightforward information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: From memory, Mr. Chair, social workers are located in Watson Lake, Teslin, Whitehorse, Carmacks — I’m not sure if it’s staffed currently, but Ross River; we have Dawson; and we have Haines Junction; and, for Pelly and Mayo, we did have two in Mayo and we have two in Mayo but we have one in Pelly, which used to be serviced out of Mayo. So there are social workers in all of those communities.
Family and Children’s Services in the amount of $1,868,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Certainly. Alcohol and drug survey: $150,000; a $32,000 contribution to the Salvation Army; there has been an increase in social assistance of $1.2 million; there is an increase in home care hours to meet the demand, and this is $260,000; and there has been an extension of home care that is currently underway in some of the rural Yukon and we’re initially expanding it into Tagish, which is a $300,000 increase, for a total of $1.942 million.
Mr. McRobb: That alcohol and drug survey sounds familiar. Is that something that has been made public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Social Services in the amount of $1,942,000 agreed to
On Health Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could we have a line breakdown from the minister, and when he’s on his feet, could he indicate which of these costs have been driven by volume increases and which ones by price increases?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: One of the biggest increases is $1.526 million for insured services increase in medical claim costs, primarily due to the new four-year agreement signed with the Yukon Medical Association; primary health care transition, palliative care coordinator, $36,000; funding for a coordinator, chronic disease management program, $40,000. This is 100-percent recoverable from another area. Hearing Services: hearing aids covered by pharmacare chronic disease programs are now charged directly to these programs, resulting in a reduction to hearing service expenditures and recovery. So it’s more or less offsetting: a reduction of $25,000 and now it’s recovered somewhere else. So it nets out. Mental health: Watson Lake youth intervention worker, $70,000; a new medical advisor, $25,000. This is a volume increase. This is the doctor who oversees the billing and that is an increase.
There is an increase in medical claims due to an increase in the number of physician services, plus you look at the increase under the new agreement with the YMA, and this totals $227,000. Hospital claims: there has been a 39-percent increase in outpatient rates overall, that’s $900,000; a three-percent increase in patient rates, $210,000; and an increase in service volume of $540,000, for a total of $1.65 million. Yukon Hospital Corporation: there has been an increase in contribution to cover the cost of the new electrocardiogram program, the equipment purchased through the Yukon Hospital Corporation fundraising efforts. We pay to operate it, and we pay the ongoing operation and maintenance. That’s $150,000 to the government on an ongoing basis.
There’s the 20-percent increase in cost of supplies for water lab and greater demand for water testing. That’s $33,000. Health promotion: an increase in rent and insurance for Blood Ties Four Directions that delivers the needle exchange program. That is an increase in $23,000 from the department. We have a healthy eating and injury prevention program. There’s an $83,000 increase there. There is the health promotion tobacco control program advertising campaign for $147,000. That is all recoverable from Canada. In the communicable disease unit, an occupational hygienist assessment was $6,000. The tele-health program is no longer funded by Canada health infrastructure partnership. The operating costs were not included in the budget, and there has been an increase in the cost for bandwidth from our telecom provider. That’s $100,000.
In community nursing, there was the cost associated with introducing the Prevanar vaccine at $100,000. Pneumococcal vaccine. So that was a question. Pneumococcal vaccine. It’s a bacteria to treat the bacteria. I’m not a medical person, so other than tell you that it’s in the chest, it’s $100,000, and it was an initiative that was requested, it’s not something that I know anything about, but we fund it.
The next one is in community nursing: X-ray maintenance costs that were unbudgeted, $30,000. The next one is an increase in fuel costs, $11,000; water testing in community nursing stations; there is an increase in personnel for our EMS, $195,000. There is an increase in honoraria and clothing for community EMS — that was $55,000; an increase in accidental death and dismemberment insurance coverage for nurses, that’s $6,000; an increase in the cost of maintaining our ambulance fleet, $7,000; and a new cost-sharing agreement with Community Services for the Carcross fire hall, $14,000. That totals $4.522 million.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister about the rural nursing stations. Does he foresee any changes to the existing stations and their purposes? And I’ll give him a precise example. I note the previous Yukon Party government considered the idea of closing down the nursing station in Destruction Bay, and Mr. Chair, there have been some concerns recently within that community that indicate this government’s considering continuing with that old plan. Can the minister outline for us what changes he sees to existing nursing stations in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government is going to be doing nothing but improving the nursing stations across the Yukon. With respect to Destruction Bay and the nursing station there, there is no shutting down or removing that facility from that place; in fact, the department has recently contracted with Yukon Housing Corporation to take one of the housing units there and retrofit it and make a stand-alone house available. It’s one of the housing units that has been there for quite some time unoccupied and it requires a compete retrofit and upgrade. I don’t know what stage it’s at, but the department has agreed to rent it from Yukon Housing after it’s retrofitted for staff accommodation for the nurses.
So if anything, the member can assure his constituents in his riding, specifically Destruction Bay, that we’re going to improve and enhance all the areas that we can. The member opposite is also very much aware that we are moving down the road with the construction of a new multi-level care facility in Watson Lake and Dawson City; but we’ll have that in the spring budget for the members’ opposite consideration.
Ms. Duncan: We’ll trust we’ll receive the reports about those two and the feasibility studies, which the minister promised six months ago, before we get to debate the spring budget.
I just have one question. The minister, in his remarks, said that there was an increase because — I don’t know if we have a new medical advisor who is doing the audit of the doctors, so I believe that used to be Dr. Buchan who did that service for us. If this is a retirement issue, then perhaps we could take this opportunity to thank him for his long service to Yukoners and wish him well. If that is the case, perhaps the minister could confirm.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is absolutely correct, and on behalf of Yukon, on behalf of all of us here, a warm thanks to Dr. Buchan for his long, long tenure overseeing this area for the Government of Yukon. It has been re-tendered out, and the new individual coming in is spending more time because of the increased volume, but Dr. Buchan has retired.
Health Services in the amount of $4,522,000 agreed to
On Total of Other O&M Expenditures
Total of Other O&M Expenditures in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $8,424,000 agreed to
On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries
Ms. Duncan: We’ve had many vigorous debates in this Legislature about recoveries from Canada on outstanding billings, and my understanding was that we had made significant progress, there had been money received, and yet the other day on his feet, the Premier said we were again $25 million in arrears. So would the minister care to elaborate as to what situation has transpired, because members of this House are unaware of that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have made a major push of the government, but the federal government has slipped once again, and just the last quarter we went up by virtually $3 million. We’re just shy of $25 million currently, which is in arrears from Canada.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the members opposite have been adverse to legislative returns. However, perhaps the minister could, in the spirit of the season perhaps, provide a legislative return outlining the detailed breakdown of what’s outstanding from Canada and if it is in the 30-, 60- or 90-day column, because there are a number of areas where Canada pays us and these recoveries occur. I’d like a breakdown in written form, so I don’t have to try to write it now. Where are the receivables? What categories are they in? And what state are they in? If he would commit to provide that, I would accept the minister’s word that he would do that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I will provide that information to the House. It’s a serious concern for us all and it’s an issue that I’ve raised with the federal Minister of Health and his officials via the Grand Chief on his last visit to Ottawa. He was supposed to have a meeting with Ujjal Dosanjh that unfortunately was cancelled, but he did get in to meet the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. So it is a major concern. We’ll send over a letter to the third party and a copy to the official opposition on the standings with respect to the receivables from Canada.
