Wednesday, November 16, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Geographic Information System Day
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today on behalf of the House to pay tribute to GIS Day. Geographic Information System Day is a day when many nations celebrate the practice of geographic information systems applications and the importance of GIS technology.
Around the world, GIS users and vendors open their doors to schools, businesses and the general public to showcase the real world benefits of geographical information technology in our daily lives. Internationally, this day is sponsored by the National Geographic Society and many others. Here in the Yukon, the Geographic Information System Users Group and Geomatics Yukon hosted an event in the foyer of this building. GIS Yukon Day consisted of presentations from specialists from the Yukon government and Yukon College.
Mr. Speaker, our local specialists exhibited and discussed how GIS is used to improve the lives of Yukoners. Yukon students, teachers and interested members of the public got answers to their questions about how geography and technology geographic systems protect each of us and inform us about the natural resources.
Today, Geomatics Yukon, the lands branch, the Yukon Geological Survey, the mineral resource branch, the City of Whitehorse, the forestry branch, Wildland Fire Management, and Yukon College brought the science and technology of geography to life for all of us.
I wish to thank the representatives from these departments and the organizations for giving their time today. These groups engaged us in learning and caring about geography. Their information and their practical Yukon examples brought geography in action for all of us. They shared their knowledge and their passion to educate us and our children on GIS technology.
GIS technology is crucial to the Yukon for the services and operations it provides in the areas of natural resource management, local administration, public safety, transportation, education, business and demographics. Geography is much more than it once was and so much more than mapping. Through GIS we have very powerful technology that is changing the way organizations manage information. Geographic information systems have changed the way that people view and live in their cities, towns, and neighbourhoods. GIS is a computer-based tool for mapping and analyzing things that exist and events that happen on earth. It integrates common data-based operations reporting the statistical analysis with the unique visual and geographic benefits of the maps.
GIS technology lets you see, explore and analyze data by location, revealing hidden patterns, relationships and trends. GIS provides users with powerful tools for better analysis and decision making. In the Yukon, GIS technology is key to helping government and organizations manage natural resources more efficiently and cost-effectively, from environmental management, forestry and agriculture to oil and gas exploration and production.
Most importantly, GIS helps our students to learn the importance of geography in their world and allows them to engage in studies that require and promote critical thinking and integrated learning. Critical thinking and integrated learning, Mr. Speaker, are crucial to our society’s future and to the future of our children as they make their way in this world.
Speaker: Are there any other tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart: Pursuant to section 3 of the Area Development Act, I have for tabling Order-in-Council 2005/160, entitled “Ibex Valley Development Area Regulation”.
Speaker: Are there any other documents for tabling?
Reports of committees.
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 urges the Government of Yukon, as a matter of top priority, to engage as a partner and supporter with Yukon individuals, organizations, communities and other levels of government to develop and implement a comprehensive, community-focused crime prevention and community safety strategy that will help make all Yukon communities and neighbourhoods better places to live.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Statements by ministers.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Safe communities
Mr. Hardy: Last night, people from many Yukon communities spoke out clearly during a broadcast forum on safe communities. Several key messages came through that any government of the Yukon needs to hear and act on. Perhaps the main message was that people want to be directly involved in making their communities safer and in tackling very difficult issues like drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and property crime.
People are prepared to take ownership of these issues at the grassroots level, but they also need government support and involvement. I recognize that this government has produced a draft action plan on substance abuse, but much more is needed. Will the Premier commit the necessary resources so that people at the community level who want to work together to develop effective community safety strategies have the tools they need to do the job?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The essence of the member opposite’s question was the subject of our motion on Monday in this Legislature that received the unanimous support of all parties. It was initially an NDP motion that was expanded, Mr. Speaker, to include the role of all those in the communities, First Nations, and all the various organizations and bodies that must come to the table and must have input into the substance abuse action plan that we are moving forward on.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that the Premier and his colleagues weren’t able to attend last night’s forum. I hope that some of them took the time to listen to what the people were saying, because there is a difference from the motion that the minister referenced.
They would have heard anger and frustration, because there are real problems that are not being dealt with effectively through traditional ways of doing things. More importantly, they would have heard a passionate commitment from people who want to make positive change in their communities, as well as some very progressive ideas about how to go about doing that.
There was also strong recognition that ongoing dialogue, which includes all points of view, is the only way to build a consensus that is needed to make positive action possible. Since this is clearly a priority for Yukon people, will the Premier make it a priority for his government to support community-based dialogue and community-based initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That is exactly what we’re doing. A substance abuse summit was convened this summer. It brought together over 200 individuals from all across the Yukon to identify and deal with what information they had on this very important topic. A consequence of that summit was the substance abuse action plan, which has been tabled in this Legislature and was the subject of a motion on Monday of this week. There was all-party agreement on that motion.
We are committed. We are dedicated, and we are moving forward on this very important initiative of implementing our substance abuse action plan.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I hope the Premier and his spokesperson, the Minister of Health and Social Services, are not deliberately misunderstanding me. The government substance abuse action plan could well be part of the solution, but it is just part. On the treatment side, for example, one First Nation speaker made a very telling point last night when she said, “First Nation people are not looking for high academic qualifications in their counsellors.” What they are looking for is someone who would be with them as a loving friend in their healing journey.
There is a definite role for government, and I don’t question the sincerity or the hard work by people who work within the government system. More than one vision is needed. The view from inside office walls needs to be reinforced constantly by the view from outside those walls.
Will the Premier set aside the rhetoric and agree to recognize the desire of Yukon people at the community level to have a sense of ownership in developing community safety strategies and provide the resources to help make this happen — however long it takes, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First I want to express the government’s position and view. We see what the official opposition has undertaken with respect to this issue that we must deal with in society as a very positive and constructive step, and we give the official opposition full marks and full value for their efforts.
So, too, do we give the opposition members in this House the credit that is due with respect to the work done to date. The member opposite asks about community-driven processes, and I take him back to our very first meeting with the member opposite, the Grand Chief and representatives of Whitehorse City Council. We all agreed at that time that we need grassroots, community-driven initiatives. What the NDP has brought forward and what we have unanimously agreed to in this House, and what our action plan speaks to, is all about grassroots community-driven initiatives.
We think now that further input can only provide more constructive elements to what we must do in meeting this challenge. There are no political boundaries here, Mr. Speaker. We accept the offerings from members opposite. We have every intention of working with them, the stakeholders, NGOs, professionals and government professionals in this area.
Question re: Pipeline preparedness
Mr. McRobb: I attended last night’s meeting on safe communities and was moved by the comments of those who participated. People spoke passionately about the need to make our communities safer. My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
For three years now, I’ve asked this minister what he’s doing to prepare the Yukon for the pipeline, particularly with respect to protecting our communities, culture, economy and environment, but in three years he has done nothing. The official opposition has constructively suggested he deploy the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment to engage in consultations with Yukoners in all communities and produce a report of recommendations on how we can best prepare to meet this huge social challenge.
Time is of the essence; the pipeline project might be here within just 30 or 40 months. When can Yukoners expect their government to finally get around to addressing this need?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, this government is looking very seriously at all impacts and pluses and minuses of any pipeline that might go through out jurisdiction. Certainly we have been working within our government to minimize these impacts on the communities where this pipeline will most affect them. Certainly one of those things is the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. We are working with them. The funding is flowing. We are going to take a look at the impact on the seven First Nations that are going to be directly impacted by the pipeline.
I am pleased to see that the member opposite is realizing that a pipeline might come through our jurisdiction. It wasn’t too long ago that he said it wasn’t going to come through our jurisdiction. I’m glad to see that.
Mr. McRobb: That’s completely false and the minister knows it.
Yukoners fear what might happen if we’re not prepared —
Speaker: Order please. Accusing another member of misleading the House is out of order. I would ask the Member for Kluane not to do it. You have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Those are not the facts, Mr. Speaker.
Yukoners fear what might happen if we are not prepared to meet the social challenges inherent in this massive project. They deserve to know what’s possible in the way of doables to protect us from the ravages of this megaproject. If the minister bothered to read a study prepared for his department three years ago, he would know it found which communities along the pipeline route will feel the largest impact. It’s the responsibility of the Yukon government to protect its people. Since the pipeline falls within this minister’s area of responsibility, it is he who should have done something by now.
When will the minister get off his hands and do something while there is still time?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I’m going to remind the member opposite that my job as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is to work in tandem with the departments of social welfare, Education and all aspects of this government to minimize the impact of this pipeline. It doesn’t fall on Energy, Mines and Resources’ shoulder to do the whole job. That’s why we have a government, and that’s why we have a team on this side that can face up to it and face the challenges of a pipeline when and if it comes through our jurisdiction, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, it’s all a big secret. Yukoners aren’t aware of what this government’s doing behind closed doors. This pipeline will be the largest ever private sector project in the history of the world. It would bring thousands of transient workers, along with hundreds of others, exploiting the boom economy. This poses a serious new threat to the safety of our Yukon.
Last night, we heard about how problems with drugs, violence and crime are getting out of control. If we don’t have our house in order now, how can we possibly weather the storm when the pipeline hits? I see the Premier will respond, and he’s a brave man to get up on the final supplementary, when we don’t have an opportunity to respond.
Doing nothing poses too great a risk of forever losing the Yukon we all know today. What will it take to prod this minister into taking this matter more seriously?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Let me try in a very short snippet here, Mr. Speaker — given the time allotted for answers — to give the list to the Member for Kluane of what we’re doing.
Obviously, it begins with a pipeline branch in the department, but it includes an integrated approach that we have with all related departments in the corporate structure of government. It includes our relationship with the N.W.T. and our involvement there, including intervening in the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. It includes our relationship with Alaska, B.C., and Alberta with respect to a common position on the pipeline. That lends itself considerably to dealing with social and economic impacts. It includes things like correctional reform. It includes substance abuse action plans. It includes the increased investment in our social safety net. It includes the increased investment in training in trades and skills that we need in this territory through the Yukon College and community training trust funds. Mr. Speaker, it includes investment in the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition and it includes the creation of the pipeline commission. That is not a secret to anybody. We’re not doing the work in back rooms. We’re doing the work not only in the Yukon, out there in the public, we’re doing it in Alaska, Northwest Territories, Alberta, B.C., Washington and Ottawa. That’s pretty much out of the back rooms.
Question re: Contracts, sole-sourcing
Ms. Duncan: I have some more questions today regarding the government’s questionable contracting decisions. There’s an expression, Mr. Speaker, that those who do not know their history are destined to repeat it. The Yukon Party went back in history to sole source a contract to an individual to project manage the athletes village project. This individual is infamous for alienating the Yukon contracting community when the Yukon Party determined they would employ their usual slash-and-burn technique with the Yukon hospital construction. This individual has been awarded two contracts for $70,000. Again, no competition. The contracts were sole sourced. This decision has once again alienated Yukon contractors.
Why was this person hired by the Yukon Party government and who made the decision?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were put in a situation to come up with a solution to assist the host society with the building of the village and, as such, we surveyed our supply of project managers available. Very few are available across Canada, I might add. We came across somebody who has some Yukon experience, so we asked that individual to come here and take over the project and to assist us in that particular process. I will say to the member opposite that we are working through this individual, but he is also utilizing a local employment process. We’re doing as much local hiring as possible, given the type of makeup. We’re going out of our way, in fact, to try to ensure that the local industry gets as much advantage as possible.
Ms. Duncan: This was part of the debate the last time this individual was contracted by the Yukon Party. Then Minister Phelps said, with respect to the project management and construction of the hospital, “… we took the management away from Government Services — Cabinet did that — and placed our confidence in a group of expert people who offered their expertise.”
Lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party has dug into their archives and gone back to this same individual to project manage the athletes village and — surprise, surprise — $1.7 million was sole sourced to an Alberta company to do a good portion of the project.
Let me ask Mr. Penikett’s question: “Does anybody over there agree that Yukon contractors and tradespeople have the right to expect their democratically-elected government to do everything within reason to ensure they are employed on public works in the Yukon?”
Speaker: Before the honourable member answers the question, leader of the third party, please don’t mention individuals by name.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I’d like to remind the member opposite that that particular project was brought in on time and on budget. To take on that particular aspect, that’s an important element in dealing with our project. We are in a time crunch on this particular project and that is why we’ve hired this gentleman to assist us on this project.
He’s only overseeing the project. The actual management of the project is being handled by a local project manager under his assistance, and this is what is going on.
One of the issues is to deal with as much local employment going toward that facility as possible. We are dealing with lots of information; we’re looking at basement construction; we’re looking at foundation; we’re looking at building a barrier-free design; we’re looking at a design using the green home guidelines. All these things are being done locally and they’re being done to the benefit of Yukon businesses.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, clearly the minister hasn’t listened to the Yukon contracting community. The government is not following normal contracting procedures. The result is that Yukon contractors are being told they are not welcome on this project, and project managers who work for the government are being told, “We don’t trust you” — a typical Yukon Party message to the Yukon’s professional public service, I might add.
There are many capable project managers within the Yukon government. There are nine in the YTG directory alone. The government sole sourced $70,000 to this individual from Outside and from the Yukon Party archives. The last time they did this there were many, many, many questions and many days of debate regarding changes of contracting regulations and standard contracting procedures when this individual was in charge. This government clearly has a penchant for sole-source contracting. Will the minister commit on the floor of the House today that the remainder of the contracts on the athletes village, in Watson Lake and elsewhere, will follow standard contracting procedures?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, that’s exactly what the government is doing. All contract procedures, laws, policies and regulations are being followed. What the member opposite, the leader of the third party, conveniently ignores here is that this government brought in two of the largest capital budgets in the history of the territory. The project management team within the government corporate structure is busy to a maximum, and then you add a very complex and detailed project like the investment in our college — which will be used for the Canada Winter Games, but for the long term by our education system — there is a need to bring in project management, and that is exactly what we have done. The project management team is doing everything possible to maximize the retained benefit of this investment right here in the Yukon. That includes the work on putting in the footprint, the off-site infrastructure, the assembly of said buildings, the finishing of said buildings, the mechanical, the electrical. It even includes, Mr. Speaker, the windows that are going into these modular units will be produced and installed by a local company.
I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that not only have capital projects dramatically increased and that our government people very busy, but so too is the private sector in project management and construction. It’s a very positive sign for the territory.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre programming
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, yesterday a Yukon man with a long history of convictions for violent offences was sentenced to prison for beating his friend to death in a drunken rage. He was described by the judge as desperately needing treatment for substance abuse. He is also rated as high risk to reoffend violently. This man spent a whole year in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and in all that time he didn’t receive any treatment for his addictions. No one suggested that he should be assessed or that he should talk to a counsellor. There was certainly no programming made available for this inmate.
Why did the Minister of Justice allow this to happen?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. It is something that goes way back in history. It did not start just when this government took office. It is something that has been here for decades.
This government took the steps to start to address this issue by first conducting the correctional reform. This was critical in order to be able to decide what is going to happen inside the correctional facility and involving one of the very important groups, which is the First Nations.
Again, I think that this is an issue that will be addressed.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I agree. This does go back a long time in history. It has been happening for a long time. This government has had three years to do something about it.
The minister loves to talk about correctional reform and programming, not warehousing. We agree with that. The corrections consultation is a $1-million exercise that is supposed to be the answer to all the corrections problems, but that is someday. Meanwhile, prisoners who have severe addiction problems and a history of violent crimes are being left without any support or rehabilitation while they are in our care, for months or even years. It is up to the minister to change this policy that leads to this disgraceful situation.
What is the minister going to do today to allow the corrections system to effectively deal with addicted prisoners who pose a serious threat to community safety when they are eventually released?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would remind the member opposite that the correctional facility at this point in time does have programs that deal with addictions. But let’s keep in mind that many of the clients who do go into Whitehorse Correctional Centre — the program is there. Whether or not that individual wants to participate, again, is an individual choice. Mr. Speaker, all that Whitehorse Correctional Centre can do is provide the training. I certainly hope that all the clients that go there will take advantage of this. I still say that the ultimate solution is not to go there in the first place.