Chair: Are there any further questions regarding operation and maintenance recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Recoveries cleared
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Systems Development
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There’s Infoway deployment planning agreement, system planning — this is $250,000; client registry planning, $76,000; drug information system planning, $90,000 — all recoverable. It’s $416,000.
Ms. Duncan: Is the drug information system the PharmaNet initiative, or is it something else? Is it PharmaNet or PharmNet? PharmaNet. Are those discussions contained in these capital expenditures?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The system that the member is referring to is the B.C. system. This is the very beginning of the system here that we’re examining for Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I’ve had the opportunity to have discussions with a number of individuals in light of recent news reports, and I was quite frankly appalled to discover that our pharmacare, our children’s drug and optical and our chronic disease, the systems, the computer systems that we use to pay people when they submit their claims to pay the businesses, is antiquated, to say the least.
Is there some money to improve that? These are small businesses we are dealing with here. It’s a disgrace. The minister has a great deal of money. Does he intend to improve it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That’s the very beginning of our examination of this area. The member is absolutely correct; the systems are very old, very antiquated, and we have to evolve into a new system.
Ms. Duncan: When can these small businesses look forward to that new system being in place?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The planning is the first step and then examining what is in other jurisdictions. It will all be subject to the availability of money from Canada, but we are moving along in that area. I don’t want to put timelines around it. I am uncomfortable with putting timelines on it, because it is all subject to approval and priorities as to where we devote our monies. This is one of the areas, yes, but we are trying to move more money into the preventive side, so there is going to be a debate that we have to undertake regarding how much money we can move into the preventive side, but we have to balance it across the full spectrum, and we have to address all these areas.
So, to put on a timeline of a couple of years, I would probably just be taking a good guess. Hopefully we can accomplish something within a couple of years, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: I am at a loss as to why this would take so long. We are not talking rocket science here. The other jurisdictions have no difficulty — it’s all electronic. Even the Yukon government medical benefits are able to be processed electronically. Why can’t we be working with the pharmacies and processing the bills we pay? We don’t need to wait for Canada to send us the money to do this. This is the Government of Yukon’s business operations, and it is the way they treat small business.
We can fix the issues with the Liquor Corporation and make it easier for business. Why can’t we fix it for the companies that supply Yukoners with their pharmaceuticals and the children’s drug and optical? This is a serious issue. They are small businesses, and they are carrying very high receivables.
We just talked about how outrageous it is that Yukon has to carry Canada’s receivables. These are small businesses carrying the Government of Yukon with a $700-million budget. It seems to me that we should be able to fix this issue a lot quicker than a couple of years if we devote some time and energy to it.
Would the minister reconsider that — I understand that there is the broader issue of PharmaNet — I’m talking about the three programs we have and the way we pay the people who supply Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: With respect to quicker paying of the suppliers to Yukon, yes, I’ll ask the officials to have a look at it.
With respect to the development of a new system for payments and for moving forward on a new computer module or new computer program for this area, it has to be adapted to our various policies and programs.
On the surface I thought it was something that would be a slam dunk: you just go back to another jurisdiction and buy one off the shelf. I’ve subsequently found that I wish it could be done that way. But there are issues and we’re working through those issues. Hopefully we can see something come to fruition.
We’re recovering half of the costs from Canada but we’re in for a big up-front capital cost when it comes to the mainframe purchases and the programs.
Systems Development in the amount of $416,000 agreed to
On Family and Children’s Services
On Young Offender Facilities – Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are actually a number of items in this $12,000: one is a fuel tank for $5,000, and the other one is a security upgrade for $7,000, for a total of $12,000.
Young Offender Facilities – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $12,000 agreed to
On Residential Services – New Group Home
Mr. McRobb: Can we get a breakdown on that item, Mr. Chair? Why has most of the $421,000 allocated in this budget year been removed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, $421,000 is included in the 2004-05 capital budget for construction of a new group home. Planning has proceeded on the new group home. Construction cannot occur until the spring/summer of 2005. The department is proposing that only $70,000 of the total $421,000 will be spent this fiscal year, and we are going to lapse the balance.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us some detail on the building, such as where it is located and how many clients it will house and staff? Can he give us some basic information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I don’t have that detail here with me as to where it’s going to be located and how many it would house, but we’ll get that information for the member opposite. Mr. Chair, once again, this was an issue that was contained in the spring budget — the spring capital budget. We are lapsing these funds. We have taken out of them what we have spent on planning and developing the building and other sundry costs and we are lapsing the funds. They will go into next year’s capital. So, Mr. Chair, this is material that once again should have been debated in the spring’s mains, not at this juncture.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is wrong, Mr. Chair. He’s completely wrong. We have the ability and the opportunity to raise these questions now. It’s rather surprising he doesn’t have the simple information requested, given the size of the amount in this supplementary budget. Nevertheless, he has undertaken to get back to us with the information. My only question is when we might expect that. Sometime before the end of this year, perhaps, or when? Can he be more specific?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I’ll bring it back in the spring mains, and we can get into the details as to what color the roofing is going to be, how the siding is going to be installed, what thickness of glass is going to go into the window, how many rooms the unit is going to have, what type of a foundation it’s going to be on, its location, whether it has rugs or not, and what type of plumbing fixtures are going to be contained in the building. We can get into that amount of detail, but at this juncture we are lapsing the capital monies.
Residential Services – New Group Home underexpenditure of $351,000 cleared
On Social Services
On Social Services – Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, under the NDP administration, the government shut down the Crossroads program. We’ve brought back a 28-day residential program in the Sarah Steele Building, and these are the costs associated with doing some of the renovations and computer lines to two buildings. There was electrical wiring and services in the Sarah Steele Building for $55,000, and computer lines between various buildings for $10,000.
Social Services – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $65,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care – Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is for start-up costs for the seven new beds at Macaulay and 12 new beds at Copper Ridge Place; furniture, equipment and beds, $340,000; a specialized Parker bathtub at Macaulay.
Continuing Care – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $361,000 agreed to
On Thomson Centre – Renovations
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is a carry-over from the property management agency. It’s a revote approval for outstanding work orders in the amount of $10,000.
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday we had about 45 minutes of departmental debate — it might have been the day before. The minister indicated that the Thomson Centre renovations are somewhere up around $1.6 million now, I believe.
Can the minister give us more of a breakdown in terms of where that money is going? If he wants to return with that information, that is acceptable.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is not supplementary information that is being requested, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: So what, Mr. Chair? The opportunity is available to us to ask for that information and we are asking for it. It is usual government policy to provide that type of information.
Now, let’s just leave it at that and try to avoid getting into an argument.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This supplementary contains $10,000 for the Thomson Centre, which I have spoken to. It’s a revote approval for outstanding work requests from the property management agency.