Question re: Substance abuse
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, last night, at the safe communities forum, we heard from several professionals dealing with alcohol and drug abuse. They all agree that present treatment resources are not responding to the needs. This is especially true in the small communities. One counsellor involved directly in substance abuse treatment in a small, rural community said that we need to take charge of the problem to help people heal and to feel safe. The government’s vague substance abuse plan does not have the workplans, deadlines or budgets attached to it. That’s not taking charge. How is the Minister of Health and Social Services taking charge of the problem of substance abuse in our rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have clearly signalled what we are doing, and it was done in an all-party cooperative environment, including municipal governments and our First Nation governments. As a consequence of the summit that was held this summer, we have a substance abuse action plan. Now we’re into the consultation of how we’re going to implement that.
Some of the initiatives are expanded outreach services, problem-solving court, tele-health addiction and counselling and a substance abuse crisis line. There are but four examples of initiatives. If they’re in place now, they will be enhanced and worked on.
The member is absolutely correct; it requires a budget. If you look at the timing of this whole initiative, the summit was held in June, the action plan came out this fall, and we are in the initial phase of implementing that action plan. So the member raises a very good point, but we are underway in implementing what the member is asking for.
Mrs. Peter: People wanting treatment have to wait months to get into a facility. This government offers treatment only six times a year, and it’s in Whitehorse. We know that rural, land-based treatment works. This government has stopped funding them. We need training for First Nation addiction counsellors. This government refused to fund a proposed two-year addictions diploma at Yukon College and does not have regular training for NNADAP workers in the field.
None of these issues are addressed in the substance abuse action plan. Will this minister direct his department to immediately provide adequate resources to assist rural communities in their fight against addictions?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We’re already doing all that and more. It was our government that reopened the 28-day live-in treatment program here in Whitehorse, which was closed by the NDP and not reopened under the Liberal watch. It was one of our commitments to reopen that program — the 28-day residential live-in program — and we have done that.
At the same time, there are six intakes a year, yes, but those individuals who are the addictions counsellors have the opportunity to go out to the various camps — Tatlmain Lake, Jackson, and there are a number of them around the Yukon — where they provide assistance to the First Nations that are offering programs for substance abuse, addictions and other related difficulties.
So we’re on the ground, we’re working, our substance abuse action plan is before the House, and we’re going to be improving and implementing it wherever we can in a cooperative manner, working with all stakeholders.
Question re: Safe communities
Mr. Hardy: I’d like to bring this Question Period back full circle to where I started in my questions to the Premier. Last night Yukon people heard from some excellent panelists, who brought a wealth of experience and some very challenging perspectives to the discussion of safe communities.
These are people who are not just talking the talk, Mr. Speaker. Each of them in their own area is really walking the walk and seeing what’s happening out there.
What they agreed on was that positive change doesn’t happen without direct involvement by individuals at a community level. That’s all we have been asking the Premier to recognize in this matter.
The wisdom is out there; the desire for change is out there; the desire for involvement is out there. Will the Premier agree to have his ministers and government officials work directly as partners with Yukon people at the community level to develop strategies that will make the Yukon a better and safer place to live?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I want to again repeat that we place great value in what transpired last night, with more experts coming to add to the summit already held here, where 200 individuals were involved, including many professionals in this area. We expect that that will add constructively to what we must do to meet this challenge in our society, but I want to point out to the member opposite that we already are doing many things at the community or grassroots level. Evidence of that is one rural community in this territory, with the integrated approach taken not only by government departments and agencies but also by the community itself, which will be receiving a reward in this area. Plus, we’ve increased investments to NGOs, to the front-line workers and groups like our youth groups and increased investments to our women’s shelters. These are just some small examples of what the government has already been doing in this area to ensure community involvement, to ensure that our front-line workers are getting more resources available to them to do the work they do.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I don’t want to exaggerate it, but we’re looking at a kind of a revolution in how Yukon people and their governments can work together to make radical change, because radical change is necessary.
There are successful models that we can learn from, Mr. Speaker. Here in Canada there are some, as well as in places like Switzerland and western Australia. There are models from our own past as a smaller, more close-knit community that we can also learn from. There are models within our families, within schools, within First Nations, within neighbourhoods, Mr. Speaker, but it takes political will to support and encourage people who are trying to find models that are uniquely suited to their own circumstances. The substance abuse summit, which this government is falling back on, doesn’t answer all the questions or did not address the questions last night.
Can individuals in organizations and communities that want to develop effective community safety strategies count on this government for both personal and financial support, or are they really going to have to go it alone?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Communities are not going it alone, as we speak. In fact, there has been a tremendous amount of effort — integrated, I might add — by the government and its departments and agencies. A great deal of credit goes to the many dedicated individuals within these departments who have gone out into the communities to assist and provide direction and insight to resource community groups, as I stated earlier. They have really gone to work on this issue. It’s no wonder we are doing these things, given the dramatic increase in investment in the social fabric of this territory under the leadership of the Minister of Health and Social Services. It includes a target strategic investment in this area.
This is not a challenge that will be met and resolved by tomorrow. It will take each and every government, as we go on into the future — forever, I might add — to meet this challenge. This government, in partnership with members opposite, with First Nations, experts, stakeholders, communities and NGOs, is moving toward providing better resources and mechanisms to meet that challenge. We are going to continue to do that. One of the steps will be the implementation of the substance abuse action plan.
Mr. Hardy: An action plan that has no money or timelines and doesn’t address what we’re talking about — safe communities — to the degree that people were mentioning yesterday. If the Premier had taken up the offer I made him last week and come to it, he would have heard first-hand what is going on out there.
There’s no reason for the Premier to get defensive about this issue. This is not about turf or control, or who gets political credit for doing what is the right thing. It is simply about listening to the wisdom of Yukon people, understanding their concerns, and working as equal partners with them to help them achieve their goals. It is a good-news opportunity for everyone. The Yukon could be providing models that the world looks to, if the will exists to do it. Will the Premier at least make that commitment?
As we bring forward more successful examples and more suggestions from Yukon people about how to make positive change, will the Premier at least agree to give these ideas serious consideration, and not just dismiss them because they didn’t come from that side of the House, but from this side?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am making every effort to engage constructively with the member opposite. We have already committed to do that. I think the members would agree that much of what’s going on in today’s Yukon is, to some degree, inclusive in this area. It also is captured in the substance abuse action plan.
We’ve said more here today. We saw what happened last evening under the leadership of the official opposition as another positive and constructive initiative to add to what we’re already doing, but there’s a need for much more. We’re not being defensive at all; we’re being open, we’re reaching out, and we’re saying that we in this territory all bear a responsibility to meet this terrible challenge and ill in our society. That’s exactly what the government has embarked upon with some of its investments and initiatives to date, and that’s what we intend to do further with implementation of the substance abuse action plan, and that’s what we intend to do further with the members opposite, with communities, with NGOs, with First Nations.
We are moving ahead in meeting these challenges in society, and we’re going to continue to do so.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS’ Business
Motion No. 421
Clerk: Motion No. 421, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government, in consultation with the Yukon and First Nation governments, to assist Yukoners to achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles by educating them about and supporting those with diabetes through ongoing lifestyle and wellness information and educational campaigns.
Mr. Hassard: I rise today to ask all members to join me in getting help for people with diabetes, and given that it is Diabetes Month, it is a timely opportunity to raise awareness of this disease.
To be honest with you, up until several hours ago, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be here to speak to this motion, as I spent the entire night up dealing with two ill little boys. By the time my wife and I had everyone and everything cleaned up it was time to come to work, and my first thought was, “To heck with that.”
However, upon further reflection, here I am. I felt it was important that I be here to deal with this motion just as the people with diabetes get up and go to work every morning. I’m not looking for sympathy for what I went through last night; I’m sure that all parents go through the same. It’s part of being a parent.
I first became aware of diabetes — and I’m not sure how long ago it was. I had a book about my favourite hockey player — it was quite awhile ago, I would say late 1970s. The fellow’s name was Bobby Clark. He was one of the first professional athletes to be able to control his diabetes well enough to compete at the highest level. Since that time, I guess because of my admiration for that hockey player, diabetes has always been something that I think about every time I see that hockey player.
For the members opposite who are wondering, yes, I am still a Flyers fan.
Mr. Speaker, diabetes is a chronic condition that results from the body’s inability to sufficiently produce and/or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted from beta cells in the pancreas that assists with the conversion of glucose into energy. Without insulin, the cells of the body, primarily in muscle, fat and liver tissue, cannot absorb sufficient glucose from the bloodstream. Chronic high levels of blood glucose can result in long-term damage, leading to the dysfunction and failure of various organs, such as the kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart and blood vessels. Complications in these organs can lead to death.
Diabetes occurs in several forms: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 are the most common forms of this chronic disease. Type 1 diabetes was well known as insulin-dependent diabetes in which the pancreas fails to produce the insulin, which is essential to survive. Type 2 diabetes, formerly called non-insulin dependent, results from the body’s inability to respond properly to the action of insulin produced by the pancreas. Type 1 represents about 10 percent, and type 2 represents about 90 percent of the total diabetic population.
Mr. Speaker, approximately 2 million Canadian adults have diabetes, and 60,000 new people are afflicted each year. Diabetes rates are increasing, and as the population ages and obesity rates increase, diabetes rates also increase. The true prevalence may be significantly higher, as it has been estimated that as many of one-third of all cases of diabetes are undiagnosed in Canada.
Risk factors for people with diabetes are high blood pressure, smoking, being overweight and physical inactivity. Complications resulting from diabetes include kidney disease, heart disease and stroke, eye disease and limb amputation due to nerve damage. Complications of diabetes reduce both the lifespan and quality of life. Eighty percent of people with diabetes will die from heart disease and stroke.
To prevent this, there must be earlier education, prevention and diagnosis and very aggressive treatment for those people with diabetes. Treatment for people with diabetes includes controlling blood sugar and cholesterol levels through better diet and lifestyle modifications, moderate weight loss and regular exercise and, in some people, the appropriate use of drugs.
It is reported that First Nation people are afflicted with diabetes at a rate four times greater than other Canadians. Given the high percentage of First Nation people in Yukon, it is just that much more important that the Yukon act now.
This government, in cooperation with the other two territories, has been successful in achieving a higher level of health care funding from the Government of Canada. Part of this funding, called the primary health care transition fund, has been used to establish a diabetes collaborative in the Yukon. The diabetes collaborative is a new concept that not only includes doctors and medical assistants in Whitehorse, but nurse practitioners and clerks from three health centres in smaller Yukon communities.
The collaborative also includes a diabetes health centre at Whitehorse General Hospital, where Whitehorse General Hospital nurses, home care nurses, dieticians, nurses from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation Health Centre and a couple of private practice pharmacists train and learn together.
The diabetes collaborative is just one example of how Yukon doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are being financially supported to work cooperatively to improve the quality of care for Yukoners with diabetes. The diabetes collaborative is also an example of how federal health care funding is more effectively and efficiently spent by local governments.
The provision of good health care has become of greater and greater concern to Canadians. The provision of health care to aboriginal Canadians is the responsibility of the Government of Canada. Aboriginal Canadians are aging at the same rate as other Canadians; however, as we saw earlier, the rate at which they develop diabetes is four times faster than other Canadians. This will also make the Government of Canada’s fiduciary responsibilities for First Nations health care that much greater.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I am in no sense overly knowledgeable when it comes to diabetes. I obviously don’t have the disease, but I do have friends that do. Do I know what’s best for people with diabetes? No, I definitely do not. I have seen, however, how it affects people who have diabetes. I have a friend who is a member of the RCMP. He was forced, because of his diabetes, to step down from active duty and take up a desk job. Knowing the individual as well as I do, it was very difficult for him because he is very much an outdoor type of person and had little desire to sit in an office in Edmonton, which is where he ended up. We were sorry to see him leave the community of Teslin to take up a job that wasn’t his favourite.
There is a great deal of information out there. I was looking at Web sites last night. If a person really wants to become more knowledgeable, there are certainly ways to do so.
For me to stand here and go on at length and recite from what I’ve read on the computer is not, I think, using the time we have today for its best use.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: The members opposite feel there is lots of time, so I will give them time to add their voice to this motion. I certainly do hope that all members will support this motion, and I look forward to the vote.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that was quick. Mr. Speaker. What we just heard, I think, was basically an informational speech about diabetes, and I would agree with practically everything the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin said, with one exception. He made the inference that everybody ages at the same rate. I would like to remind him that politicians age faster. As a matter of fact, I believe that the rate of aging for politicians should be measured on the dog-years calendar, which is about seven years for every one calendar year. That would put me at about 93 years old, Mr. Speaker, so I tell people I really don’t look too bad for being 93. Seriously, though, while the Member for Klondike — I would maybe appraise him at a level a little less complimentary.
But the fact is diabetes is a very serious disease and should be taken very seriously in the territory.
The motion is not only about diabetes, it’s about finger pointing. Once again, the finger is being pointed at the federal government. I want to spend the time I have talking mainly about that, because we not only see it today, we see it in relation to several other issues that require funding and need to be addressed by the Yukon government.
At some point, we have to draw the line. The Yukon government is autonomous. We’re not a colony of the federal government any more. When the Yukon government sees a need that is important to its people, it must find the means to act within its own resources to address those needs for the people. Addressing diabetes is just one more of those needs.
This motion says that we should urge the federal Liberal government to assist Yukoners to address this issue, but I refer back to a news release, dated May 5 of this year, and it quoted the Yukon Minister of Health and Social Services. There are several passages in this press release that are relevant to the discussion today. For instance, in the second paragraph of this release, it says, “Our government is committed to providing health services that Yukoners need, where they need them, where it is feasible to do so.”
Well, the government is saying it will address the issues, but today it brought forward a motion saying it’s the federal government that should be addressing those issues. Back in May, we heard about the minister taking responsibility for health care issues; today it’s just more finger pointing.
Once again, we see an inconsistency from this government when it comes to delivering on what it says and what its responsibilities are. It’s no wonder a lot of people are confused with the messages coming from the government, because they are inconsistent.
Mr. Speaker, we also know the territory has benefited from federal largesse in the last few years, and the scope of that extra funding from the federal government has overshadowed any previous grants from the federal government for whatever purposes to the Yukon Territory. There are lots of funds. The health accord provided $20 million over three years to the northern territories — $20 million in extra funding. Mr. Speaker, the intent of that huge cash infusion was to replace the cuts incurred about a decade ago to the Yukon government’s budget. When the federal government of the day, under the Finance minister, who now happens to be the Prime Minister, was in cost-cutting mode and he had to rein in the deficit, and our health care budget to the territory was part of the casualty. That was before the transfer of the health care funds to the territory.
So this extra money replaced what was lost about a decade ago and it’s a huge amount. There are other funds as well. What about the Northern Accord, Mr. Speaker, that’s bringing another huge amount of funding to the territory from the federal government? There is the economic development fund across the north, again bringing more federal money to the territory. Just look at the Canada Winter Games, Mr. Speaker, and the Canada Games Centre atop the Two Mile Hill. The federal government has poured an unprecedented amount of funding into this territory and this Yukon Party government just happens to be Johnny-on-the-spot to benefit from the federal largesse.
Compare that to previous governments. The previous Liberal government couldn’t even get funding from its political cousin in Ottawa even close to what this government has benefited from. The government previous to that had to make do with the health care fund cuts that I spoke of earlier. This government has received all kinds of extra funding from Ottawa, and it still points the finger. What about the territory’s financing from the federal government? There was a new deal negotiated recently that brings millions more dollars into the territory.
Those are only a few of the big-ticket items where this government is benefiting from the largesse of the federal government, yet here we are today trying to deal with a motion about trying to hit up the federal government again for more funding to deal with diabetes.
Well, we in the official opposition have gone along for the ride on similar motions before with this government. We’ve supported several motions that have called upon the federal government to do something in several different areas. Today, we are drawing the line. We’ve had enough of the finger pointing. It’s time that this Yukon Party government took its responsibilities seriously. It has lots of money to fulfill its responsibilities in all areas, including the area of diabetes, and it should get on with it, instead of whining to the federal government for more money.
We have lots of money to deal with things and this government ought to be doing them. I recall a year ago I was asking the Minister of Health and Social Services to fund the CHIP program — the coronary health improvement plan.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The minister says, only if I take it. Well, I did plan to take it, but the minister cancelled the funding. Not only me, but I know of dozens of other people just within the community of Haines Junction who wanted to take it. There were people in Whitehorse, Teslin, Old Crow, Beaver Creek — all across the territory — who wanted to take this program. This program is very effective in trying to prevent the spread of diabetes across the territory — very effective.