Chair: Is there any further debate regarding the line Thomson Centre?
Thomson Centre – Renovations in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Health Services
On Chronic Disease Benefits – Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is program-driven. Funds are required to support individuals with chronic debilitating disease and disabilities in order to minimize their hospitalization. Program demands have been higher than anticipated.
Ms. Duncan: This is not an addition to the formulary or to the drugs that we fund on chronic disease; this is simply volume?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is equipment, specific equipment used to assist people.
Chronic Disease Benefits – Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Extended Health Benefits – Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We’ve had increases in some areas; we’ve had decreases in others.
The $15,000 decrease is from the extended health benefit program for the purchase of major medical equipment for use by seniors, which had a lower demand than anticipated. So we’re only spending $45,000 there instead of the $60,000. Some programs have gone up; some programs have gone down.
Extended Health Benefits – Equipment underexpenditure of $15,000 cleared
Yukon Hospital Corporation – Equipment
Mr. McRobb: We’d like a breakdown of the item. That’s an awful lot of Plexiglas. What exactly is that for?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I find that an uncomfortable line of questioning.
It’s a contribution to the Yukon Hospital Corporation for the purchase of equipment. It’s for diagnostic medical equipment.
Ms. Duncan: Is this the government’s contribution to the Close to Our Hearts Campaign or is it equipment other than that? The minister is nodding — it is equipment other than that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record: the Close to Our Hearts Campaign raised a significant amount of funds. The government’s contribution to that program for ongoing operation and maintenance is $150,000 a year.
Yukon Hospital Corporation – Equipment in the amount of $300,000 agreed to
Community Nursing – Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is primarily for a new X-ray machine for the Watson Lake hospital.
On Community Nursing – Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $173,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing – New Residence
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was no need for a new residence in Beaver Creek. Yukon Housing Corporation is addressing the need through renovating existing structures and also renovating other structures for the Department of Health and Social Services in Destruction Bay, as I pointed out earlier, so the requirement for capital is no longer there. We have worked through the Yukon Housing Corporation, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: I just want to put on record a piece of advice for the minister. I would suggest that it would be appropriate if he consulted with the community before making major recommendations such as the one he made and then had to retract. Understandably, it got members of the community a little upset, and there is no need to do that.
Furthermore, I want to put on record that at no time was I approached about this decision to proceed or cancel that item.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: At no time was the member opposite consulted or advised or involved, to the best of my knowledge, with the issue of improving housing anywhere through the system, which is ongoing on a continuing basis. In order to recruit and attract and retain anyone in the health care system, we have to have an adequate standard of housing. It is an initiative that we are very cognizant of, and we have moved forward and made great strides. Irrespective of the member opposite’s digs at what has transpired, we are committed to providing a very high standard of housing for our health care providers that reside in rural Yukon.
Community Nursing – New Residence underexpenditure of $300,000 cleared
On Ambulance Services – Vehicle Replacement, Renovations and Equipment
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the budget for ambulances was set on the old amount that was for the two-wheel-drive van types, not the type I ambulances that were purchased. There were new specifications developed by the department in 2003-04. That reflected an increase in the cost to $112,000. We’re probably going to be standardizing with type I ambulances, which is the industry standard. It’s extremely well equipped. There is room to move around. As well, there is a demand in some of rural Yukon for four-wheel-drive ambulances, and there is a demand for two-wheel-drive ambulances in a lot of the areas. So with that said, it is our commitment as a government to meet the demands in an appropriate manner where the demands exist. This is clearly identified with our commitment to provide more funding for emergency medical services across the Yukon in a number of categories. This is the first time ever there have been increases in these categories since the 1970s, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Since we’re on the topic of the minister’s favourite big-box ambulances, I would like to ask him how he can be so assured the vehicles are good to handle on the roads and the highways. Has the minister ever tried to drive one himself?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Not these ones, but unlike the member opposite, I’m licensed to drive every category of vehicle that’s allowed on the roads here in the Yukon. In fact, I was licensed for class 1 with air, so we can probably operate any type of vehicle available. It’s a vehicle that I have driven. I have driven ambulances. I was on the volunteer ambulance service for nine years. That said, it’s not something I’m flaunting around the floor for debate, but I do have a background and knowledge in this area. But that doesn’t reflect upon what the department has requested or asked for and our government has provided.
Mr. McRobb: Let me assure this House, I have no reason to doubt what the minister is saying. As a matter of fact, I’ve heard plenty of people out in the public and even today in the demonstration out front call him a “first class type of guy” so I’m sure he does have his class 1 licence, and there’s no reason to dispute that whatsoever.
Ambulance Services – Vehicle Replacement, Renovations and Equipment in the amount of $153,000 agreed to
On Diagnostic/Medical Equipment Fund
Diagnostic/Medical Equipment Fund in the amount $19,000 agreed to
On Total of Other Capital Expenditures
Total of Other Capital Expenditures in the amount of nil agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures in the amount of $863,000 agreed to
On Capital Recoveries
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It’s all from Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us a breakdown of that $300,000 for the Yukon Hospital Corporation equipment? Exactly what type of equipment will that provide? I know in the line item he gave a vague break down. Does it comprise a long list, or is it just those few items?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I gave the breakdown in the debate on the expenditure side, and it is recoverable from Canada. Yes.
Capital Recoveries in the amount of $826,000 agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 15, the Department of Health and Social Services.
The Chair seeks some direction of where we’re going to proceed to next.
Before we recess, would members want to find out which department we’re going into next?
Some Hon. Member: Women’s Directorate.
Chair: Women’s Directorate.
We’ll take a 15-minute recess now.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05. We will proceed to Vote 11, Women’s Directorate, in general debate.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, I am very pleased to announce that our government is increasing the Women’s Directorate operation and maintenance budget by $243,000 in this Supplementary Estimates No. 1. This money will raise the Women’s Directorate’s overall operation and maintenance budget in the 2004-05 fiscal year from $626,000 to $869,000. This increase will allow the Women’s Directorate to continue to expand their work in the area of violence prevention in collaboration with government and community partners.
We are proposing an overall increase of $243,000 in the activity area of violence prevention in the Women’s Directorate’s budget. This increase is designated in two allotments, one being the transfer payments to aboriginal women’s organizations, an increase of $93,000, and “other”, an increase of $150,000 for Women’s Directorate violence prevention initiatives.
The increase in transfer payments for $93,000 is to complete the aboriginal women and violence initiative that was first announced by the Premier in his capacity as the previous minister responsible for Women’s Directorate in 2003–04.
These resources are being administered through contribution agreements and are for community-based projects that address violence against aboriginal women. It is very important to note that the projects were designed and developed by aboriginal women for aboriginal women.
The six successful applicants include the Selkirk First Nation, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Liard First Nation, and the Margaret Thomson Centre in Ross River.
In addition to the increase in transfer payments to women’s organizations through contribution agreements, our government has also allocated an additional $150,000 to the Women’s Directorate’s budget for family violence and violence against women prevention initiative. I certainly believe that this allocation demonstrates out commitment to improving education and awareness on this pervasive social issue. After all, violence prevention is one of the key priorities for our government.