I do have some statistics from the coronary health improvement program, but I won’t bother reading them all into the record. If members wish some of those numbers, let me know and I can send them over.
The Minister of Health and Social Services refused to fund CHIP. Mr. Speaker, that meant that Yukoners had to do without this important program for the first quarter of this year. The months of January, February and March are the prime months of the calendar year in which people want to engage in weight reduction, active living, in taking better care of their health and so on, yet the Health and Social Services minister said no to those people and said no to the funding.
Now this Yukon Party government stands up and wants to champion the cause for diabetes, but in doing so, it’s pointing the finger at the federal government. Well, we’ve had enough of that.
I do plan to introduce an amendment that will be placing the emphasis on the Yukon government, in consultation with First Nation governments in the territory, to address this problem. I think it is only fair, Mr. Speaker, that after three years of riding the wave of extra federal spending, this government face the reality that it’s having the luxury of being awash in cash, because the federal government has coughed up way more — way, way more to this government than any previous Yukon government in the history of Yukon governments. Never before has this happened. As a matter of fact, in the last budget debate, we requested from the government a complete breakdown of federal spending in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, if you add to that amount what it costs the federal government to provide services for the justice system, the RCMP, the military, the Rangers, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, one can see that the amount of money the federal government spends in any given year exceeds $1 billion. That’s incredible for a population of barely more than 30,000. They get a billion dollars from the federal government each and every year, and this government has the nerve to point the finger at this same federal government and ask for more money for diabetes. Well, it doesn’t add up. What’s it doing with all the money?
Well, I guess we can point to the Dawson bridge, where it blew a couple of million dollars for no product. There was another $3 million on a railway study just to please Governor Murkowski from Alaska. We know that the railway’s prime purpose is military related. We also know that there is no proponent stepping up to the plate to operate such a railroad. So some of us are a little sceptical of this railway fanfare, which might really be about political symbolism. That’s what it’s about. There’s no railroad. There are lots of other areas where the government has practised what is known as impulse spending. When it comes to fiscal responsibility, we have seen how the judgement of the Yukon Party government has been called into question. Just this past week in this Legislature, there were projects like the athletes village and supposed affordable housing initiatives that have been turned upside-down. That is where the money has gone.
This government should have been thinking, at the time it made those decisions, about undertakings like addressing diabetes in the territory instead of trying to achieve political purposes.
Mr. Speaker, that’s about all I have to say. I do want to amend the motion. I will read it into the record.
Mr. McRobb: I move
THAT Motion No. 421, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, be amended by deleting the phrase “in consultation with the Yukon and First Nation governments” and substituting for it the phrase “and the Government of Yukon, in consultation with First Nation governments”.
Speaker: The proposed amendment is in order.
It has been moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 421 be amended by deleting the phrase “in consultation with Yukon and First Nation governments” and substituting for it the phrase “and the Government of Yukon, in consultation with the First Nation governments”.
Member for Kluane, you have 20 minutes on the amendment.
Mr. McRobb: I don’t think I’ll be taking my full allotted time. A lot of the points I wanted to make have already been said. I do want to give other members an opportunity to speak to this motion.
I’ll just refer a bit more to this May 5, 2005 press release, where the Health and Social Services minister was talking up all the extra money that he’s spending, due to the federal largesse.
In this announcement he talks about giving an extra $5 million to the Whitehorse General Hospital, increasing its budget to $25 million. That’s about a 25-percent increase from three years previously, and that wouldn’t have been possible without all the extra health care dollars from the federal government.
The pharmacare and chronic disease programs also received $6 million, including $1.1 million for supporting specialized medical services, including internal medicine and cardiac testing, replacement knee surgery, increased orthopaedic visits, increased ear, nose and throat specialist visits; and it decreased waiting times for all those services.
At least that’s what he said.
The Child Development Centre received $400,000 to assist with the assessment and support for children with developmental delays, and it also mentions the diagnostic team for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. That’s the subject of the next motion, if we get to it today, Mr. Speaker, so I’ll address that matter at that opportunity.
It also talks about how it gives FASSY, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon, $300,000 to provide outreach. Well, that is the subject of the next motion, which again points a finger at the federal government instead of taking responsibility on its own. This release is chock full of new ways the government has found to spend some of the new-found generosity from the federal government.
There’s another $1.9 million from the federal government’s primary health care transition fund; that’s another pot of money this government has benefited from. Those particular funds are to support healthy living initiatives, many of the programs which relate to diabetes prevention. Well, Mr. Speaker, if we are already receiving from the federal government $1.9 million for these purposes, then, really, how justified is it to debate how we can get more money from the federal government to treat diabetes today?
It really makes me wonder about the priorities of this government. There are all kinds of issues out there that are priorities of people across the territory, and one would have figured, Mr. Speaker, that some of those issues would have been important enough to be talking about today, instead of finger pointing and trying to get more money out of Ottawa.
Last night’s safe communities meeting raised several issues that span various departments, including Health and Social Services, Justice, Education, to name a few. Why aren’t we dealing with the safe communities initiatives?
Mr. Speaker, if this government really believes that safe communities are the top priority, as it said it does again today during Question Period, then why aren’t we debating how to make our communities safer right now, instead of trying to get more money from Ottawa for something we’ve already got money for? It doesn’t add up.
I would say it’s another true indication of this government’s misplaced priorities. For some reason, this government places more priority on finger pointing at the federal government than it does on the true needs of addressing the problems of Yukoners. Why is that? Well, maybe if the Premier gets up and speaks to this, we’ll find out. It’s not up to me to speculate. Maybe it has something to do with the by-election that is currently going on.
Maybe the Yukon Party figures that by finger pointing at the federal Liberal government, somehow their candidate in Copperbelt will stand in better stead. I don’t think it’s going to work. A lot of Yukoners don’t think it will work. In the three weeks of this sitting, we have already seen similar strategies backfire, such as the announcement of the new school in Copper Ridge. That backfired. The Education minister wasn’t even aware of it. It was going to be a campaign announcement from the candidate. That backfired. I think that strategies like this finger pointing at the federal government, such as is the whole intent of this motion and the next one — if we get to it today — will backfire. People will see through this thinly-disguised political agenda for what it really is.
Now, this press release from May 5 also speaks to how health care remains one of the top priorities of this government. The Health and Social Services minister is further quoted as saying, “We want to meet the challenges head-on in a manner that gives us the best, most effective services and supports possible”. Why didn’t this government, at the time of this release — which was only about six months ago — do what it’s doing today? Where is the consistency? Why didn’t the Yukon Party qualify some of those grandiose statements of how it was going to assume the responsibilities it has with some of the qualifications that we see within the wording of the motion, which is just finger pointing at the federal government to try to get more money?
Well, one can only wonder about what clearly is a political agenda. Obviously we’re seeing a problem of consistency with what the government tells Yukoners and what it’s actually doing. Mr. Speaker, I think this amendment to the motion resolves that inconsistency.
The amendment to the motion does away with the finger pointing at the federal government and, instead, takes a higher road, a more justified position, of including the Yukon government in the area of responsibility, along with the federal government and Yukon First Nation governments, which will be consulted in collaboration.
It’s a better way to approach this motion; it’s definitely a more politically neutral and accurate way to word the motion, and the government’s actions certainly justify taking this approach — when you look back at some of its recent press releases, where it did assume responsibility for the provision of health care services, including prevention of diabetes. It sets straight some of the confusion we see today and clarifies the issue and makes it more consistent.
I’m really hoping the members opposite will have the gumption and courage and fairness to see that what is intended by this amendment is merely a clarification to include the Yukon government into the mix of those responsible to combat this dreaded disease.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I will now give the floor to the members opposite, and I anxiously wait to hear what they have to say.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This motion presented by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin addresses a health problem that is prevalent here in the Yukon but, more so, it is much more prevalent among our aboriginal population here in the Yukon and right across Canada — three to five times more prevalent.
What the member opposite is trying to suggest is this is a Government of Yukon responsibility alone. What this motion clearly addresses is that the federal government has not only a responsibility but a fiduciary responsibility for the provision of health care to First Nations residing here in the Yukon and, indeed, right across Canada. It is not about on-reserve/off-reserve north of 60; it is about the health care needs of the aboriginal population north of 60. That is specifically what we are asking be addressed here.
What is diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic condition that results from the body’s inability to sufficiently produce and/or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone secreted from beta cells in the pancreas, and they assist with the conversion of glucose into energy. Without insulin, the cells of the body, primarily in muscle fat and liver tissue, cannot absorb sufficient glucose from the bloodstream. Chronic high levels of blood glucose can result in long-term damage, leading to the dysfunction and failure of various organs, such as the kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart and blood vessels.
Very often, Mr. Speaker, these complications are what lead to the death of these individuals. Canada recognizes the health risks. Canada has a national diabetic association. Canada has the fiduciary responsibility for health care for aboriginal populations, and in many cases Yukon delivers services on behalf of Canada to First Nations and invoices Canada for those services. They are not very quick at paying, Mr. Speaker, but that is another issue.
Our government has taken the funding that has been earmarked, and the Department of Health and Social Services subsequently provides this funding to the Whitehorse General Hospital to run the Diabetes Education Centre. At that centre, persons with diabetes are taught by health care professionals how to better manage their conditions through nutrition, lifestyle changes and self-management techniques. People living in rural Yukon access these services through tele-health, if that is their preference.
The primary health care transition fund acknowledged diabetes as the priority for the allocation of those funds. Mr. Speaker, the amendment to this motion serves to downplay the role of the federal government in this entire equation and suggests that the federal government and the Government of Yukon be on an equal footing and consult with First Nations. Well, that is not going to work, Mr. Speaker.
Given the role and responsibilities of First Nations that are self-governing, they currently have about the same status in the chain of command as the Yukon government. They are a self-governing First Nation. That legislation that established them as such is federal legislation. Health Canada may say that they provide funding for health care for First Nations, on the basis of historical initiatives, but I would submit that that is totally incorrect. The Government of Canada provides funding for First Nation health care as a fiduciary obligation to the First Nations.
Let’s keep the chain of command in proper order. Let’s not move the First Nations down. Let’s keep them together with the Yukon and acknowledge who is responsible — the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, we can’t deal with this amendment to the motion, because it does not acknowledge the fiduciary responsibility of Canada to our First Nations. I would submit that we can just deal with this motion as it was originally proposed. I encourage the members opposite to look at it thoroughly. Thank you.
Mrs. Peter: The amendment that was proposed by my colleague makes sense because the original motion as presented by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin actually puts a lot of the blame, I guess you could say, on the federal government. We’ve said before in this House how a lot of the dollars included in the budget for the Yukon Territory come directly from Canada.
We’re talking about diabetes, and from the statistics in front of us, a large majority of the people afflicted with this disease are in our First Nations community both in the Yukon and throughout Canada. A lot of the symptoms that we’re talking about are very serious. The most common type of diabetes is type 2 diabetes, and nine out of 10 people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Some of the factors there are that the people afflicted are people over 40 years old, people who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, and people who are related to people who have diabetes are themselves in danger of getting diabetes. There are warning signs that people need to be aware of. If we don’t pay attention to this kind of information, it’s going to be very problematic to our entire health. Other problems that it can lead to include having heart problems, kidney problems, you can get eye disease and you can have problems with your teeth and gums.
The aboriginal people across Canada are three to five times more likely than the general population to develop diabetes. Two of every three aboriginal persons with diabetes are women. Those statistics put a lot of people in our communities in very serious harm’s way if they’re not educated about this type of information. I know in my community there has been a rise in the number of people diagnosed with diabetes. When you look at some of the things you can do to prevent getting this disease, it can be very costly, especially in the rural, isolated communities where eating a healthy diet is very costly. The cost of eating a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables is too much for people on a fixed income — and a lot of the seniors in our community have to be careful how they spend their money on a monthly basis — so eating habits can be very restricted because of the high cost of food in our communities. Regular exercise is required in prevention, and a lot of the time that’s not a problem. I can only speak for the people in my community; we do a lot of walking. The distance from home to where we pick up our groceries from the local store or to check our mail is often great. That gets us out of the house to go for a walk and attend to our business at the local store.
Also, people make use of the gym at the school. It is great for people who can get there on a daily basis, especially young children and young adults. In other areas, if we eat a lot of fried foods rather than fruits and vegetables, we have to pay attention to our diet. With our eating habits, especially with caribou meat, many of our people like to have a simple meal of fried caribou meat with rice or macaroni and cheese. For us, that’s a simple diet.
A lot of times, fruits and vegetables are not part of our daily meals. That can be challenging for many of the people in our community. This amendment speaks to making this Yukon Party government accountable for financial assistance in consultation with First Nation governments. A lot of the resources are not available to our community, so we rely on our local health person. Some of our communities have community health workers and they do the best they can with information they get from Outside.
I know that more can be done — instead of finger pointing at the federal government — to consult with Yukon First Nations and Yukon First Nation governments. We listen to this government in place today and they talk on a daily basis about what a great relationship they have with First Nation people out there, and this can just follow in those lines. It’s only fair that they take responsibility for a very serious health problem, such as diabetes, that has afflicted a lot of our people.
With that, I do support this amendment.
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Kluane, the House leader from the NDP caucus, is reminding me that the government side may wish to speak ahead of me, Mr. Speaker, because it usually goes back and forth.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No? Okay, thank you. I would like to speak to the amendment then, Mr. Speaker.
In regard to the amendment, I would like to thank the Member from Kluane for bringing it forward and recognizing the role that the Yukon and First Nation governments have in promoting a healthier lifestyle. I would make, perhaps, a friendly suggestion to the members opposite that the amendment brought forward by the NDP is non-partisan in that it doesn’t say “the Yukon Party government”; it says “the Government of Yukon”, and governments come and governments go. I would suggest — I haven’t brought forward a formal amendment to the amendment, Mr. Speaker, but I would strongly suggest to the members opposite that in reference to the federal Liberal government in this afternoon’s motions, the House would be better served if we were to recognize it as “the Government of Canada.
The federal Liberals will not always be in power, Mr. Speaker. As much as we might like to see that happen, we recognize that governments change and that we have, if we’re to listen to the news reports, the possibility, threat, potential of a Christmas election. This is a very important motion; it talks about healthier lifestyles. I don’t want to see it stale-dated by references to the current federal Liberal government. I’d like to see it say “the Government of Canada”.
That being said, I recognize that the members opposite didn’t write the motion that way, and I didn’t come in with an amendment to this amendment, so I will restrict the balance of my comments to the amendment of the motion at hand.
I would like to say that credit goes to the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing this important issue forward. It is an important issue. We’re talking about the health not only of Yukoners but of our nation. In this case, however, it’s specifically Yukoners. The effort by governments to achieve and to encourage Yukoners to achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles is an important initiative that can’t be underestimated, Mr. Speaker. We have too many incidences of diabetes, too many incidences of many, many other illnesses that can be dealt with if we were to live healthier lifestyles.
We expect, encourage, and vote upon line items that encourage Yukoners to stop smoking, as they do at the federal level. We also work very hard at encouraging our young people to have a healthier lifestyle. Many of us have expressed concern in legislatures across the country about junk food sold in our schools. We’ve had motions. I believe it was the Member for Mayo-Tatchun who brought forward one that we work to reduce or eliminate the presence of junk food in our schools, to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
Related to this, I’d like members opposite, when they’re considering the next Department of Education budget, to consider that there have been attempts over the years to work with the City of Whitehorse on the busing situation in Whitehorse. The difficulty we have is that many of our students who may participate in after-school activities — for example, at the Canada Games Centre — have no way of getting to them unless parents take time off work and take their children to those activities because the school buses take them from school to home; school buses don’t have a mandate to take children from their school to recreation facilities. Some of them do it in some communities — our current contractor has just done it as a matter of course in the community of Watson Lake, for example — but there’s no method right now for us to do that sort of transportation of students, children, to encourage participation in organized sports and after-school activities, blending all the levels of government with the facilities and programs government provides to encourage a healthier lifestyle.
So those are the sorts of things government could do and should do in encouraging our young people to have a healthier lifestyle — and also with adults.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has noted that that encouragement of a daily walk is very important to a healthy lifestyle. I certainly appreciate her comments in that respect and how important it is, particularly with the elderly. I note that there are government programs and initiatives — some of them municipal — that encourage residents to ensure that the sidewalks are cleaned off so that senior residents and residents of all ages are able to walk, not only within the downtown core but also within the city’s subdivisions.
It takes all levels of government. Perhaps in the amendment we should have not only referred to the Government of Canada — the federal Liberal government — but we should have also included municipal governments. It is a friendly suggestion to my colleagues in the House.
I support the idea that governments should assist their citizens in supporting a healthier lifestyle and particularly in education with respect to diabetes — in fact, all diseases, but today the issue is diabetes.
I would like to put on the public record some of the initiatives that are in place by the Government of Canada with respect to diabetes. These include the Canadian Institute of Health Research, which has $300 million over five years for an integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease.
That includes a renewal and enhancement of the Canadian diabetes strategy, which is funded $18 million a year. So the Government of Canada is spending $18 million a year for the renewal and enhancement of the Canadian diabetes strategy — so there is money being spent, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: I am speaking to the amendment, and we’re talking in the amendment also about diabetes generally.
Another federal initiative is an integrated strategy on healthy living and chronic disease and, in regard to chronic disease, I note also that the Government of Yukon in this respect — and the Government of Yukon has been included very wisely from the Member for Kluane in this amendment — the Government of Yukon in our chronic disease program also funds drugs and some of the advancement in technology in dealing with diabetes. So the Government of Yukon has a role to play and does play that role. We are here to ensure that the Government of Yukon continues to fund their role in that, as they should.
I mentioned earlier the Canadian Institute of Health Research, and in the 2005 budget they have been provided by the Government of Canada with $32 million in new resources, and that $32 million includes research that includes diabetes and the promotion, of course, of a healthier lifestyle.
So I believe the amendment to be a good one and the motion on the whole is a good one, as well. I just have a couple of friendly suggestions that I have made that I think strengthen not only the debate but the motion as a whole. So I would encourage members to give that some thought, and I would also encourage us all to not only talk about the promotion of a healthier lifestyle but to walk the talk and live it and, also, when we’re examining the programming, examining the budgets of — for those of us who are First Nation members — our First Nation governments and — for those of us who are members of municipalities — our municipal governments, and our Government of Yukon, to look at those budgets and ask how we have not only dealt with the issue of diabetes but how we have promoted a healthier lifestyle overall among all of us and among our residents, and how the expenditures of the government walk the talk.
I think that that’s a really important consideration. How are we combining our school busing with our new sport facilities in Whitehorse and in other communities? How are we, as community leaders, encouraging a healthier lifestyle among our residents?
That being said, Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment and look forward to further debate this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think it is important that I put some things on the record with regard to this amendment and I would like to start out by saying that First Nations, against their choice or preference, became wards of the government many years ago. It was something that we basically had no choice in. Having said that, I would say that the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to First Nations in providing health care in Canada. There are a lot of problems that arise from some of their policies. For example: on-reserve/off-reserve policy can have a very negative impact on First Nations right across Canada. One would almost start to wonder if this wasn’t an intention when the land claims negotiations took place in the Yukon and why it was so important to negotiate all reserves in the Yukon. That’s a big issue in the Yukon because their on-reserve policy impacts the Yukon negatively.
I have to say, with regard to our friends to the north, this is also a problem for the Inuit people.
The federal government does have primary responsibility for health care in Canada. As a matter of fact, in every federal election, it is one of the number one promises — to look after health care in Canada. I certainly think that the Yukon is in no position to try to take over that responsibility from Canada.
I think the Member for Kluane has already stated that the federal government has given quite generously to the Yukon people with regard to funding. Suppose they didn’t do that? What would happen to the territory? Even more of a concern is what would happen if the federal government only funded the Yukon Territory on a per capita basis. We wouldn’t even have enough to deal with two people with diabetes in this territory. Because of all the expenses that are associated with monitoring one’s diabetes, I think that the Yukon government would never be able to effectively financially support that initiative.
Again, I just want to put on record that we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this is a number one campaign promise by the federal government in every election — that they will maintain and improve health care benefits to every citizen in Canada. I believe that a lot of them win the election on that promise, so we should just keep them to their promise.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise today to speak to the amendment to Motion No. 421proposed by my colleague, the Member for Kluane. I think it’s important to recognize today that, when you read the original motion — I think the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin was misguided by someone in the drafting of the original motion, because what it does is urge the federal government to consult with this Yukon government and First Nation governments.
If it’s of great concern to this government — and I believe that it is of great concern to them or they wouldn’t have brought the motion forward — they should be leading the charge on this. They should be the ones going to the federal government and leading the consultations on this.
In many ways, this government has led the charge to increase health care funding, and that’s why this motion, before it was amended, didn’t really make all that much sense.
The object of the original motion was to assist Yukoners to achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles by educating them about and supporting those with diabetes through ongoing lifestyle and wellness information and education campaigns.
As my colleague from Kluane rightly pointed out, the government boasts about all the good work that they’re doing in areas like that. So to put more pressure on the federal government, which has already been done to a large degree — I’m not saying that there isn’t a need, maybe, for the federal government to provide more funding in certain areas, but when you look at what this government — the Yukon government — has done and the programs that they have in place, the amount of money that is available, and the amount of new money that’s available for health care, if you go back to the press release for this spring about the health budget, it improves services to Yukoners.
Why wasn’t this — or maybe it was — why wasn’t this part of the health budget? I think it was. And if it wasn’t, it should have been. If it was a priority for the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, then it should have been part of the health care budget. It should have been in the programs and services that are delivered by the Department of Health and Social Services.
The press release talks about the highlights of the 2005-06 health care budget, and it talks about additions to health care programming that are possible because of the 2002 health care accord signed by the three northern territories, which injected a total of $20 million into the health care budget of the Yukon over three years.
There was $20 million, and they couldn’t find money to address the issues in communities around the Yukon — here in Whitehorse and in rural communities — to assist Yukoners to maintain healthier lifestyles and address the concerns of diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease. It affects a lot of people. It can lead to more serious diseases, which will be way more costly to the health care system down the road. We heard that on the radio just the other morning — how diabetes can lead to kidney failure and how it is an expensive and long process to go through the necessary dialysis treatment. As the person being interviewed on the radio pointed out, it can also lead to a kidney transplant being necessary. That is a severe cost to our health care system. It’s an expensive process to go through. One would think that the government would want to take more preventive action, given the fact that they have all this money — $20 million over three years, right there. Invest that in prevention now, and then we would not have to spend as much money on curative procedures, which are largely more expensive. There is no price, either, on the loss of life, which occurs in some instances from kidney failure.
I believe that the amendment to the motion makes the motion much better.
It says that it is the federal government’s responsibility, and it is the Government of Yukon’s responsibility to provide this assistance to Yukoners and that they have the financial resources to do that.
Let’s look at some of the other funding that was touted last spring, Mr. Speaker. $60 million in the health care accord — that was $20 million for the Yukon over three years. There is a $150-million health care access fund; what’s the government doing with that? Why can’t this government use some of those funds to assist Yukoners to achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles by educating them and supporting those with diabetes? The government could do that.
There is a 5.3-percent increase in the new territorial formula financing agreement. The Premier consistently stands up in this Legislature and says what a better position we are in financially here in the territory because of the way they have managed the finances of the territory. He loves to stand up and say, “Three years ago we were running on a VISA card, and now we’ve got cash in the bank.” Well, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the Minister of Health and Social Services to go to the Premier — the Minister of Finance — and ask him for some of that cash to do what the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin is asking to be done in this House. Why can’t the Minister of Health and Social Services get together with the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin and twist the Premier’s arm just a little bit, and ask him for enough money to assist Yukoners who have diabetes, to encourage them and to provide educational programming to teach them about lifestyle changes and give them the information about how to live healthier lifestyles.
It would seem like a fiscally responsible thing to do, to take the preventive measures now and save the money down the road. Then it would be available for other important health care initiatives that need to be undertaken. That would make sense. There is also, in this press release from last spring that the government rolled out, the message that all northern residents are benefiting from the pan-northern approach that has been taken by the three territories, which the Premier loves to talk about a lot too.
A new health accord funding agreement, negotiated by the premiers last year, will see an additional $150 million to be shared by the three territories. That represents an increase of $10 million a year. So that’s a lot of money. The Premier has gotten a lot of money from the federal government with the help of the other northern premiers. When we criticize the way they spend money, when we’re questioning the way that they spend the money and what their spending priorities are, he loves to stand up and tell us that we have cash in the bank, that the financial position of this territory is better now than it ever has been. But it is unfortunate that he wants us to go on bended knee to the federal government to ask for yet more money for something that should be a priority for this government.
If you look at the closing statement by the Minister of Health and Social Services in this press release, it says that health care remains one of the top priorities of this government and we need to meet the challenges head-on in a manner that gives us the best, most effective services and supports possible.
Well, if the Minister of Health and Social Services really meant that, then we wouldn’t be debating this motion here today. The government doesn’t seem to have the time to come up with a vision of its own. What it wants to do is it wants to point the finger, and here we are debating a motion, pointing the finger at the federal government, asking them for yet more money, when we could be debating something of substance.
Why couldn’t they bring in a motion today that talks about something they really thought was a priority and that they wanted to do? We could debate that here in this Legislature. Not today. Today what we are debating is a motion that points the finger at the federal government for not providing funding. The press release from last spring says something different. It points to the fact that the federal government is, in fact, providing more funding today than it has ever before provided for health care in this territory. I think that the member’s motion is misplaced and mistakenly worded. That is why, on this side of the House, we thought it was a good move to point the government in the right direction, point out that this is their responsibility, as well as the federal government’s, to provide this programming and these services.
If the government really believes in what is being asked in this motion, I believe they will accept the amendment, move on and provide the programming. They have a good relationship with First Nations, according to the Premier. They can find out which programming will best suit the needs of Yukon communities in this area and provide programs in every community in the Yukon, in order to address the needs of those who are suffering from diabetes and help them get better.
The motion as originally intended is basically this government’s attempt to return to the federal government trough one more time. The problem with that is that you can only go back so many times, and then the tap will be turned off. I think we have to be cognizant of that fact. The federal government is only able to do so much. We can’t always rely on it, especially in light of the funding that has been provided for health care in this territory. We need to take some of that responsibility ourselves and to use that funding that has been provided and not go back and keep asking for more.
I would urge the members on the government side of the House to support the amendment to this motion, which provides direction to both the federal and territorial governments to consult with First Nations and possibly, as was suggested by the leader of the third party, with municipalities so we can have healthy communities and address this issue, which faces many Yukoners today.
Thank you for allowing me to speak.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I wasn’t going to enter the discussion with respect to the amendment, but I think the issues that the opposition have brought forward must be rebutted and addressed.
Firstly, the official opposition is misinformed. The purpose of the motion itself is directly related to what’s going on nationally with the federal government, which is the government primarily responsible for the state of health of aboriginal Canadians. I repeat — the federal government is primarily responsible for the state of health of aboriginal Canadians. The motion is therefore directly related to what is happening on the national stage. It’s called the “aboriginal health blueprint”. All provinces and territories are collaborating in their approach to working with Canada on the development of the health blueprint.
The need for Canada to address this issue with Yukon First Nation governments is directly related to the fact that the federal government has what is called on-reserve/off-reserve policies with respect to the health care investment that they undertake. All provinces and territories are unanimous in their position that Canada must cease and desist with this policy. It is unfair to urban First Nations who live off-reserve. I might add that there is a huge migration of First Nations across this country moving off reserves and into urban centres, but it does not reflect the realities of the north.
Therefore, it only makes sense that the motion targets the federal government to do what it is primarily responsible for. That’s why the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin has brought this forward.
Let’s look at what the official opposition and the third party are actually saying here. They are saying with their amendment, that if they were government, they would occupy that area of responsibility that is Canada’s. That’s not what this government will do. We’re not going to occupy that area of responsibility; we’re going to work with provinces, our sister territories, First Nations and the federal government, and the next step is at the First Ministers meeting. In that regard, the Yukon government is bringing representation, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, to the First Ministers meeting. We are there to make the case that on-reserve/off-reserve policies are not reflecting the realities of the north and other parts of Canada.
I want to make sure it’s on the record that the NDP and the third party, obviously, given the way they have taken issue with the motion and the way they propose to amend it, are clearly stating that they would occupy this area of responsibility. That’s something this government is not going to do, nor would any other province or territory.
They keep making the statement that we went to Canada with our hand out. No, that is not the case. We went to Canada and proved, beyond any doubt, that per capita allocation of health care funding for the three territories is inadequate, inappropriate and unacceptable, and we even had the Prime Minister of the day agree with that very fact on the floor of the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister at the time stated clearly that per capita allocation of health care funding for the territories does not make sense. It is from there that we worked with our sister territories and the federal government to establish the programming that we have in place today, such things as the northern health accord funding and programming and the territorial health access fund.
Secondly, and this is critical to the debate and the motion and what is going on nationally, is that aboriginal Canadians, including Yukon First Nations, are in the neighbourhood of four times more likely to contract diabetes. So this issue has been put firmly on the agenda of the national strategy for the health blueprint for aboriginal Canadians.
It’s not that the Yukon government has missed anything at all. It is that the members opposite are misinformed and must look much more broadly at what is going on in this country as it reflects on the health care of Canadians and indeed, in this case, aboriginal Canadians and Yukon First Nations.
So the amendment is not in any way relevant to what must happen here in this area with the federal government.
Now, to go further, if we were to accept the insinuation that the Yukon government does nothing in this area, that would fly in the face of all the evidence because there is a tremendous amount of investment in the area of diabetes, and not only on the upstream side, through providing the information on nutrition and more healthy living and exercise; this is ongoing on a daily basis within the Yukon health care system. There is a tremendous investment on the downstream end of this issue for those who are dealing with, not only diabetes itself, but the residual effects that create other types of illnesses and other needs to access the health care system.
That is ongoing daily. So once again, as is par for the course, the official opposition and the third party have been misinformed. Let us never forget that, as they continue to talk about how the federal government has increased the resources for this territory, that we have to always understand that it is what’s rightfully the territories’ in the first place, based on the national interest of sharing, in a fair and balanced manner, the wealth of the country. I know the Member for Kluane finds that very funny, but that’s because the member doesn’t understand that very issue of sharing of the wealth in a balanced and fair manner, the wealth of —
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 want to put on the record the reason attributed to my reaction to the Premier’s statement has nothing to do with the reason the Premier gave on the record.
Speaker: There is no point of order. It’s a dispute between members. Hon. Premier, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
So it is important that we recognize that this is a government — this side of the House, this team, who made a stand with respect to the fact that we deserve a larger share of the national wealth, that it was rightfully ours, and that is exactly what has gone on here. To say that this is anything else would be mindless of the facts.
The third party goes on to say that this is all due to our MP. Once again, that is being very misinformed.
In fact, everything that has happened here to date with respect to the financial situation of the Yukon and the other two territories has been dealt with at the national level through the Council of Federation and First Ministers meetings, getting full support of all jurisdictions in this country.
This is another area where we must correct the record, because it is the governments of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut that did this work. We invited our respective MPs into this process so they were informed of what we were doing, and we asked them to make sure they assisted us within the federal government caucus.
These are just factual statements we’re putting on the record to correct the record and help to better inform the members opposite.
So the need to amend this motion by the members opposite is really unknown. There’s no understanding from this side why we would amend something, given the case that has to be made nationally in this area. It is happening, so the members are out of step with 10 provinces, three territories, all First Nation groups that represent their respective citizenry across this country, Yukon First Nations, and everybody concerned with respect to this particular area of our health care system.
That said, Mr. Speaker, I think we should recognize the fact that this motion is totally linked to the national agenda and we must encourage by sending the clear message that this House in the Yukon is unanimous in its efforts to ensure the federal government lives up to its area of obligation and responsibility in health care.