With the support and guidance of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues, a few of the Women’s Directorate’s projects under consideration at this time include contracting a First Nation woman to continue the development of a long-term public education campaign on violence against Yukon women, women in leadership initiatives, safety kits for women preparing to leave abusive partners. As well, it will be updating the splitting-up resource, which is a resource that pertains to women and justice issues, including maintenance enforcement, the Family Violence Prevention Act and other relevant legal issues that women face today.
I believe that this supplementary budget for the Women’s Directorate is an excellent example of this government’s commitment to violence prevention initiatives, as well as to increase women’s equality in the territory. This budget addresses the specific needs of aboriginal women throughout the Yukon by providing contributions to aboriginal women’s organizations.
In addition, by allocating $150,000 in additional funding to the Women’s Directorate budget, our government will enable important violence prevention initiatives that will help to improve the lives of all Yukon women through education, resources and awareness-raising.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I certainly look forward to fielding any questions the opposition may have.
Mrs. Peter: I’m happy to respond to some of the minister’s comments, and I do have some questions. She did give a breakdown of the dollars we’re addressing in this supplementary budget with respect to the $243,000 sum. I didn’t hear all the information the minister could forward. Can the minister please send that information over to me, or make a copy available for me?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: This was information pertaining to the individual contributions, am I correct? Because we have that information right here that I can read into the record or —
With respect to the contribution agreements, as I noted earlier, this supplementary includes $93,000 that we’re asking for. It is going toward six aboriginal women’s organizations in the territory. One, including the Margaret Thomson Centre in Ross River, includes $15,488 from the Women’s Directorate, as well as $25,000 that we were able to also help secure from the Status of Women Canada. That is to support Ross River by helping the Margaret Thomson Centre address issues of violence against aboriginal women in the community through identification of programming and long-term funding support.
The second agreement was to Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society in Watson Lake. They received $10,055 from the Women’s Directorate. That is to support the society by helping them commence a five-year cultural plan to ensure that women’s safety is being met with the appropriate programming in the community and ensuring that aboriginal women have a meaningful voice in the development of non-violence programs and training.
Selkirk First Nation Tutchone Paddlers received $23,000 from the Women’s Directorate. That was to help support the Tutchone Paddlers in a program that reaches out to women experiencing violence and supports women in developing a peer support network in the community.
The Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle was provided $15,000 from the Women’s Directorate. That has gone toward supporting and hosting a wellness workshop retreat for women and youth. I think it’s a two-and-a-half day workshop. This workshop retreat will facilitate sessions that deliver tangible tools and skills to participants and create an ongoing network of professionals from all Yukon communities.
The fifth one was Liard First Nation, and they were provided with $10,000. That was to help prevent violence in family relationships in the community, developing a healthy, safe community and strengthening partnerships with other agencies in the community. I understand that more specifically it’s to deliver and follow up on two six-week traditional healthy relationship programs and also assist in the support and coordination for the domestic violence treatment option for the Watson Lake area.
For the last one, the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council was provided $10,000 from the Women’s Directorate. As well, we were also able to assist them in receiving funding from Status of Women Canada of $25,000, for a total of $35,000. And that has gone to the council to provide funding to carry out existing and future projects, including the projects on violence against aboriginal women. Hopefully that will assist the member opposite.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information. Mr. Chair, we’ve witnessed a lot of different situations in the Yukon in regard to family violence throughout the last couple of years. I’m glad that the Women’s Directorate is up and running again. I’ve said that before. We’re dealing with an awful lot of money here besides the $243,000. In total we’re looking at $869,000 for this year.
The minister just gave us a list of where all this money is going to be spent, and it’s great that some of the communities are taking advantage of the dollars that are available, and I’m happy that some of this money is addressing violence in our communities. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again: all the communities within the Yukon need to be able to benefit from some of these dollars that are available. I realize the minister has said that there have been applicants who needed the money and got the money, and some of the communities that concern me are remote. One of them is my community. There are many services that are available in the bigger centres throughout the Yukon: Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Dawson, and a few of the communities in between.
But when we have an isolated community like Old Crow where the majority of the people we’re dealing with in the community are women with children, they have no resources. The government provided access to VictimLINK, which is a B.C.-based resource. They can call there; however, they don’t receive any kind of professional help when it’s needed, and it’s a referral service to NGO offices in Whitehorse between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. What happens for these women after those hours? The majority of incidents happen in the evenings, so where do the women in remote areas go for help? And when they don’t have resources such as the minister just listed, then it’s pretty difficult and the cycle continues.
Many of these dollars address education and prevention, and I support that; however, how much money are we going to spend on material? There has to be a way that more of these dollars can reach people in the grassroots communities, where it can have the impact on family violence in this territory that we need.
The minister said that these dollars are affecting organization out there that address family violence, and that the dollars go to the six aboriginal organizations. Which organizations are those, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The six aboriginal women’s organizations that the member opposite was asking me about were those organizations that I just listed for the member opposite.
I should just add my thanks for the guidance of an advisory committee. The Women’s Directorate worked very closely with members of the advisory committee in developing the terms of reference and some criteria as to how the money would be distributed among aboriginal women in the territory to address violence in their communities. So, I thank them very much for their contributions and their hard work over the last few months.
I should also say that the advisory committee was comprised of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, as well as the Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues, including the manager of the family violence prevention unit, as well as our director of the Women’s Directorate.
We were able to seek advice from aboriginal women on how to use some of these funds through a forum that was held in February, I believe. For the member opposite’s information, $7,000 of the $100,000 was spent, so it was $93,000 distributed among six organizations. I believe there still remains some outstanding funding available that we were waiting for an additional application to come in for.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for her answer. Speaking about relationships and gathering information, on the relationship between the Women’s Directorate and other women’s organizations, besides aboriginal women’s organizations, such as the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Kaushee’s Place, Crime Prevention, and the family violence unit, do they hold inter-agency meetings on a regular basis so that they can share information within their organizations?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Indeed, we do work fairly closely with the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre in collaborating and working with them on a number of public education campaigns, including November, of course: Woman Abuse Prevention Month. Of course there are a number of other campaigns: White Ribbon Campaign, the Take Back the Night march, among others, so we do have an inter-agency committee where we do participate on a regular basis. As well, we work with YACWI: Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues. A good example of working closely with YACWI was the women’s forum that was held, I believe, in March of this year. It was a forum for women from across the territory to come together and participate in a day-long discussion on critical items of importance to women in the territory and what action items we can be furthering as a government, as well as agencies and communities in general.
And we have also made the commitment to continue that annual women’s forum on a regular basis every year. We’ve designated about $15,000 in new money for that initiative.