Mr. Hardy: Well, once again we are told that everything we say is not factual, but everything that the Premier says is. Once again we are told that on this side of the House we have it all wrong, but he has it all right. Once again, the blame game goes on. We’re hearing more and more. Every time the Premier gets up, he blames someone else for the problems that the Yukon Party is experiencing. I hate to see what’s going to happen after the general election, and the finger pointing that’s going to go on then, Mr. Speaker. I would not want to be in that party when that happens. It’s going to be ugly.
Well, interestingly enough, it wasn’t even that long ago that I remember the Premier and the Minister of Health and Social Services standing there, praising the Member of Parliament for all the money that was pouring into the territory. None of it could have come here without the Member of Parliament. We sat on this side and listened to that. They were walking in lockstep with the Liberal member over here. Every chance she gets, she stands up and says that the Liberal Member of Parliament has turned the Yukon around, all by himself. They were agreeing with this.
We know better here. We know politics.
But that wasn’t enough. They also praised the Liberal senator. I remember also that the Liberal senator was thrown into this mix. Every single penny that has come into the territory and everything that has happened was due to those people being elected and showing up. Immediately the money started pouring in. Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about federal responsibilities.
Speaker: Order please. On the amendment, please. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: I am getting to it, Mr. Speaker. I am speaking to this, just as the Premier, when he made comments about the Member for Kluane, was speaking to it — cheap shots, Mr. Speaker.
Anyway, the Premier also talked quite a bit about the responsibility of the Liberal government in regard to First Nation health and finances being applied to that. We don’t disagree at all with the Premier. We believe that the Liberal government has a responsibility, a responsibility that must continue in regard to achieving and maintaining healthier lifestyles and dealing with the diabetes that is affecting First Nations. Without a doubt, we agree with that, but that does not excuse the Yukon government from not also being part of it. That does not excuse the Yukon government from also working on a very serious illness, a very serious problem that is facing the First Nations. Their numbers are far higher than non-First Nations in the Yukon, and First Nation women are even more susceptible to getting diabetes. That’s a serious problem, and that has to be addressed. So I agree totally with the Premier in regard to the Liberals’ responsibility — absolutely. But that does not preclude the Yukon government from also working closely and assisting in dealing with this serious situation that faces First Nations.
The Premier talked about the First Nations in that situation and said it was the federal Liberal government’s responsibility, but the motion doesn’t necessarily report to that.
It says, “… to assist Yukoners, to achieve and maintain healthier lifestyles by educating them about and supporting those with diabetes through ongoing lifestyle and wellness information and educational campaigns.” That means it’s all Yukoners; that’s what the motion says. It’s not specific. Therefore, that means the Yukon government does have a responsibility, based on this motion, based on the original motion and the reason we brought in the amendment. If it were very specific, then I could understand the argument of the Premier and other people in this room, but you can’t pick and choose on a motion. It’s fairly clear. It says, “to assist Yukoners to achieve” and on and on.
Therefore, the Yukon government needs to be part of this motion. Now it reads, “That this House urges the federal Liberal government and Yukon government, in consultation with First Nation governments …” That meets the requirement for all Yukoners, as this motion spells out.
If we do that, if it’s accepted in here, what’s the problem? There’s no problem whatsoever. I believe the Yukon government already does work in this area, already is putting out literature in regard to diabetes, and already is involved in some form of educational campaign. Members opposite could stand and tell me they’re doing nothing, and I would be very surprised, but I believe it’s already happening. I do know the hospital is involved in literature and stuff like that, so I’m assuming the Yukon government is part of that whole campaign.
Ongoing lifestyle wellness information — Mr. Speaker, I go to a movie and I see ads at the movie theatre that talk about lifestyle choices and wellness information that is sponsored by the Yukon government.
So, it’s already being done. Putting this in here recognizes what the Yukon government is already doing. It’s not a bad addition. I don’t understand the Premier’s rant about how this is no good. All we are doing is, once again, making it a better motion. We are recognizing that the Yukon government has a responsibility to all Yukoners in this area. We are recognizing that the Yukon government is already doing some work in this area. We are recognizing that it can work with the federal Liberal government to do more. We are recognizing that it can work with First Nation governments — something that has been a struggle for the Yukon government to date, but we are recognizing that it can work with them and do more in this area to help people. Why does the Premier have a problem with that? That’s a good question. What is the problem?
It is becoming quite obvious that the motions that are being brought forward from the back benches are generally to find fault with the federal Liberal government. That’s about it. Frankly, we would like to debate more substantive motions. We would like to have motions that don’t just bash the federal Liberal government. Don’t get me wrong: the federal Liberal government needs to be held accountable. There is no question about it. Every Liberal should hide their head in shame with what has gone on with the Gomery inquiry and the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted that could have gone to other programs to help people. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, from 70 or more years of federal Liberal rule in this country.
They deserve to be defeated. Any government in too long has a tendency to start taking their role — their position — as a God-given right. I’ve heard, time and time again, the Liberals being called “the natural governing party of Canada”. That’s a shame. That’s not democracy, and unfortunately they haven’t acted in a democratic way and they have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars and they have — from my perspective — not been a good government for Canadian people.
But that is not what the motion is about. I do not support the federal Liberal government at all, but I still believe, whether I support them or not, we work with them. We work to the best of our ability to represent the people of this territory. We also recognize our own responsibilities and don’t just try to pass them off on someone else. We also recognize we have money, and there is money available. We’ve heard this government brag about their massive spending, massive budgets, and being able to pull $10 million at the drop of a hat for a school that had no planning, no consultation. No one out there, even up in Copperbelt knew about it. It is amazing, Mr. Speaker, where that $10 million came from; so obviously there is lots of money. Railroad feasibility study, $3 million; where did that money come from, Mr. Speaker, where? Did it fall from heaven? No, it’s reckless spending, it’s unaccountable spending. The deals that were cut with the governor in Alaska was not part of any type of consultation with the people of this territory.
So there’s money — obviously, there’s a lot of money. And where did that money come from? Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government didn’t open up or go into a back room and start printing their own money — at least I hope they haven’t. So where does it come from? Well, it has come from taxpayers. It has come from investments. It has come from agreements that have been in place for a long, long time. It has come from a lot of hard work by a lot of people. The Premier has touched on that.
But there is money — $60 million in lapses we debated just a couple of weeks ago. It’s unheard of — $60 million in lapses. There’s money. Money could be put toward this. And you know what? It could save a life. It could save two lives. It could save 100 lives. It could help change the future of people who may end up with diabetes because they don’t have the right information. It could get information out to them and make that change so that they don’t suffer from diabetes. So the government can have an impact in this area; it has a responsibility, is already involved in it.
So those are the facts, Mr. Speaker. As the Premier likes to say, “These are just the facts, and members on the opposite side, the opposition, have it all wrong. I have the facts; they have it all wrong.”
Well, I just gave you another little side to this, and I’m quite willing to see the Premier come back and say I’m completely wrong — the Premier stand there and say we do nothing on educational campaigns around diabetes, we do nothing on wellness information, we have no responsibility on ongoing lifestyle programs.
If he wants to make that claim, I would welcome it. I know that’s not correct. I know that programs have been in place for a long time and continue to be funded. I know that the departments continue to work to try and help people. That I do know. If that’s the case, of course, let’s recognize the Yukon government’s contribution. Let’s recognize that they do have a responsibility, because it is to assist Yukoners, not specifically any Yukoner. The motion says to assist Yukoners.
Having said that, I think that the amendment is perfectly correct. It in no way, shape or form criticizes the Yukon Party government, so it’s not a mischievous amendment. It strengthens the motion. It recognizes them. It does not restrict the Yukon government in any way from lobbying the federal government to continue this work — continue to fund programs, work with First Nations and all Yukoners, as it says, with regard to this. I can’t see why there’s a problem with adding that little change.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to say a few words to the amendment. I wasn’t going to, because I think we need to vote on it and vote as we believe.
The Premier’s comments have also sparked me to say a few things. I’d like to thank the Member for Kluane for amending this motion. It’s good to see the mover of the motion taking some interest in this debate.
The amendment includes the Yukon government. Why did we do it? I believe the mover of the motion would agree to this: that it is about diabetes, lifestyle, wellness information, and it’s about an educational campaign. Is the Yukon government excluded from any of those? No, they’re not. Have they provided information to the public on this matter? Yes, they have. There are pamphlets, there are radio ads, there are ads in the paper in regard to this, all sponsored by the Yukon government.
I’ve heard the Premier say that he lost track of the motion itself and how the amendment wants to include the Yukon government. Well, why not include the Yukon government in this? After all, they do this type of thing across the territory. The Premier focused a lot on First Nations and the fact that the federal government has the responsibility for the health and well-being of First Nation people.
If there’s a problem with a First Nation member in regard to diabetes, whether it’s an emergency or not, treatment and so on is all done through facilities and people hired by the Yukon government.
But that’s not what we’re after here. What the mover of the motion wants to do is urge the federal Liberals to consult with Yukon First Nation governments basically to achieve a healthier lifestyle, and he wants to do it through an educational campaign. Wouldn’t the Yukon government want to get on-board with that? Wouldn’t they want to do that?
After all, Mr. Speaker, the motion itself seeks to assist Yukoners. That’s what it says: “assist Yukoners to achieve and maintain a healthier lifestyle”. Yukoners — not Yukon First Nations. I know that if the mover of the motion or the Premier looked at this seriously and if they wanted to focus strictly on First Nations, then the motion itself would have done that. But they would have also learned, Mr. Speaker, that First Nations have gone out and lobbied, consulted the federal government, drawn down monies, had federal monies flowing strictly for this purpose of educating people who are diabetic and promoting a healthy lifestyle. I think what all members in this House feel is that more needs to be done, and we may agree to that. Aboriginal people also agree with that. What they’d like to do is eliminate it completely. But the fact is that we’re faced with this disease.
I have family members who are diabetic. I have a niece who has been a diabetic since she was 13 years old. It’s not just her, but her family all needed to be brought up to speed on the disease. The only way it’s done is through educating people and supporting them in prolonging their life by living a healthier lifestyle. There could be some things the Yukon government could do.
For example, oftentimes those who are suffering from diabetes are in our hospitals. They see the doctors who are hired by the Yukon government through the Hospital Corporation and diagnosis takes place, and there’s a course of action. There are times when we need more than that; we need specialists up here to save our people, to give proper and good direction on how to make improvements, and that’s what is taking place.
What has taken place is supportive family members often call a specialist in Alberta or B.C. and ask them if members of the family suffering from diabetes could be looked at.
This is not recommended through our own system here in the territory, through our hospitals, our doctors and so on — it is not. When we urge the federal government to work on an educational campaign, I believe that we need to involve the Yukon government in this. Let’s talk about it from a Yukon-wide perspective and follow the mover of the motion’s intent, which is to assist all Yukoners. It says it right there — “all Yukoners”. The mover of the amendment to the motion wants to include the Yukon government. We don’t want to lose that.
I have also heard the member from the Liberal Party talk about others; for example, municipalities and other organizations. Obviously, this is at a higher level. First Nations, for example, have gone through the whole process of non-insured health in the territory. They have gone through a process of not knowing what is covered and what is not. Not only did they go through that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but so did Yukoners and the Yukon government. It was a learning process. I believe that recognizing diabetes in First Nation people is in fact very serious. They have taken it upon themselves to lobby the federal government every chance they get.
This has been going on for years and there is some pretty good work that has been done through the First Nations to bring back literature to inform their members about living healthier and trying to avoid diabetes through a healthier lifestyle. It is hard for some of them. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin talked about eating habits and so on. This is a whole change in how you live to ensure that you can control diabetes. It is something that is pretty tough but I think that the message is getting through. But this cannot be a stand-alone effort by First Nations. I can’t imagine what the federal Liberal government would do in looking at this motion by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin — whether the Premier took it down and handed this motion to the federal government and said, “This is what the Legislature has passed and urged you to do” — and how they would feel, when in fact a lot of that lobbying has already taken place, has already been in progress for years, not only by First Nations but by the territorial government itself.
A lot of results out of all that effort are being seen today, including a book that has been produced to try to make people aware of the different diseases, symptoms or viruses that affect them, to be able to deal with it at home.
So I ask the Premier to look at this motion carefully. It is to assist all Yukoners. It is. It’s not about First Nations; otherwise, it would be a totally different motion. It’s about all Yukoners. We’ve heard the Yukon Party say over and over again that a decision cannot be made, whether it’s in economic development or whatever, just because of a First Nation involvement, but they have to include everybody in the bigger picture. Well, this motion is doing that. And I wish the Premier had read it before making the comments just rebutting somebody else on this floor. It does that. So let’s include the Yukon government. Doesn’t the Premier want to be part of it? Doesn’t he want to promote a healthier lifestyle and wellness information through educational campaigns? Doesn’t he want to do that? Of course that information and that type of talk is out there right now. He wants to do it. He’s saying he’s doing it. I’m sure that now they’ve got some background from the members on this side of the House that they would agree with the amendment. Let’s involve the Yukon government too.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it’s my honour and my pleasure to rise today to support this motion. I would just like to start with a quote from the Canadian diabetes strategy. This is available on the Health Canada Web site.
Mr. Speaker, the quote is as follows: “Diabetes is a complex health problem and national challenge. The purpose of the Canadian diabetes strategy, managed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, is to articulate and establish effective diabetes prevention and control strategies for Canada.”
Currently underway is a Canadian diabetes strategy. I’m not sure if all members were aware of that before we entered into doing research on it. We currently have a strategy and it started almost half a dozen years ago. Diabetes is not a new affliction. It’s a disease that has been around probably since the beginning of time. We, as governments, have always been doing something about it.
There is a strategy, but it’s a strategy that needs to be fine-tuned; it’s a strategy that needs to be interpreted and designed for a local audience.
I’m not sure if many of the members are even familiar with the aboriginal diabetes initiative, which is part of the strategy. It is available on-line, should the Member for Kluane wish to read a copy of it. It’s a publicly available document from the Health Canada Web site.
Canada and the Yukon, First Nation governments and individuals have been working on the issue of diabetes for a long time; it’s certainly not a new issue. We all have a responsibility.
Are members looking for a copy of this? The Web site is www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dc-ma/diabete/index_e.html.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order, leader of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: On a friendly point of order, it’s common practice in this Legislature when someone’s quoting from a document to table the document. I understand that’s in our rules of procedure. The difficulty I’m having is the Member for Southern Lakes is giving us all a Web site address. That may be current technology, but that’s not according to our rules and we don’t have computers at our desks in the Legislature, as is also according to our rules.
So I suggest that perhaps the member could be so kind as to ensure that he provides a copy, rather than the Web site address.
Speaker: There is a point of order, and that was a valid suggestion. I thank the leader of the third party very much.
Would the member like to take that under advisement?
Mr. Rouble: I would be happy to provide members with copies.
Would members like to take a recess while I provide them with copies?
Speaker: Do we have unanimous consent for the House to take a 10-minute recess?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: We will recess for 10 minutes.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
The Member for Southern Lakes has the floor.
Mr. Rouble: In order to further the debate, provide a little more information and work with my colleagues in the opposition, I have provided copies of a Health Canada Web page that has a bit of an introduction to diabetes. It goes into some specifics about what diabetes is — or are, I guess is more appropriate, because it goes on to describe type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. It also outlines some of the Health Canada resources that are available.
Additionally, I had commented on the Canadian diabetes strategy and the aboriginal diabetes initiatives. This is also referred to as the Métis, off-reserve aboriginal and urban Inuit prevention and promotion. It is a program framework, dated July 5, 2000, and is from Health Canada. I will also provide that for members.
Mr. Speaker, indeed diabetes is something we all need to work on, and by using the word “we” I want to include the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon, First Nation governments and, Mr. Speaker, individual citizens also have a very strong role to play.
The Government of Canada, as the quarterback, or the coordinator of many of our health care initiatives in Canada, has a very important role. It has prepared a national strategy, does a lot of funding of research, and the Government of Canada also has a fiduciary responsibility for people of First Nation ancestry and their health care.