Mrs. Peter: I’m sure the Women’s Directorate has allocated in their budget for printed material. How many of the dollars in this budget are allocated for printed material for the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: With respect to the $150,000 of new funding identified in this supplementary, I certainly don’t have the exact breakdown for the member opposite, but we can certainly forward it to her at a time when we’re able to collect that information. But as the member opposite is well aware, we do provide a lot of campaigns. For example, one of our relatively new publications in the last year was a dating-violence pamphlet for young girls, which has been extremely well-received. It specifically addresses the date-rape drug. The pamphlet, as I’m sure the member opposite is aware, is written in a really plain style of language for all women to identify with. We also create statistical fact sheets on a regular basis. Just to give the member opposite a few examples, First Nation women in the Yukon, violence against women, and the most recently distributed pamphlet — I think it was just distributed in the last six months or four months — was regarding women and work. So we do participate in a number of different public education campaigns, and we always strive to improve upon those campaigns as well. I believe they’re very far reaching to all communities and certainly focus on the prevention end of it.
Of course, we work very closely with the Department of Justice — for example the family violence prevention unit. The date-rape drug campaign is an example that comes to mind where we do share our resources among ourselves in promoting these various campaigns.
Mrs. Peter: While the minister is providing me with the dollars that are spent on printed material, for the dollars that are spent on wages — can she make that available at the same time?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Sure, Mr. Chair. When the member opposite refers to wages, that would be specifically toward the aboriginal liaison, who will be hired fairly soon. That will go out to competition and, without really knowing the exact specific number of dollars attached to this particular position, we can certainly endeavour to do that.
In addition to the liaison for the First Nation aboriginal worker, we have also identified funds for an aboriginal women self-governance policy forum. That will be held later on this month. That has to do with providing the opportunity for First Nation women in the territory to participate in the ongoing discussions surrounding implementation of land claims self governance, through consultation and leadership development initiatives. We are also working very closely with the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society and others to coordinate this one-day policy forum. Again, that will be scheduled later on this month.
And we have also — part of the $150,000 in new funding will go toward emergency safety kits for women leaving abusive relationships. This is actually an initiative on which, over the last couple years, the Women’s Directorate has been approached by Kaushee’s Place to assist them in developing these safety kits.
We would envision that these kits would be available for distribution throughout all Yukon communities and would include a lot of valuable information and safety tips, including a plan for how and where you will escape, emergency money, an extra set of car keys, an extra set of clothes, a driver’s licence — this type of thing.
Of course, the other item has to do with the splitting up publication that was done awhile ago, and it will focus on family law issues as they pertain to women and children. It will be available and updated accordingly.
Mrs. Peter: With respect to the older Women’s program, which is a pilot project, their dollars come directly from the federal government. Has the minister had any dialogue with people who are running that program? I believe, right now, their funding is only going to last until the end of this fiscal year, and they are looking for support.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I understand that the Department of Health and Social Services has received a proposal regarding this initiative and is doing just that — reviewing it right now.
Mrs. Peter: Is this an initiative that the Women’s Directorate would see fit to help support?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: When it comes to this particular initiative, of course, the Women’s Directorate is very supportive. We also understand, however, that the federal government has funded this initiative and, like other federal government programs that come and go, we have to be very cognizant that we work very closely with these different associations and work to collaborate with all our partners to identify priorities for funding, but of course we are very supportive.
As I understand, we also participated on the steering committee — the inter-agency committee — that also helped ensure that the initiative got underway in the first place.
Mrs. Peter: When I asked the minister if she would support such an initiative, I didn’t make myself clear. Would the department financially support such a pilot project that is happening right now? If you have a look at the statistics, the need for this program has gone up. I am just wondering if they would be supporting such a project.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We remain hopeful that the federal government also recognizes its responsibility in continuing this program, first and foremost. As I mentioned earlier, there is a proposal before the Department of Health and Social Services, and they are currently reviewing it.
Mrs. Peter: Just as I thought. Programs that are much needed in this territory always seem to get this type of runaround from the governments. It is started by the federal or the territorial governments, and when a program such as the older women’s program has finally gotten off the ground, the finances are pulled. Again, where do these people go?
The Women’s Directorate, as I understand it, addresses family violence in the territory. $869,000 has been voted in this department within this year. A lot of that money is going to different organizations throughout the larger centres. The need is out there in the communities. The money is being spent in areas where they could look at their budget and say, “Maybe we don’t need any more printed material in this area; we could spend the money elsewhere.” I’m sure the minister can see fit to make sure that some of these dollars address the need for violence prevention in our communities.
Earlier in this year I wondered if the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate ended up writing a letter to the Attorney General in B.C. in regard to a violent situation that happened in southern Yukon. Did a letter from this minister go to the Attorney General addressing violence, to taking a stand showing leadership in that area? When that issue was being addressed, a statement against violence came from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. That type of leadership is what we need in this territory. We witnessed just last week the behaviour of our Premier. It’s going to go on and on and on.
Mr. Chair, there are dollars being spent out there that are badly needed in the communities, and I don’t know how much more that we can say. I guess we just have to stand in this House and keep repeating ourselves until we have a government in place that is going to make an impact out there.
Mr. Chair, I have no more questions. I have no more comments, and I request that all lines be deemed read and carried.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just wanted to put it on the record that the Women’s Directorate, as the newly appointed minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, I am very proud and I take great pride and I work hard on Yukoners’ behalf in all of my portfolios.
This portfolio, the Women’s Directorate, is a very important portfolio. Our government has really paid credence to this particular portfolio. In fact, it was the Premier who had reiterated on our election platform two years ago to reinstate the Women’s Directorate, because unfortunately the previous Liberal government, for whatever reason, didn’t see perhaps as much value placed upon the Women’s Directorate. But we did, and we took immediate steps to reinstate the Women’s Directorate.
I think that, as is reflected in this fall supplementary budget that we are debating, there are a lot of creative initiatives. When the member opposite speaks about education and public awareness campaigns, I have to say that prevention is really where it’s at, and education, starting at a very young, early childhood age, is where it’s at. I would much rather place dollars in education than have to later on address the problems after the fact, after violence has taken place.
I should add, for the member opposite’s information, that education was identified as a very clear recognized priority among aboriginal women during the aboriginal women’s forum that was held in February. And it was identified as a key priority for engaging women throughout all the communities, not just in the larger centres. So I agree that there’s always lots more to be done. There’s always room for improvement. That’s my motto.
I’m happy to say, though, that we have been proactive on this front and we are taking an initiative. The Premier, in his former capacity as minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, worked very hard on behalf of the Women’s Directorate in collaborating with his counterparts in N.W.T. and Nunavut to raise the issue of violence against women in the north, and in particular against aboriginal women in the north. The ministers responsible for the status of women last year in 2003 at their annual meeting identified that this in fact would be a priority. So our government, again, came back home and was very proactive and identified some additional funding. From there, the Women’s Directorate has been working very hard — and I commend them for their efforts — to work with an advisory committee comprised of representatives from aboriginal women’s organizations and to come up with some unique ways of addressing violence in our communities.
Again, each of the proposals that have come forward were solicited; they were derived; they were community based but they came from aboriginal women. So that means everything when it comes from aboriginal women themselves. It means aboriginal women taking ownership and taking action in their own communities to address this very pervasive and serious problem that exists today.
The member opposite referred to a domestic violence case that happened in southeast — I don’t even believe it happened in the Yukon; it was in British Columbia. But I have to also say that, in the defence of our Premier, in the defence of our government, we have been working really hard and really proactively with the community of Watson Lake in identifying ways to help address some of these serious problems that are seriously affecting our communities.
Unfortunately, Watson Lake has received the brunt of negative media attention and I don’t believe they are receiving the credit that they really deserve. There are a number of positive initiatives that community has undertaken. They have come together and they are working very closely together with the respective First Nation, with the town council, the chamber of commerce — all the partners and agencies.
One of the first things that we did over a year ago was to help collaborate with all the existing agencies and community partners in seeing what we could do to come up with solutions to address some of these very serious problems in the community. Since then, the community has taken ownership, they’ve taken great strides, and I commend them for that. We in the Women’s Directorate will continue to work with the community of Watson Lake as we will with every community.
As I mentioned earlier, we have committed to work with YACWI to host, in conjunction with YACWI, an annual Women’s forum to continue the dialogue among all women in the territory to raise issues of importance. We will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice in raising awareness about VictimLINK. I think it’s a great initiative. For the first time, we actually have a 1-800 number 24/7. It’s available throughout the territory. There are bona fide counsellors at the other end. I think that service is very much needed in the communities and I think that, with additional education surrounding the VictimLINK line, it will be very successful.
In turn, we are also providing victim services to the communities of Lower Post and Atlin for a mere $10,000 from the B.C. government as part of the VictimLINK exchange, as well.
Again, we work together with the domestic violence treatment option — their inter-agency steering committee — on how we can expand that particular mechanism. It has been very instrumental in reducing the collapse rate of spousal abuse cases coming before the courts. It has been very innovative, and we’re very supportive of that initiative.
Again, we’ve also increased resources to the family violence prevention unit in providing additional community training and also providing clinical supervision. It’s something that was requested from the unit and something that we’re very proud to respond to.
We have also been collaborating with Yukon Housing toward establishing a priority in allocation of social housing for women who are escaping family violence.
We’re working with Energy, Mines and Resources and the Yukon Women in Trades and Technology organization to increase training opportunities in trades and industry for rural Yukon. And, of course, we also continue to work to support First Nation women in communities and their interest to participate in the ongoing implementation of land claims and self-governance in the territory.
As we mentioned before, violence prevention initiatives such as the $150,000 have gone toward a number of new initiatives, many of which have been directly requested by women in the territory, with $100,000 to aboriginal women’s organizations.
We also continue to work with our partners, the women’s transition homes as well as Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, in providing funding to help support public relations: education campaigns such as the White Ribbon Campaign; December 6, which is coming up on Monday, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women; the Sexual Assault Prevention Month in May. We provided assistance to the drink-coaster campaign. Also, we provided support for a pamphlet, “Love doesn’t leave a mark,” targeting youth 14 to 18 years, as well as to Women’s History Month in October.
For Women Abuse Prevention Month in November, we were very pleased to work with the youth organization BYTE. The Women’s Directorate commissioned Raw Element, a hip-hop band here, for launching a CD and raising awareness among youth about how we need to have respect in our relationships, for each other, and for ourselves.
The Bare Essentials campaign is currently on. We also continue to work alongside the Yukon Human Rights Commission, as well as with various NGOs, to address racism in the territory. We also incorporate anti-racism and anti-discrimination framework through gender-inclusive analysis; again, to ensure that our policies, legislation and programs do not reinforce, but rather mitigate discrimination in our territory. We offer training in gender-inclusive analysis through the Public Service Commission, and we also work to provide up-to-date statistical information pertaining to women here today.
Women’s programming — I believe the funds in this year’s fiscal budget were increased to provide self-advocacy training, as well as women’s programming in the area of trades. And, as was mentioned before, we continue to support, and very much appreciate, the work and efforts of the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, providing dollars for programming, public education campaigns, as I listed before, and also to assist them in providing the women’s advocate program. They do a magnificent job of working with women throughout the territory, supporting and referring issues, such as housing, legal issues, social assistance and domestic violence.
Of course we work with our other partners — the Yukon Status of Women Council, which had also produced a great report on rural choices, I believe it was, for northern women. So we are working on a number of initiatives, not just in the Women’s Directorate but we also work closely with other departments and agencies in the government and with other governments as we have been able to successfully garner additional funding for aboriginal women’s organizations through the Status of Women Canada.
We have also increased the Yukon child benefit program, which was a wonderful benefit, is very much needed and will benefit many families in the territory. Again, effective July 1 of this year, we have increased the monthly benefits by 50 percent to $450 per child per year — that’s very significant.
We are also very pleased, through the assistance of the Department of Health and Social Services, to provide rural pregnant mothers accommodation. I had the opportunity to take a look at the two brand new suites that are housed within the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and they are great — they are absolutely wonderful. Again, it was much needed, especially for people living in rural Yukon who don’t have the services at hand to prepare for the delivery of their child. We’re very proud to be able to support this initiative and to support the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre toward this renovation and securing these suites.
As you can see, we have been pretty busy over the last couple of years. We will continue to work toward developing a long-term education awareness campaign for the prevention of violence in our communities. We will be working very closely with our partners throughout the Yukon. Again, as was reiterated by aboriginal women back in February during the aboriginal women’s forum, we do need to have more education; we do need to promote more awareness of this very serious issue on what we can do to reduce this problem and eradicate it.
Again, I would just like to say that I’m very proud to be the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate and I would just like to close by thanking our staff for all the hard work that they do day in and day out in working with women throughout the Yukon and in Canada respectively to address these issues. I think they do a great job and I would certainly like to thank them.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mrs. Peter: I request unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 11, Women’s Directorate, cleared or carried, as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 11, Women’s Directorate, cleared or carried
Chair: Mrs. Peter has requested unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 11, Women’s Directorate, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women’s Directorate in the amount of $243,000 agreed to
Women’s Directorate agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 11, Women’s Directorate.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I request a few minutes to assemble officials for Community Services.
Chair: Mr. Hart has requested a couple of minutes to assemble officials. Do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Five minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Department of Community Services — continued
Chair: We will continue on with debate of Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05 and general debate on Vote 51, Department of Community Services.
Mr. Cardiff: I’d like to pick up where we left off a couple of days ago. We were in Community Services, and I believe I was talking about issues of equal pay for work of equal value and how we pay our emergency firefighters. We listened to the minister and comments from other members about the situation that we faced this year, the fact that they work long hours and they aren’t — in a lot of people’s opinion — financially rewarded appropriately for that work. The minister wants us to believe that the reason they’re paid the way they are is because the firefighter positions were taken over from the federal government by the territorial government under the devolution transfer agreement. He even went so far as to say they’re justly rewarded.
I direct the minister to the Government of Yukon Yukon General Administration Manual. I believe I’ve done this before. I probably did this in the spring. What I was hoping to do in the spring, Mr. Chair, was ensure that they were paid appropriately for the fire season that we just came through.