We all have work to do in the area of diabetes. We need to increase the understanding of the disease, we need to increase knowledge about how to prevent it, we need to increase Yukoners’ knowledge about how to live with it, and we need to work with our health care professionals to ensure that they have the appropriate resources to help those afflicted and affected by the disease.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners have a role to play. Yukoners need to remember a personal responsibility for their own health and to take action to keep themselves in good health. Mr. Speaker, I was recently at the doctor, and the doctor asked me why I was there, and it was just to make sure I was in good shape and that there was nothing bad looming on the horizon. The doctor said to me, well, I can’t do anything to prevent you from catching a disease, so I can’t help you with that. I can’t do anything to prevent you from getting into an accident. But what I can do is give you some advice. Mr. Speaker, I think this is advice that we’ve all heard before and that we all need to pay attention to.
The doctor said to me, “Well, you need to lose some weight, you need to watch what you eat, and you need to exercise more.” I think in here we all know we should all do that — eat right, lose some weight, exercise more; and if we do that, it will go a long way to ensuring that we each, as individuals, lead a longer, healthier, more satisfying life.
The government also has a role to play in this — and by “government” I mean the Government of Canada, First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon.
We all need to encourage healthy living. We’ve seen the territorial government do that time and time again. It isn’t specific to this government; previous governments have done it. Recently we’ve seen an increase in community facilities, such as the Canada Winter Games Centre or the Marsh Lake community centre. We’ve also seen an investment in recreational coordinators in our communities. We have one in Carcross, one in Tagish and we’ve recently added one in Marsh Lake.
These recreation coordinators work to provide a lot of programs in our communities — things like walking programs, skiing, skating — all encouraging a health lifestyle.
We’ve seen the creation of the Best Ever athletes fund. We’ve seen tremendous enhancements in the kids recreation fund. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the growth of and access to the community development fund. All these programs are contributing to healthier living and, hopefully, people leading a healthier lifestyle.
We’ve also seen programming enhancements for sporting events for Yukoners of all ages, and a school breakfast program.
We also have to ensure that our health care system is adequately funded. There has been quite a bit of debate about that. I am sure we will go into more debate when we get into the supplementary budget and discuss the different budgetary priorities.
I am particularly encouraged to hear some of the actions currently taken by the Health and Social Services department, such as advancements in dialysis and recognizing its need in the Yukon and support for people with type 1 diabetes by providing continuous subcutaneous insulin injection pumps. This is a great step forward for treating and assisting folks with type 1 diabetes, which isn’t a lifestyle type of diabetes. It is an affliction that people are born with.
As I said earlier, we all need to work together on this: the federal government, the territorial government, the First Nation governments and Yukoners. I would just like to remind folks that if we take an ounce of prevention, it’s often worth more than a pound of cure. We need to learn more about this disease, how to prevent it, how to live with it more effectively and, Mr. Speaker, we also need to encourage folks to lead healthy lifestyles across the board.
I think that sending this message to Ottawa will be a good message. They have recognized that they have the primary responsibility for this. We can see that right from the Canadian diabetes strategy. What we need to do now is work to make sure that we have tailored solutions for Yukoners. That is why we are asking the Government of Canada to work in consultation with the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations to ensure that we’re creating programs that are tailor-made for the Yukon and that fit our unique situation up here.
Considering the unique challenges that we face, the unique situation that we face with access to fresh fruits and vegetables, with access to recreation facilities — especially considering our long winters up here — we need to work with the federal government to ensure we have the solutions that Yukoners need. I think this motion sends that message. I think it does so in a positive way. I’ve got to disagree with some of the members opposite that it’s a “bashing” motion. I see nothing of that sort in here. I think that we’ve all voiced our support for working on diabetes initiatives, and I hope that we can all work together as one Legislative Assembly to send one unanimous voice to Ottawa encouraging more action to be taken in partnership with Yukon and Yukon First Nations on this very important initiative.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, we on this side have nothing further to say about this motion in particular, save for the fact that I would like to take note of the fact that we made our contribution to the motion, we proposed an amendment which we thought made it better. Members on the government side voted against that amendment to the motion and thereby abrogated the government’s responsibility for programming in this area. That is our view.
We look forward to voting on the motion.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today and speak about this motion which is a very important matter, particularly for those who are afflicted with diabetes or are at risk for it. I thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing it forward.
I think it’s important to note in this, as has been mentioned by some members including the Premier, that the issue of diabetes is increasingly prevalent among aboriginal Canadians and aboriginal Yukoners, who contract the disease, I believe, at a rate four times the average for non-aboriginals. The fact is that the federal government has not only responsibility but commitments that have been made by the current, governing Liberal Party toward addressing this problem, which has not been properly addressed for years.
I thank the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin for bringing this issue to the attention of the House. I think it is also important to recognize that the amounts of monies we’re talking about — I was rather surprised, actually, to hear the opposition suggesting that we’re “awash in cash” for health care and there’s no need for any further money. Suggesting to Yukoners that the $20 million that was received by this government in base funding for health care — after our Premier and the premiers of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut walked out on former Prime Minister Chrétien on national television at the health care conference — is enough to address all our needs is not correct, and it does a disservice to Yukoners to suggest that, because it doesn’t accurately represent the facts. The recognition that was sought by our Premier and the other two premiers and was received was the recognition that in the north, with our sparsely populated jurisdictions, per capita funding does not sufficiently address our needs, and there is a need for base funding.
I would point out to all members and members of the public who may be listening to this that, in comparison to the $20 million referred to, the public accounts of the Yukon for the 2004-05 fiscal year show the actual total expenses of the Department of Health and Social Services were $171,452,806 — $171 million versus $20 million. Over the past number of years, it has been quite common for the Department of Health and Social Services to have an escalating budget on a yearly basis of somewhere in the order of $7 million to $10 million simply to address the increased costs we’re facing today.
So the fact is that, though the federal government has come to the table and begun to restore some of the funding that was cut when the current Prime Minister was Minister of Finance and they engaged in a budget-cutting exercise, we have still not fully had restored what was cut from us back then. The health access fund money that has been discussed and is being negotiated has not flowed to the territory yet. There is still a shortage of health care dollars that the Minister of Health and Social Services and officials from the department deal with on a daily basis, trying to balance the massive needs that are present and to deal with the costs and keep them under control while addressing the needs of Yukoners.
Diabetes is something that, as mentioned, has a massive effect on those who are afflicted with it. But it also affects their families. Some of the myriad of health problems that have been mentioned previously by other members include kidney problems. That was something that came to my attention earlier this year — perhaps it was even last year. Kidney problems and the need for haemodialysis were brought to my attention by a constituent that I believe many members of this House know. The effect on their family through the father of the family, who had to be transported Outside to receive haemodialysis treatment, was quite significant. It’s very difficult. I can’t imagine the difficulty faced by some of the front-line staff who have to deal with this on a daily basis, realizing that there are tremendous needs out there and that people’s lives are being very deeply affected by these issues. They need more services and equipment, but the resources are in short supply.
That’s one example. I believe that particular issue — the haemodialysis machine — is one of the top priorities in the current initiative underway. It’s called “under our wing” and it’s being spearheaded by the Yukon Hospital Corporation in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Services and people from the community who have volunteered. The fact that we need to engage the Hospital Corporation or NGOs doing fundraising for health needs is just one more example of the fact that the escalating health care costs, not only in the Yukon but coast to coast, are becoming very difficult to deal with.
And it has been mentioned somewhat facetiously by the premiers and ministers of some of the provinces that, with the rate of escalation of health care costs, soon they will be left with only two departments: the finance department taxing people and handing it over to the health department, which spends it. So we do have a significant need for increased funding and for restoration of money that was cut federally in these areas.
But returning to the crux of the motion, we are referring to a matter that is largely under the purview of the federal government. The members of the opposition had brought forward an amendment, which was defeated, and the reason that I voted against it was that it didn’t fully recognize the reality of the situation. It was suggesting that the Yukon government should be taking a co-lead on this with the federal government, whereas the more appropriate way is the federal government is and should be the lead on a national strategy regarding this, and there should be involvement of the Yukon government and the First Nation governments, particularly because of the large number of Yukoners who are afflicted with diabetes and who are First Nation people and the large number who are at risk within First Nation communities who may not personally have even thought of this issue much but, in the future, may find themselves affected with it.
People with diabetes are twice as likely to die prematurely as people without diabetes. In 1999-2000, over 41,000 adult Canadians died as a result of this condition. It is the seventh leading cause of death in Canada.
I look forward to hearing debate from other members. In motion debate, our time is somewhat short, and we have other motions on the floor that I would like to see us debate this afternoon. So, without any further comments, I will thank members for their attention and urge them to vote in favour of this motion and recognize the importance of this matter and send a strong, united signal to the federal government that we hope they will step forward and take responsibility in this area, as they have previously committed to, and that we want to work in partnership with them and with First Nation governments, whose communities are so often deeply affected or threatened by diabetes.
Ms. Duncan: On the motion, I was quite prepared to let the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin — who brought the motion forward — close debate; however, I’m not prepared to leave the words from the Member for Lake Laberge as the last word on this subject on the record.
The endless federal Liberal government bashing — “it’s all their fault” — is quite tiresome in this Legislature. I made the friendly suggestion that we change this to “the Government of Canada”. The NDP, the official opposition, brought forward an amendment and included the Yukon government. It’s well and good for the members opposite to stand up and say that it’s all the feds fault — well, last I checked, we’re part of this country. It’s a federation and a confederation. We need to work together.
This isn’t about, “My government has more money than your government, and therefore you have to pay.” This is about the right thing to do for citizens. The right thing to do for citizens is promotion of a healthier lifestyle.
That’s the right thing to do. What the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin was trying to do, I’m quite sure, is generate a discussion about how we work together to promote healthier lifestyles to deal with diabetes, which is a major concern in Canada. His colleague, the Member for Southern Lakes, has gone on with Government of Canada initiatives, Government of Canada Web site material he has provided to us, and yet the Member for Lake Laberge says, “Well, the federal government is not doing enough and should be doing it all. We don’t have any responsibility; it’s all their fault.”
The fact is, there is a great deal of money spent by the Government of Yukon on health care. What was the figure read into the record? In excess of $171 million. It’s not that there’s an additional $10 million because of increased costs; it’s quite often $10 million depending upon what costs are incurred in legislative costs. Those are Yukon programs and they are not necessarily programs that exist in other parts of the country. The Yukon — bar none — has the best health care system in all of Canada. Yes, it costs a great deal of money. Yes, as a Yukon taxpayer, I’m glad that that’s where the government is spending their money and, yes, I believe they could spend more and they could spend it with a greater degree of wisdom. So that’s our job here in this House — to ask questions about how they’d spend that money.
It is the Premier’s and Finance minister’s job to go and argue to the Government of Canada and others that we need to cost-share more on health care. Lo and behold, guess what? The Premier opposite, who is the current Finance minister, isn’t the first Finance minister to do that, and he isn’t the first Finance or Health minister to get additional money out of Ottawa. So, the Member for Lake Laberge can just relax a little. To use the colloquial expression, chill out, and recognize that we all have a role to play. That’s what the NDP had to say this afternoon: everyone has a role; every government that takes responsibility for their citizens and for doing their job has a role to play in dealing with this issue.
It is unfortunate that the members opposite, with their vision of consensus and their vision of collaboration, could not see their way to recognizing and being cognisant of the fact that every government has a role to play in the dollars we spend and a role to play in dealing with diabetes and the promotion of healthier lifestyles.
It is unfortunate that these Wednesday debates degenerate into government party bashing instead of the real issues. The issue is diabetes. The issue is promoting a healthier lifestyle. There are all kinds of excellent articles about how governments should be rowing rather than steering in management discussions, papers, and so on. I would just encourage members to row together a little more and then perhaps we could proceed in a direction, instead of going around in circles as to whose fault it is.
Who has the biggest amount of dollars to spend? Let’s deal with the issue at hand, which is diabetes. I thank the member opposite for bringing the motion forward. I will decline to thank the members who seem to feel it was more of a partisan debate, and it’s unfortunate because we could have, had we accepted the amendment, passed this motion. However, the way it reads right now, it doesn’t accept that we as legislators and the Government of Yukon and the First Nation governments have a role to play in working toward healthier lifestyles. It doesn’t accept that, and for that reason I can’t support it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 421 agreed to
Motion No. 497
Clerk: Motion No. 497, standing in the name of Mr. Cathers.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Lake Laberge
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to renew its funding commitment to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, which the Liberal government is currently planning to cancel, effective March 31, 2006.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today to debate this motion. The issue at hand, as noted in the motion, is that the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon is facing a loss of a considerable portion of its funding — some of it as early as next month and the rest by the end of March 2006.
Our government has stepped forward and we have increased the funding to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon. The money that is being talked about is the money from the federal government. This motion is to draw attention to that important matter and the valuable work that is done by the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, certainly we would not want to see FASSY, as it is better known, being forced to discontinue its programming and reduce its capacity as a result of the loss of the federal funding.
Now, the funding being referred to by the federal government was project funding. Core funding is provided to it by the Yukon government but the money was project specific from the federal government. However, it was making up a considerable portion of the money flowing to FASSY for delivering its programs and its work was coming through this project-specific funding.
FASSY provides a broad range of services to a large client base across many programs, and as an agency it survived and expanded by tapping into project funding and other short-term revenue streams to enable it to meet the needs of its clients. FASSY staff and the board are passionate about addressing the needs of persons touched by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and they have for many years been a strong and vocal community advocate for these individuals. The Minister for Health and Social Services has engaged in this issue, in addition to the increase in funding provided by his department to FASSY, by sending a letter to the federal minister, Anne McLellan, and to the Member of Parliament for the Yukon, requesting that consideration be given to extending the funding for FASSY.
The issues at hand are both immediate and long term. The immediate issue is that FASSY has two major programs that will see federal money dry up as soon as the end of next month. One is “With a Little Help from My Friends”, a program presently funded by the national crime prevention initiative. Presently this program is providing direct support to 18 high risk fetal alcohol spectrum disorder women and indirect support to their families and friends.
It also employs approximately four people. The second program is called “Trying It Differently”, and is funded under the national homelessness initiative. The funding for this program ends on March 31, 2006, and it currently provides support to approximately 14 persons with FASD and employs three individuals.
The long-term issue is that in the past, much of FASSY’s time has been spent attempting to secure funding for their operations, and their core operations have been funded through project funding and through these separate projects that contributed to the whole. Though a model such as this might work well for a corporation or another for-profit organization, for an NGO that is working with vulnerable individuals there are issues of stability and the ability to focus on a job that they’re trying to perform, and it’s not a good way to function. In the long term, FASSY needs to have core funding and core services in a sustainable funding stream so they do not have to spend their time constantly lobbying for funding rather than working on serving the interests and the needs of the people who have established themselves to serve. And I might add, Mr. Speaker, that assisting these individuals performs a very valuable service to all Yukon society and does it for a very good price. If one wishes to look in terms of economics, they deliver it very efficiently. If one wishes to look in terms of the human issues and social capacity, it certainly is a model that has operated very effectively and flexibly toward addressing the needs of individuals without being tied up in government process that, due to the need for accountability and all the forms and paperwork that have to be filled out by any government structure — it has in the past enabled FASSY to be perhaps a little more flexible.
The total funding that FASSY gets from Health and Social Services right now is $192,000; this is a significant increase from that given to it by previous governments.
As you will recall, Mr. Speaker, and as members will recall, one of our platform priorities and commitments in the last election campaign was the promotion of a five-step fetal alcohol spectrum disorder action plan and a commitment to focus resources on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as a matter of top priority and increase public awareness on the effects of alcohol and drugs on unborn children, by building upon educational programs in conjunction with stakeholders.
The five-step FASD action plan includes promoting prevention programs to eliminate alcohol consumption by high-risk parents in order to foster the birth of healthy babies; early diagnosis of FASD before the age of six; supporting people and families with FASD through a wide range of services, such as professional counselling and foster homes, in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment; enhancing supported living arrangements for adults with FASD; and forming a diagnostic team of professionals trained in personal counselling and social work and health, to provide services to Yukon schools, in order to provide support for FASD students and their families.
To date, the following has been accomplished and action has been taken by the Department of Health and Social Services: the development of an interdisciplinary team and hiring of a coordinator for the early diagnosis and identification of children affected by FASD. This position is through the Child Development Centre. FASSY has now been engaged to be involved in the diagnosis of adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Secondly: priority access to addictions treatment for at-risk women; a comprehensive primary prevention initiative, including public service ads targeted at individuals, families and communities and the use of radio spots to complement ads in the print media; updating the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder prevention brochure; and updating kindergarten to grade 12 FASD curriculum in the schools in partnership with the Department of Education.