So maybe if we start now and the minister looks into this matter, we can ensure that in the next fire season they are paid a fair wage. In the government’s General Administration Manual, policy 3.58 says that persons engaged for the specific purpose of emergency fire suppression are engaged basically as casual personnel. It also says that they may be engaged to fight the fire directly or to perform other administrative operational duties associated within emergency fire suppression response and that they have to have all the qualifications, the availability, the certification — that’s the primary consideration when hiring them — previous related work experience. It also sets out under “compensation” that the base pay would be 20 percent over the minimum wage with a progressive pay schedule established on the basis of a category of duties. And that is authorized by the Public Service Commissioner. So it would lead me to believe, Mr. Chair, that if it is authorized by the Public Service Commissioner, that the Yukon government actually has some control over this, that you can’t blame the federal government. It also says that the compensation scales will be approved by the Public Service Commissioner.
There are a couple of clauses in here that absolutely floor me. We expect these people to work long hours, put their lives on the line, and right here in a government policy in the Yukon General Administration Manual, it breaches the Employment Standards Act: “Emergency firefighters are not eligible for overtime, vacation pay or statutory holiday pay.” What makes them so different from everybody else who works here in the Yukon? Why aren’t they entitled to overtime, vacation pay, or statutory holiday pay? It also says that they’re not eligible for any benefit plan compensation available to regular or seasonal employees.
So, I’d like the minister — I asked him the other day whether or not he’d at least look into this. Maybe the minister doesn’t consider them employees. They definitely don’t consider them employees when it comes to equal pay for work of equal value. When you look at what they pay — and I’ve gone through this before — these rates that I have here — I may not have the latest ones — were approved in April 2003. When you compare them to other people doing similar work at that time, they were far below the wages other people were making.
So, I’d like to ask the minister: does he consider them employees? And what category of employee does he consider them to be?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Yukon government pays competitive wages for EFAs at the rate that, as I mentioned earlier, are higher than Canada offered pre-devolution, and they are comparable to the highest rates in other jurisdictions within Canada for individuals doing this type of work. It’s not like we are, as the member opposite is trying to say, victimizing our emergency firefighters. We’re paying them the rate consistent with the rest of Canada, and we are paying them more than what they would have been getting with the federal government.
Mr. Cardiff: It’s right here in government policy — this is a government policy — it’s in the General Administration Manual, Vol. 3, Human Resources Policies — that they treat these people differently. They’re not eligible for overtime pay; they’re not eligible for vacation pay; they don’t get paid for statutory holidays and they don’t receive any benefits. If that isn’t victimization, I don’t know what is. We expect them to go out there and put their lives on the line on a daily basis and work long hours with no overtime. Like I said, often they are so exhausted they go straight by the mess tent to look for a cot. It’s, “Go past the mess tent; go past the shower and find a place to sleep, if you can find one.” I think that the minister should at least commit to looking into this matter and treating these people fairly.
The minister didn’t answer the question. I asked him if they were considered employees and what category of employees were they? I believe that the General Administration Manual says they are casual. The government hires other categories of employees — there are seasonal employees; there are auxiliary; there are on-call; there are permanent; there are term. Surely the minister could look into where they might fit into one of those categories where they could be afforded the dignity of receiving benefits and maybe even some representation.
I don’t know why the minister thinks I’m standing here doing this because there’s nobody else who’s going to stand there and do that for them. They don’t have a representative to do that for them. They’re not represented by the union — that’s my understanding. Nobody else is going to stand up to the minister and the government and say that these people are being treated unfairly. I’m sure there are other people out there who would like to be able to do that, but it’s not within their ability to do it. So the minister needs to at least give consideration to this matter. I’d appreciate it if he did answer the question about whether he considers them employees. Are they still considered casual employees and would he consider trying to maybe make a change to that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The pay policy scales are separate in process. They are approved by Public Service Commission and Management Board and they’re based on a review of other jurisdictions. The emergency firefighters are not devolved employees. They are engaged as casual personnel pursuant to the Public Service Act and the terms and conditions of employment as set out in policy 358. However, for the member opposite, under our normal course of looking at things, we will look at this particular aspect on his behalf as well as those for EFF.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to thank the minister — this is something I’ve been pursuing for awhile, and it always feels good to feel that you’ve been heard bringing forward these concerns of working people.
I have a couple of questions with regard to the situation in Dawson City. The minister told us in the Legislature the other day — the cost of the audit. I just put it away somewhere, but my recollection was it was in the — maybe the minister could tell us what that figure was again, because I don’t actually have it in front of me.
Hon. Mr. Hart: There was a contract in place with Doddington Advisors, Inc., and it is not to exceed $360,000.
Mr. Cardiff: What process did the government use to enter into this contract? Is it a sole-source contract? Was it tendered? I don’t believe I saw a tender. Could the minister enlighten us on that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This contract was sole-sourced in accordance with the Financial Administration Act.
Mr. Cardiff: I didn’t quite catch all of the minister’s answer there, but I did catch the fact that it was sole-sourced. It seems like a rather large contract for the minister to be sole-sourcing. I’m not sure where the authority to sole-source a contract that large comes from. I thought that there were some guidelines and some rules about sole-sourcing contracts and there were some limitations put on the government and the ministers of the government with regard to how big a contract you can sole-source.
Maybe the minister could enlighten us as to where he derived the authority to sole-source such a large contract and what the reasons were for not actually putting it out to tender.
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were dealing with the finances in the City of Dawson and we became aware of the situation around Easter. It was very obvious that we had a situation where we needed to go in. We made the move to protect the citizens of Dawson and, as part of the protection, we looked at hiring a forensic auditor, which are just not available around the corner and/or in the Yukon. This expertise is not even available in great numbers in the rest of Canada.
We consulted with people in British Columbia and Alberta and we were given a couple of names. We needed somebody right away — somebody who could act for us and go in as soon as possible. We made a choice in dealing with this to expedite the matter and to get somebody in there to get a grasp of the situation as quickly as possible. That was our major reason for going in there.
When we originally looked at hiring this auditor, we were not looking at the full amount that I just mentioned previously. But, of course, once he got in there it became fairly obvious that it was going to take a lot longer to do his investigation than what was originally envisioned. Thus we have the amount that we are looking at today.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister said a couple of things. I think that everybody sitting in the Legislature and everybody listening in on radio — there probably isn’t a person in the territory who doesn’t know that there was a situation in Dawson. There probably isn’t a person in this Legislature, listening in, or in the territory who knows that the minister made a move. What was interesting is that the minister said he consulted Outside, and there weren’t people available in the territory to do forensic audits. To be honest with you, I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I won’t question that.
It would seem to me that there is probably more than one company somewhere south of 60 — the minister even admitted that there were a couple. So if there were a couple of companies, why wasn’t there a competitive process? Why did it have to go straight to a sole-source $360,000 gift?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite answered part of his own question. One of our biggest issues in the Yukon was trying to find somebody who didn’t have any connections or a conflict of interest of any kind involving the City of Dawson — somebody removed from the situation, somebody who could be objective in the situation. We had a very short time frame; we needed somebody right away.
We had discussions with several people as I mentioned earlier, but not all of them were available right away. I have a connection with this one firm that indicated they were able to come in, so we asked Doddington Advisors Inc. to come up and commence work as soon as possible so that we could find out what’s happening in Dawson, and so that he could be there as quickly as possible to ensure that the paperwork is available for him to trace.
Mr. Cardiff: I tabled a question the other day for the minister and I haven’t received a response, so I’m going to ask him. I’m going to expound on the question and ask him when he expects to receive the forensic auditor’s report on Dawson City’s finances and would he commit to tabling that report — my question was “on the first sitting day after he receives the report”. If he receives it after the sitting’s over, I’d like to see it as soon as possible, and I’m sure all Yukoners would.
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the auditor has advised me that he’s still doing investigations and it’s taking much longer than he anticipated; however, I anticipate something will be coming forward soon. As I said, I can’t commit here right now, but once we’re in a position to provide the member opposite with a copy, we will.
Mr. Cardiff: It was my understanding that the forensic audit was going to be available fairly soon. It has been promised several times and it seems to keep getting delayed. I have another request for the minister: could the minister provide the contract, the terms of reference and the instructions provided to the forensic auditor to the House?
Hon. Mr. Hart: It’s public and available for the member opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: A nod would do: could the minister send a copy over? I don’t have it and I’d appreciate that, if he could.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will endeavour to get him a copy. It might not be today but we’ll try to get something for him for early next week.
Mr. Cardiff: The situation in Dawson definitely poses some questions about the government’s actions, in my mind. We’ve been informed that they’ve spent $360,000 on a sole-source contract for a forensic audit. The minister was asked a question earlier on in this sitting about the chief administrative officer. I don’t believe I got the whole answer; in fact, the media got more of an answer than I did, after Question Period.
What I asked was — my question was whether or not they were paying the chief administrative officer the full —whether the City of Dawson was responsible for the $120,000 a year, four-day-a-week contract. The minister said they weren’t on the hook for — when he went outside the Legislature, he said that they were topping it up. Could the minister tell the House exactly how much the Yukon government is paying — how much of this contract for $120,000 the Yukon government is paying?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Administration for Mr. Skidd was originally set up whereby the City of Dawson would cover off the normal CEO costs and the Government of Yukon would have been responsible for the balance over and above that total. Now, for reasons I don’t want to get into just yet, we have to date expended monies to Mr. Skidd in the area of $94,000.
Chair: Before the debate continues, I’d just like to remind members to refrain from using individuals’ names, please.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is again not providing all the information. Does the minister have a figure? I really appreciate the minister’s concise answers, I have to admit. It’s way better and we’re getting a lot further, making a lot more progress than we do with other ministers who give 20-minute answers. This is a refreshing change. So I’d like to ask the minister if he has a total figure. He mentioned how much was in this year’s budget for the trustee. Does he have a figure total that has been paid to the trustee? Is the trustee now finished? Is his contract done?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The trustee is still in place, of course. Mr. Hayes is in place and will be until March 31. That’s when his contract is for. I anticipate us heading into an election for the council in Dawson early this spring, as I mentioned in the House already.
Mr. Cardiff: I was actually referring to — maybe I have the term wrong; maybe it wasn’t the trustee. The person who was running Dawson’s affairs prior to the current trustee — is there a figure for the contract for that person? Is he still under contract?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I believe the member opposite is talking about the previous supervisor who was assisting the council previous to Mr. Hayes’ appointment. There was a contract that went in in this fiscal year, and he was paid for that particular process. As I mentioned in the House once before, we wanted a transition between the previous supervisor and the new trustee, so a small contract was put in place to allow that to take place.
Mr. Cardiff: Does the minister have a figure for the total amount that was paid to that particular supervisor? The first supervisor worked for the government; the next supervisor was hired by the government and a contract was in place. There must have been a total value on that contract and any subsequent contracts that the government entered into with that particular person.
What I’m looking for is the total amount that has been expended or is expected to be expended.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I did mention this in the House once before. We have $20,000 expended under a contract for this fiscal year, which we had identified previously. I do not, however, have amounts owing or paid to the previous supervisor in the past fiscal year. However, I could probably get the information and provide it to the member opposite next week.
Mr. Cardiff: That would help. I’ve been scratching down figures, and I was looking forward to actually adding them up and doing a running tally on what it’s costing the Yukon taxpayer for the government’s actions.
It’s a sad day for democracy when the government removes a democratically elected government. The government was working cooperatively, to a large degree, with the city council for quite some time. I think that they could have actually continued down that path. Maybe they needed to keep a supervisor in place; maybe they needed to provide somebody with some accounting expertise to assist them in the creation of a multi-year financial plan and to deal with the crisis. It’s strange that the government, now that they’ve got their people in place, can all of a sudden find $1.6 million in a grant — something that is not repayable.
We have $360,000 for a forensic audit. We have a government that is paying — the minister doesn’t want to say it in the House — $120,000 to the chief administrative officer and $20,000 this year for the previous supervisor. He has committed to sending over the missing figure in that equation. Then we have the existing trustee, and we are on the hook there to the tune of what could possibly be $150,000, as I understand it.
That’s pretty expensive democracy in my mind. I think that the minister could have not really been so draconian in removing a democratically elected council. He seems willing to ante up the money now that they’re gone, but he wasn’t willing to do that previously.
Obviously he didn’t have the support of his colleagues, either. He could probably find more money to help out the residents of Dawson if they had actually passed the amendments to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act yesterday, instead of messing around with it.
Just think: maybe the minister who owes taxpayers $300,000 would have started making payments on his loan. Then he wouldn’t have been in arrears and could have stayed in Cabinet, and he could have contributed money back. That money could have actually been funnelled back to Dawson, and we could have kept adding more money, adding more figures. It could have been a running tally.
But the members opposite didn’t want to do that. The members opposite wanted to support the MLA for Klondike and the fact that he doesn’t pay back his money.
On one hand, they remove the democratically elected council, but they treat another citizen of Dawson in a totally different way. Now, Mr. Chair, I think the minister needs to give this a little consideration. It’s a serious issue that a lot of Yukon taxpayers are concerned about. They’re just as concerned about the financial situation in Dawson and the death of democracy there as they are about the minister paying back his loans.
There is a substantial sum of money here, and I imagine that we’re going to have to wait until next week when we get back into Community Services to get all the figures.
We have some of the figures. The minister has committed to get us the other figures that are required to finish doing up this tally of what it has cost this government to take the actions that they have taken in Dawson City.
So far we still don’t have a forensic audit; we’ve been promised that forensic audit just like we’ve been promised many other things. We’ve been promised a review of the Workers’ Compensation Act. We’ve been promised all kinds of things in this Legislature — commitments made about being open and accountable in the platform. And then you look at the situation in Dawson where the municipal council gets tossed but the Member for Klondike gets treated in a totally different way.
So I look forward next week to continuing this discussion with the minister, receiving the information that he has committed to providing and I think we can look forward to a — I know the minister is looking forward to providing a response.
Given the time, I move we report progress on Bill No. 12, Second Appropriation Act, 2004-05.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cardiff 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 directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.