A comprehensive secondary prevention initiative included a series of workshops targeted at professionals who work with at-risk populations; the delivery of two workshops aimed at increasing effective supports to pregnant, substance-abusing women; consultations with stakeholders regarding alternative strategies for reaching high-risk parents; a presentation given at the nurses conference and to the Yukon Medical Association regarding the initiatives that are being done by Alcohol and Drug Services; and the development and distribution of a training needs assessment survey for communities to aid in the building of capacity.
The department, in its ongoing efforts, is going to support summer programs for children with FASD; fund residential services for persons with FASD who require a high level of supervision; continue funding the Child Development Centre, continue funding special needs child care and providing respite service to families and foster caregivers; provide family support workers to families and continue to strengthen the healthy families program; continue to support the independent living program for adults; provide individualized support to adult caregivers of persons with special needs; fund day programs for adults with special needs; support programs such as Options for Independent Living, which provides needed housing support for people with FASD; and support agencies such as FASSY and the work that it does. The critical role that FASSY performs in assisting with addressing this issue can’t be stressed enough.
This is not a matter that can be addressed solely by government. It needs partnership among agencies, and the role and work performed by NGOs, such as FASSY — and in this case particularly by FASSY — are of tremendous value, and it’s somewhat difficult to quantify them until they’re not there.
If the funding from the federal government being discussed right now is not restored and renewed, we could be dealing with the situation where FASSY is either not able to keep operating or that FASSY is forced to cut back on some of the valuable services they deliver. And that’s not in the interests of anyone in our society. The cost associated with FASSY, in terms of both human cost and economic cost to society, is considerable.
The cost estimates for the financial impacts on society of caring for a person with FASD have never had a definitive, agreed-upon number associated with them. There has been a wide range of estimates done by various institutions and governments on the financial impact to society. These have been done in other jurisdictions.
The first example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, estimated the cost of treating a child suffering from FASD, between the ages of birth and age 18, to be three-quarters of a million dollars U.S.
The Crime Times estimated that each baby born with fetal alcohol syndrome — as it was referred to at that time — costs society $4 million U.S. or more during its lifetime.
In February of 1989, our neighbours to the west, in Alaska, had their Senate Advisory Council of the Alaska State Legislature do an estimate that showed, as of 1988, the lifetime cost of each baby born with FASD to be $1.4 million U.S. Here in the Yukon, in January of 2000, Judge Lilles estimated the costs associated with repeated incarceration, probation, supports and rehabilitation for a typical person with FASD living to the age of 40 to be $1.5 million. This estimate was fairly expressed to be relating only to the justice system and not including other costs to the health and social services system.
The success of FASSY’s efforts is largely in the field of prevention, in assisting these individuals to not fall into criminal activities that are so often common among persons afflicted with FASD. Their efforts at prevention directly reduce the costs by reducing the number of people who require the services and, of course, the social cost is reduced because for each person who is the victim of a crime, there is not only the loss of any material goods that they have lost, there is also the potential for — if it was a violent crime, they may have physical injuries. In either the case of a physical assault or loss of property, there is a very high probability that it has a significant detrimental impact on the life of the person who has been victimized by that crime.
FASSY’s workers support and assist people with FASD in accessing various health and social services. Without this support assistance, these clients would likely consume considerably more resources from those agencies. One reason for this is that clients would need much longer and more involved explanations that would, in turn, require much longer and repeated appointments. Another reason is that appointments would often be made and not honoured, decreasing efficiency and either slowing down service delivery for all clients or requiring additional resources to maintain service levels. Also, clients might be denied services due to missing three or more appointments.
Similar impacts would be felt in the law enforcement and justice systems. Without the support and assistance of a FASSY worker, individuals with FASD would require much more time and effort on the part of legal aid lawyers, probation officers, courtworkers and the court itself. Again, this would either decrease efficiency, slow down services for all clients or require additional resources to maintain the service levels.
There have even been instances where, without FASSY support people, individuals with FASD have pled guilty during a trial because they were of the understanding that if they did so, they would be released and able to go home, but failed to understand the implications of the other side of pleading guilty that, two weeks later, they would be sentenced to jail time, and that creates an issue that is very troubling in terms of its implications regarding the right to a free trial, a right to representation in a trial and to being aware of the crime that an individual is being charged with and the consequences of that.
So that benefit provided by FASSY support people is something that is pretty hard to quantify because we are talking about — they are, in fact, assisting in protecting a fundamental principle of the court and justice system.
Ongoing services by FASSY support workers reduce the number of illegal activities carried out by those with FASD. It is well established that many people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder come into conflict with the law if they are left to their own devices.
According to Dr. Ann P. Streissguth of the University of Washington’s fetal alcohol and drug unit, 60 percent of adolescents and adults, and even 14 percent of children, had trouble with the law. This is from page 109 of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Guide for Families and Communities, which was published by Paul H. Brooks Publishing in 1997.
On the other hand, if these clients are given other opportunities to use their time constructively, they are considerably less likely to find themselves in conflict with the law.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice advises that currently the cost to house an inmate in the Yukon is approximately $450 a day, and that is something that is only in direct relation to those costs. There are other supported costs in many situations that are not factored into that direct estimate. However, it should be pointed out — and this is what FASSY has recognized and supported — that people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can live reasonably safe and satisfying lives as long as they are provided with a high degree of structure and support for the rest of their lives.
In the absence of these services, people affected by FASD are at risk for a variety of problems. I should note here for people who are not aware of it, there are varying degrees of affliction. I understand that no two individuals afflicted with FASD have the exact same symptoms, limitations or effects on their mental capacity. Those who are affected in a minor way may not need support services and may, in fact, go unnoticed and undiagnosed. They may be able to function perfectly well within society without any noticeable impact of their problems.
However, for those who have more severe effects, they may require significant assistance in understanding the implications of the day-to-day decisions that are inherent in the lives of every citizen in society, and which we often take for granted. You or I, Mr. Speaker, or any member of this House, may not even think about a certain decision being difficult. We may not find ourselves entering into a decision without understanding the consequences. For people who are severely afflicted with FASD, the same minor issue for you or I may be a tremendous problem in their lives, and they may not understand how to deal with it.
Their condition also makes them highly vulnerable to being victimized by others. Research has demonstrated that people with FASD who are not well supported regularly put themselves in positions where they are victimized by theft, extortion and violence, including sexual assault.
In addition to the human costs of this, it does put a strain on the resources of the health system, the social system and the justice system. People with FASD are also more likely to victimize others. Their impairments with regard to understanding cause and effect and anticipating the consequences of their actions lead them to commit violent acts on others. When they are in conflict with the law, the services of their FASSY worker are often the only thing that prevents them from being sentenced to time in jail. Without these services, many more people with FASD would spend more time in jail than they already do. Certainly I wouldn’t want to suggest that all of them do, Mr. Speaker, but there are a number who do have significant problems. As members are well aware, the incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is one of the significant factors in the high rate of recidivism that the Yukon experiences.
Another issue that affects individuals with FASD is that someone who has FASD is more likely to give birth to a child with FASD. An estimated 50 percent of the children born with FASD are born of mothers who themselves have that affliction. To help pregnant women abstain from alcohol, significant interventions are required. Without that support, few women with FASD would have healthy babies; whether the support is coming from FASSY or from someone else, if they are significantly affected themselves, they need someone to help them stay away from it, in most cases because they do not understand the problem themselves and, because of their affliction, are more susceptible to alcoholism themselves.
They’re also likely to find themselves with issues such as homelessness, extreme poverty and are more susceptible to contracting communicable diseases. Also, this creates an increased susceptibility to problems with drug overdose and alcohol poisoning or a combination of those conditions.
Now, a question I would urge all members to consider is: who would take over if FASSY were not here? When asked that question, representatives from a wide variety of government agencies and NGOs were asked whether they would ever be able to take over any of the services offered by FASSY to its clients who have FASD. A consistent response from those agencies is that they were not set up and were not in a position to take on those tasks.
Typically, three reasons for that were cited. First of all, to do so would require considerable additional resources, and agencies were not optimistic that such resources could be obtained. Second, to do so would require specialized skills and knowledge that are not present in those agencies. Finally, the policies and systems in place within the organizations would not accommodate the type of service delivery currently provided by FASSY. This includes things such as corporate policies, collective agreements and other related structural factors.
Since few, if any, of the services that FASSY currently provides could be taken over by other agencies, virtually all of the needs those programs are meeting would go unmet if FASSY were no longer able to provide those services.
The impacts that would be felt if FASSY clients no longer received the services, as mentioned before, fall into both the administrative and financial issues and the human and social impacts from the lack of that service being provided.
The services that FASSY provides include the following: one-on-one suppor;, crisis availability 24 hours a day; daily contact with clients; twice-a-year special camps; help with problem-solving, companionship, counselling and modelling appropriate behaviour; reminding and picking up clients for meetings and appointments; ensuring that the clients understand options and assisting them in making informed choices; attending meetings and supporting clients; translating abstract meeting information into clear, concrete steps, assisting clients in carrying out the expectations from the meetings; advocating for clients to ensure that they are treated with respect and dignity; assisting with practical needs; developing and administering recreation programs, supporting clients to attend recreational activities and to reduce victimization and criminal behaviours; arranging and providing transportation as required; providing financial assistance, purchasing things for the client and their families that no one else would consider paying for; finding appropriate programs to assist them in coping with alcohol or drug problems so they can get rehabilitation; advocating for financial assistance; finding housing; finding jobs; supporting pregnant women with healthy and safe activities; assisting the mothers of small children; and providing emergency food supplies.
Clients with FASD who use these support services generally achieve better outcomes, including things such as fewer problems like running afoul of the law, healthier babies born to women with FASD, and less victimization.
Mr. Speaker, I could continue at some length on this — there is a wide variety of work that is done by FASSY — but time is short this afternoon, and I would like to see other members of this House have the opportunity to engage in the debate and reach agreement, hopefully, on this very important matter.
I would urge all members to support this motion. This motion is intended to ask the federal Liberal government to renew their commitment to not end the funding — as is their current plan — but to come back to the table. The Yukon government has stepped forward and increased its contribution to FASSY, and we would urge the federal government to at the very least not cancel their contribution to FASSY and to recognize, as we do, the importance of the programs provided by FASSY by restoring and renewing that funding and providing it with a sufficiently long-term agreement that it can give FASSY the room to do planning and to have security and to avoid spending all of their time lobbying government so they can continue operating which, as members recognize, takes their time away from being able to deliver the services that they provide their clients.
With that being said, Mr. Speaker, I urge all members to vote in favour of this, and I thank you for your attention.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I’ll start off by putting on the record how much time was available for this motion. There was a total of one hour and 20 minutes. The mover just used up the first half hour of that. I’ll try to use less time so we can hopefully bring this to a vote by 6:00 p.m.
We do have some problems with the wording in the motion and will be tabling an amendment a little later.
First, I want to go through some information. This indeed is a very serious issue, and it plagues a lot of Yukoners, both with the disease and those who have to contend with it. The Yukon government must take its responsibilities a heck of a lot more seriously than it does right now in order to address this problem to the level that is needed.
This motion, again, is an exercise in finger pointing. It’s pointing the finger of responsibility, once again, at the federal government. I won’t bother repeating all the related comments that were put on the record from the previous motion discussion, but the bottom line is that the Yukon government is in a very fortunate position due to the largesse and generosity of the federal government in recent years. Of course, the federal government has had a huge surplus to disburse and the Yukon Territory has been one of the main beneficiaries, especially on a per capita basis, so there are lots of extra federal dollars in YTG’s coffers.
Now, the motion indicates the federal government should contribute more, but it doesn’t mean that this very important service provided by FASSY should not be provided in the meantime. We in the official opposition believe the Yukon government should use some of its extra funds to provide bridge financing to FASSY in order to provide this organization with some certainty and continuity with respect to funding so that it can retain staff and continue with programs to its clients.
And I use the word “clients” because, in FASSY’s eyes, there is nothing more important than its clients. But, as we’ll get to a little later, because of uncertain funding, it has had to deal with other issues.
One has to wonder about where the Yukon Party government places this issue in terms of priorities. We see lots of money flipped out for a $3-million railroad study that the federal government was lobbied to provide and, by the way, the federal government did indicate it would provide, but the Yukon Party government stepped in and forked over $3 million — just like that — for this railway study.
Yet, it won’t do the same for FASSY, and we are talking about a lot less money. The railway money was spent without any discussion in the Legislature. How many times have we discussed the topic today in this House? I recall several. I recall previous motions, lots of questions, budget debate and so on. One has to question the Yukon Party about whether it really is a priority of this government.
Let’s look back at the motion debate on May 4 of this year. That’s when the Yukon Party identified eight priorities for spending in the area of Health and Social Services. Nowhere among those eight priorities was there mention of funding for FASSY — nowhere. We tabled an amendment to the motion on that day. That amendment did include extra funds to FASSY for treating adult patients. We recognized that there was a need for extra funding for FASSY, but the government did not.
Let’s look at the press release that the government put out the next day. It obviously felt a bit damaged by the amendment from the previous day. It had to put out some messages to people in the territory to respond to the leadership demonstrated by the official opposition and all the points that it put on record through the amendment that it tabled to the motion.
In the press release dated May 5, I’ll just refer to a paragraph. It says: “In addition, the Child Development Centre received $400,000 to assist with the assessment and support for children with developmental delays and its fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnostic team. The Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon also received $300,000 to provide outreach support to families with FASD children.” Well, isn’t that interesting, Mr. Speaker. I just heard the mover of the motion indicate the figure was far less.
It goes on to say that $900,000 was provided for the hiring of additional family support workers to support the department’s five-step FASD plan. Well, a lot can be said about that paragraph, and one has to wonder why FASSY received less than the other two agencies or purposes of the announcement? Why did it receive less? It’s doing very important work. Its funding is threatened. The whole existence of the organization is in question.
Now, there is also a question about how much money is actually provided to FASSY. The mover of the motion indicated this year that it is $192,000. However, last year the government clawed back some $40,000 from FASSY’s adult diagnosis budget.
The question is, how much of this year’s budget will actually flow? We’ve seen how there are a lot of lapses in the budgets from this government. As a matter of fact, there are $60 million in lapses indicated so far in this fiscal year. There has been discussion on this floor previously about how that is an unprecedented, high figure. Never before has the government been so far off on what it says it’s spending compared to what it actually spent. So one has to wonder how much of those funds have actually flowed.
Now, I attended FASSY’s AGM and I heard the president’s report, unlike the minister who, by the way, was scheduled to speak at that event but showed up late and couldn’t make the speech. I took some notes from that meeting and I noted the Minister of Health and Social Services suggested that he could work together with FASSY to lobby the federal government, and he repeated that statement by suggesting they could also work together with the federal MP. He went on to talk about how there could be a needs assessment done and how he would work together with FASSY to develop this application for a needs assessment.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe the mover of the motion mentioned anything about a needs assessment.
Presumably, this has already been done. This AGM occurred nearly six months ago. Why didn’t the government side give us some information out of the needs assessment study?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Health minister shouts across, “Oh, sit down.” Obviously, he’s embarrassed that he showed up late for the meeting and he didn’t get to talk — to give his speech. But the president of FASSY did. And I hope he doesn’t mind — because I’m going to put it on the record. I read it over this afternoon and it’s very pertinent to the situation this organization finds itself in: “FASSY has completed another very busy and challenging year. Success in the areas of funding access to support and services programming has proven to be quite elusive. Our staff currently offers supports and advocacy to over 50 adult clients. In the process they must continually address the stress of having few community services for their clients. Housing and social programs are few and, when our clients succeed in accessing these, they must deal with a low sense of empathy from service providers of the private and public sectors.
“As a result, our clients are facing ever-increasing social, financial and emotional difficulties, and they are becoming ever more involved with the criminal justice system. The vicious circle repeats itself. Our clients again lose the programming and supports, and this then translates into greater stress for them and, ultimately, for all our staff.
“This strongly suggests that FASSY receive solid core funding and program service funding. Indeed, funding for FASSY has become so critical, we may be forced to discontinue how we operate. Lack of funding will cause serious damage to already highly damaged people. Through absolutely no fault of their own, people affected with FASD may lose access to an organization known nationally as one of the most knowledgeable and progressive FASD groups in Canada.
“Our municipal and territorial governments have been supportive, but we are continually spending too much time and effort at securing funding. Time is of the utmost importance, and it could be used so much better if we could concentrate on programming and services for our clients. Added to this is the time and effort required just to receive funding when the projects have been accepted. This year, our staff has even had to reach into their own pockets to offset budgetary requirements caused by funding delays, which in turn were caused by overly cumbersome funding formulas.
“In conclusion, as we know so well, through no fault of their own, our clients are burdened with FASD. FASSY continues to have a highly committed staff and our success rests solely upon their shoulders. We recognize their expertise and their selfless commitment to the needs of a group of people in our communities who require and deserve constant and lifelong support.
“We know that many others, including those responsible for funding, also realize this. Let’s hope that solid funding will match the commitment of FASSY and our staff. FASSY urgently needs solid core funding.”
So there you have it, Mr. Speaker, and hopefully, for the benefit of the Health and Social Services minister, he heard the president’s report this time and will act upon it.
Now, the mover of the motion talked about the cost to society if this affliction is not treated, or whether it is treated — the cost is still the same. It’s more than $1 million for each person for our society. That’s the cost that has been identified so far. So once again, Mr. Speaker, as was the case with the hepatitis C issue and the need for prevention measures, the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure, applies here as well.
Now, the minister, when he finally did show up to that meeting, also commented about the lobbying to the federal government, as I mentioned earlier, about how he should work with the federal MP. Well, I note the motion is void of any reference to that — working together with FASSY or with the MP. I have to wonder why. Perhaps this is more of a political motion, I don’t know. But, Mr. Speaker, there is an important part of the debate missing so far this afternoon, and that is an update on where this issue is at.
Here are some questions for the Health and Social Services minister to consider when he gets up and speaks to this. What’s happening in terms of progress on this issue since the May annual general meeting of FASSY? Did he work with the group to get the needs assessment done? Was the needs assessment done? If so, what did it show?
Next would be: how has the government acted upon the needs that were identified in the study? Are there any funds in the supplementary budget tabled before the House that address the needs identified in the assessment study? And we really don’t know the answer to that, Mr. Speaker, because we haven’t gotten to the point in the supplementary budget to debate Health and Social Services yet, and this government has refused to provide the opposition parties with briefings on the supplementary budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Health and Social Services minister says there are never briefings on a supplementary budget. My response is, under this Yukon Party government that would be correct; under previous governments, there were briefings on supplementary budgets.
Once again, this government has taken a step backward in terms of collaboration and cooperation with other members in the House.
So, there are some good questions around the needs assessment study and whether this government has acted that I am most interested in hearing about, and I’m sure others are as well.
I heard a rumour — and it’s only a rumour, so I’m hoping the minister can confirm or deny it — that in fact the federal minister responsible has agreed to provide funding to FASSY; however, it’s now in the hands of the local committee to do its work before the funds can flow. That’s all I heard. I don’t know anything more about this local committee or any situation with the federal minister, but I am anxious to find out.
I did mention that I’m tabling an amendment. There are about 35 minutes left. I suggest that we expedite debate, get through the amendment, and hear what the Health and Social Services minister has to say.
Mr. McRobb: I propose the following amendment to the motion:
THAT Motion No. 497 be amended by deleting all words after the phrase “THAT this House urges” and substituting for them the following: “the Government of Yukon to provide bridge funding as necessary to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon while continuing to urge the federal Liberal government to renew its funding commitment to the society, which it is currently planning to cancel, effective March 31, 2006”.
Speaker: The amendment in order. It has been moved by the Member for Kluane
THAT Motion No. 497 be amended by deleting all words after the phrase “THAT this House urges” and substituting for them the following: “the Government of Yukon to provide bridge funding as necessary to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon while continuing to urge the federal Liberal government to renew its funding commitment to the society, which it is currently planning to cancel, effective March 31, 2006”.
Mr. McRobb: I will be quite brief in my comments because we feel it is very important to allow time for the Minister of Health and Social Services to respond to the questions we have asked him to comment on this afternoon and, as well, provide time to vote on this amendment and perhaps the entire motion.
So I think it is quite straightforward. This amendment is self-explanatory. The key part of it is to urge the Yukon government to provide bridge funding as necessary to FASSY during the time the federal government is lobbied. So, what’s wrong with that?
Well, let’s hear from the other side and let’s hear the answers from the Minister of Health and Social Services who is speaking next about the needs assessment study and whether it was done and how his government has responded to the needs identified in that study. Let’s get an update. Let’s hear about this rumour that the federal minister already gave thumbs-up to the funding and it is now in the hands of the local committee and the other questions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the amendment to Motion No. 497 and what is being proposed by the Member for Kluane. That may be a solution, Mr. Speaker but, if anything, it will be a short-term solution.
By way of a bit of background, Mr. Speaker, this side is in full support of the work that has been undertaken and done by FASSY. In fact, this last fiscal period, the total contributions by Yukon to FASSY amount to $192,000 out of their total $594,000 budget.
Mr. Speaker, let’s not just focus on the good work that FASSY does, but let us focus on their funding arrangement with Canada, which is really the crux of the problem.
A number of years ago, FASSY entered into an agreement with Canada for X number of dollars — I believe it was $300 thousand-and-some-odd for so many years. The contribution agreement that FASSY signed with Canada had a stipulation in it that, at the end of this funding arrangement, FASSY would not go back to the federal government and request any additional funding — sunset, finished, finito. At the same time, the way the funds flowed from Canada to FASSY, they had progress payments. At the end of December, Canada will send in and review how FASSY has spent its funding.
And they will not fund or flow the balance of the money in the contribution agreement until the end of March — the 31st. It’s all subject to a full accounting, which is undertaken by Canada. That would be the earliest that the funds would flow, and they would close out the balance of the fiscal year-end for Canada and, at the same time, flow the funding to FASSY.
So there may very well be a need for bridge funding to cover that three-month shortfall. The government — this government, Mr. Speaker — will look favourably on such an initiative if we can’t come to any other arrangement with Canada.
I had the opportunity to attend the AGM of FASSY this spring, and during the course of that meeting it became abundantly clear that at the end of this fiscal period, March 31, 2006, FASSY was going to have serious problems. What I did, as minister responsible for Health and Social Services, at that meeting is recognize the additional cost that FASSY was not budgeting for, but had incurred an obligation for — and that was their insurance costs.
I committed, on behalf of our government, to increase funding to FASSY to cover their insurance costs, which was some $15,000. At the same time, I pointed out the need to have a business plan that could be taken to the federal government to show what FASSY was faced with — how they needed the continuing flow of funding from Canada to provide the good services and good work that FASSY does here in the Yukon.
That led to my offer to FASSY to develop a business plan. This was subsequently funded by the Department of Health and Social Services, which was another expenditure of $10,000. That business plan was the document that has been forwarded to Canada with a request that they look favourably on this organization and find a mechanism to fund FASSY in a similar manner as they have in the past, and to at least the amount of funding that they contributed to FASSY in prior years. To the best of my recollection, this was about $300,000 or so.
I have written to the Deputy Prime Minister of Canada, the Hon. Anne McLellan, and requested her assistance to review the matter and get back to me. A courtesy copy was also sent to our Yukon Member of Parliament with the same request — that he engage with the Hon. Anne McLellan and see what could be done to address these needs.
We are well aware of the financial constraints that FASSY has upon them. At the same time, this is an NGO that has a demonstrated need. Our government has always been of the position and said that where there is a demonstrated need, we will meet that demonstrated need.
One only has to look at the funding that flowed to FASSY under the previous two administrations. Nowhere does it resemble where our government is at today. The Member for Kluane can stand on his feet and say that they need bridge funding. They might very well need bridge funding, Mr. Speaker, but more so they need dedicated ongoing contributions from Canada, coupled with the funding from Yukon, to maintain the viability of this organization.
This is an NGO that’s constantly looking over its shoulder as to where the next dollar is going to come from to service the clients they have — and they have a large client base. The volunteers and the full-time staffers in this organization are extremely dedicated and provide excellent service to those afflicted with FASD.
Mr. Speaker, at the same time, the Yukon has joined with Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in an FASD partnership. In that partnership, we have met regularly in all the political jurisdictions in Canada with the ministers responsible for this area and moved forward on two research centres: one attached to the University of British Columbia, located in Vancouver; another one attached to the University of Calgary in the hospital there. The provinces of these two jurisdictions have come to the table with a considerable amount of funding to start these initiatives.
Canada Western FASD Partnership has moved forward on this initiative and, at the same time, we recognize that here in the Yukon, one of the service delivery NGOs is FASSY and that it is doing a very good job. We do not want this organization to have to look over its shoulder constantly. That’s why we are working with the federal government, once again — which has “boutiqued” a program here into the Yukon, which is due for cancellation on March 31, 2006, and which has an agreement with FASSY. Canada has an agreement with FASSY that says that as of that date Canada has no further obligation to fund FASSY.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to take exception to that approach by Canada. It doesn’t matter what type of government is in Canada. That type of approach is unacceptable, and we as a government have to recognize that we should be lobbying and working with the federal government to ensure that a new contribution, with sustainable funding, is put in place with FASSY so that they can continue with their good work.
Let me share with you the breakdown of the $192,000 that our government provided to FASSY this fiscal period. There is $15,000 for administration expenditures associated with rising insurance costs. That is the sum of money I committed to when I met with them this spring. Another $10,000 is for a business plan to go forward and make the case with Canada for the need for sustainable funding for FASSY.
In addition to that, the Department of Health and Social Services funds FASSY for $77,000 for a prevention worker. There is an additional $20,000 for a summer camp, funded by the primary health care transition fund. There is another $70,000 for assessments, which flowed from Health and Social Services. There is $192,000 this fiscal period.
I would encourage the Member for Kluane to go back through the budgets during his government’s time in office and see what the level of funding was to FASSY.
The case is made by FASSY to us as a government that they are doing an extremely good job. It is a NGO that has a demonstrated need. Some of the best value for services that Yukoners receive is through our NGOs. By and large, they are an extremely dedicated group of volunteers.
I cannot support this proposed amendment to the motion. It only speaks to some interim bridge financing that will cover them for three more months, should the federal government choose not to accede to our wishes, which are before the federal government now, to look at ways to flow the balance of the money and do a quick turnaround. There may be a need for some short-term assistance or a guarantee at the bank — something of that nature — that will help FASSY get over this shortfall in funding from Canada.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to working with NGOs such as FASSY, and we will continue to do so. If you look at what FASSY’s budget was this last year, up until March 31, 2005 — $594,000 — for their next fiscal cycle, they’re looking at increasing their budget to $818,000. In project-specific funding, they’re looking at another $30,000 for diagnostics and another $1 million for a therapeutic community. Mr. Speaker, these are admirable goals. Some are achievable; some may have to be scaled down to fit within the federal budget that we’re very hopeful will flow funds to FASSY.
Mr. Speaker, this is an organization that we have duly noted and assisted, and will continue to assist. But I would encourage the member opposite to withdraw his amendment so we can deal with the substance in the main motion, which is to ensure that FASSY is viable, and ensure that FASSY doesn’t constantly have to look over its shoulder to find sources of funding.
This is very, very time consuming for an NGO. They spend an inordinate amount of time trying to put together various programs and access funding for initiatives, and it detracts from the main work that these organizations do. I am a firm believer in core funding and I am also a firm believer, Mr. Speaker, in indexing that core funding, which our government has done the last budget cycle and I have every intention of doing this budget cycle to keep up with the rising costs.
The members opposite are fully aware of the last budget cycle and yet they chose to vote against it, knowing full well the good work that the budget envelope and Health and Social Services would do. A lot of the costs are price and volume increases we have no control over. If there is one more individual who joins the ranks and becomes a client of FASSY, that’s an additional cost and, unlike the member opposite, our government recognizes that there is a price and volume increase and we are looking at what we receive in indexing from Canada and passing that same increase on to the NGOs.
As I said earlier, much of FASSY’s time is spent attempting to secure funds. Their core operation is funded through separate projects that contribute to the whole makeup of their budget.
Mr. Speaker, we need to ensure that there is core funding. Bridge funding may be an option. But the member opposite’s suggestion is not a meaningful amendment to the motion, in that all it does is serve to get them past the 90-day period. This organization deserves and needs to live longer than 90 days. It needs the certainty of sustainable funding that can only be provided by Yukon and Canada. Canada must come back to the plate.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to note that the minister used up the full 20 minutes; hence, we are in a time crunch. We would like to bring this proposed amendment and the motion to a vote. We think it is important. The minister, in speaking to this amendment to Motion No. 497, also cited the fact that we didn’t support the health care budget that was brought forward in the spring. It’s not that we didn’t support the programs and services that were in the health care budget; it is that we don’t support the spending practices of the government as a whole.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Yes, like the bridge financing in Dawson or the railway study — things like that. We can’t support the total spending package. It’s not that we don’t support health care funding. I would remind the member that, when he was on this side of the House, he also voted against budgets.
What we need to do, since time is of the essence — if the minister would have read the proposed amendment to the motion completely, he would have seen that not only does it provide for bridge funding, which is necessary to the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon — and that’s what we’re asking the minister to do, but we’re also asking him to continue to urge the federal Liberal government to renew its funding commitment to the society, which is currently planned to be cancelled, effective March 31, 2006. So if the minister had read the entire amendment to the motion, he would have understood what the intent was.
Now, if they’re big enough and have the courage to vote on this — I’m going to sit down. I think we still have time. We can vote on the proposed amendment to the motion, and we can pass that, and we can vote on the amended motion. We’re willing on this side of the House to work with the members opposite, so I’ll sit down now.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to the amendment to this motion, to this very, very important issue in our society. The members opposite talk about their sincerity in looking at these issues in the budget and the excuse of why they vote against budgets because they don’t like the whole budget. But they would have voted for this funding if, in fact, it was extracted and put out in front of the House. They would have voted for it.
I’m not quite sure they would have voted for it.
But going back to the necessity of having the federal government at the table, I think it’s very important, and I compliment the minister for working with the group and also working on the motion — but on the issue of trying to get some semblance of sanity from the federal government and commitments for this kind of thing.
In the past, the federal government — on many, many other issues — funded specific projects or groups like FASSY and then they disappear. But this government is going to hold their feet to the fire and make sure that, at the end of the day, this group gets what they should get from the federal government. It’s not a matter of bridge funding. It’s a matter of what is right, and what is right is that the federal government come back to the table and the federal government does what they say they’re going to do and move forward.
Certainly, we as a government have raised the profile of FASSY, and also the funds to FASSY, and are also working to make sure that if there is a need — in other words, if there is a proven need — that we are there with funding.
The members opposite seem to me to be a lot like the federal government. What we’re saying is that we should get together in the House and move forward. FASSY has an issue: FASSY needs resources; I think we all agree on that. We’re disagreeing on where those resources should come from. As far as the motion is concerned, we’re saying that we, the government of the day, under the leadership of the minister, are going to hold the federal government to task on these resources. We are looking ahead, rather than back. We are looking ahead to the future. FASSY needs the funds. FASSY put a business plan together for the funds. We will work with FASSY to make sure that we contribute, as the territorial government. At the end of the day, however, it is very important for us in this House to understand that the federal government has obligations.
If we stand up in the House and divorce ourselves from that issue — in other words, the issue of holding the government to task — the federal government will walk away from these issues.
And these issues are very important to Yukoners. We’ve had meetings with FASSY. I’ve been at meetings with FASSY, at our community meetings when we talked over the issues. The issues revolve around funding, and the funding is very, very necessary. So we can’t make light of the federal government’s responsibility at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker. That responsibility is to carry through with their obligations. We will work with FASSY to make sure they do. We will work with FASSY to make sure the funds are in place from our side of the table to make sure that they can operate in a successful fashion. The FASSY group is a volunteer group of individuals who work very, very hard and very sincerely with this issue for our society.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 497 and proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
following Sessional Paper was tabled November 16, 2005:
Area Development Act: Order-in-Council 2005/160 re Ibex Valley Development Area Regulations and maps (dated September 7, 2005) (Hart)