Tuesday, November 22, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of the Robert E. Leckie awards
Hon. Mr. Lang: I rise today to ask my colleagues in the House to join me in recognizing the annual Robert E. Leckie awards for outstanding mining reclamation. These awards are a tribute to Bob Leckie, a Mayo mining inspector and an innovator who promoted planning, planned reclamation, research and cooperation.
Mr. Speaker, exploration and mining today is done in a responsible way to safeguard our environment. It is a very high-tech industry that uses modern, efficient technology and reclamation practices. As well, the Yukon government has mining regulations and environmental standards that ensure exploration and mining is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. I, along with representatives from industry, presented the Leckie awards to the worthy recipients at the Geoscience banquet last night.
The awards were presented to hard rock and placer mining operators for exceptional reclamation and site restoration efforts. This included reclaiming land that there was no obligation to rehabilitate, adding features to the land that were notable in enhancing the areas in the local community or returning land to a condition that is not only structurally sound but visually pleasing.
The nominations were evaluated by a committee that included the Yukon government, Klondike Placer Miners Association and the Yukon Chamber of Mines. This yearís winners are the Christie family of Gimlex Enterprises for reclamation work from their placer properties on Dominion Creek. Ross Edenost received honourable mention for reclamation at his placer operations, also on Dominion Creek. Tim Termuende of Eagle Plains Resources was the recipient of the Quartz Award for outstanding reclamation at the Rusty Springs property in northern Yukon. Strategic Metals received honourable mention for its reclamation work at the Logtun property near Rancheria.
I ask the honourable members of the House to join me in acknowledging the great efforts by exploration and mining companies, operators and others who go above and beyond the normal call of duty in responsible mining and reclamation; they are ambassadors for this industry.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † I would ask all members to join with me in welcoming to our visitor gallery today four distinguished visitors from the Province of New Brunswick. They are the Hon. Elvy Robichaud, the Minister of Health and Wellness for that province. Minister Robichaud has taken over this year as the lead for the provinces and territories in the year ahead in our health care dealings at the federal-provincial-territorial level with Canada. He has taken the unprecedented step of travelling to every province and territory in Canada to find out what our issues are and how we can deal with the federal government on the issue of health care in the year ahead.
Joining the minister in the visitor gallery are his deputy minister, Nora Kelly; his ministerís advisor, Luc Fournier; and Don Richardson, senior policy advisor. Seated right behind them is the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services for the Yukon, John Greschner.
Please make these people welcome.
Ms. Duncan: I would like all Members of the Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming the newly elected Member for Copperbelt, who will formally join us next week: Mr. Arthur Mitchell, leader of the Yukon Liberal Party.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
††††††† Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Community Services to meet with Yukon College officials to work out a solution for the use of the college during the Canada Winter Games that does not involve financial penalties to college employees.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Canada Winter Games, college use
Mr. Fairclough: † Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Acting Minister of Education. For two weeks in 2007, Yukon College will be closed while the government occupies it for the Canada Winter Games. Instructional staff will continue to be paid during this period, but the non-instructional staff will lose 11 days of pay. Does the minister approve of this arbitrary layoff?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, our government takes great pride in providing the incentives to the employees of the Government of Yukon with respect to the upcoming Canada Winter Games in 2007. There are tremendous opportunities ahead, and through the Public Service Commission we have been able to come up with a policy that encourages and certainly entices each of our employees to take part in the Canada Winter Games and is clearly spelled out in the policy work that is on the Web site of the Public Service Commission. With respect to the matter raised by the member opposite, Iím not aware of the issue that the members opposite speaks to, so I can certainly take it under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister must be aware of this. After all, they are the biggest sponsors of the Canada Winter Games. So the minister ought to take some interest in this matter.
Itís about fair play, Mr. Speaker. Instructional staff will still get paid. Custodial staff will still be working. The college will save about $250,000 by not paying its administrative staff for 11 days. Thatís about a half a percent of the collegeís annual budget, but the workers will lose up to $3,000 each and still have to pay the employee share of benefits. Does the minister consider that fair?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As the Acting Minister of Education, I cannot comment on what is fair or what is not fair, as I am not aware of the issue at hand. I did provide a commitment to the member opposite, however, to take this issue under advisement.
Mr. Fairclough: The acting minister canít duck out of this one, Mr. Speaker. They are sponsors of the Canada Winter Games and should know the effects the games will have on employees, particularly at the college.
Now, the bottom line is that the college is forcing its own employees to subsidize the games with $3,000 each. The only choice that theyíve been given is to use their vacation pay, take leave without pay, or use overtime that they might accumulate between this past July and the start of the Canada Winter Games. The government is spending millions of dollars on this showcase event, as the minister knows, and the college will get millions of dollarsí worth of residential facilities as part of the legacy. Yet, the minister and the acting minister seem to be willing to stand by silently and watch the college nickel and dime its lower paid workers.
Does the acting minister plan to discuss this with the Minister of Education, and is the plan to claw back the collegeís operational budget in 2007, or will she insist that the college honour its moral obligation to its employees by revoking this mandatory layoff?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I think Iíve been quite forthright in my responses. I did make the commitment to the member opposite to take this under advisement and to raise this with the Minister of Education upon his return. Also, we are committed to ensuring that the Canada Winter Games is a complete and tremendous success.
With respect to Yukon College, we do remain quite committed, very overly committed, to the well-being of Yukon College, its staff and its student population ó one only has to look at the $1-million increase to the base grant for Yukon College.
So, as I mentioned to the member opposite, I will endeavour to take this under advisement with the Minister of Education upon his ready return.
Question re:†††† Canada Winter Games, college use
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services, who is also the minister responsible for sport. Heís also the minister responsible for property management and facilities. The Yukon government is a major financial sponsor of the Canada Winter Games, and itís costing the taxpayers of Yukon millions of dollars to bring the Yukon into the national spotlight. Hundreds and hundreds of Yukoners are going to be volunteering their time to help out. The games are supposed to be a big economic boon to the territory. What is this minister doing to ensure that Yukon workers, unlike the administrative staff at Yukon College, wonít suffer economic hardship because of these games?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †As I just pointed out for members opposite ó I will make a point of repeating what I just mentioned. I did say that I would do my very best to discuss this very issue with the Minister of Education upon his return. We certainly will do that.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Minister of Community Services didnít answer the question so now he has got two. Heís the one who is responsible for the facilities; heís the one who has volunteered the use of the college for two weeks. Now itís easy for the minister to hide behind the excuse that whatís happening at the college is an operational matter, but thereís a principle involved here, Mr. Speaker, and the principle is fairness. The government is occupying the college for two weeks. Itís the government that is doing that. The workers are suffering as a result, and itís not fair. It makes us wonder who else in this territory is being forced to subsidize the games without any choice in the matter. In the discussions about using the college facilities for two weeks, why didnít the minister make it a condition that college employees would not suffer any economic hardship as a result of the two-week sport spectacle?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member mentioned previously, I am responsible for sport in the Yukon and for these games, and as the Acting Minister of Education indicated, she will check with the Minister of Education and discuss the certain situation that he brings forward, and I will endeavour to do the same.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is also responsible in his portfolio for volunteers. Many non-profit organizations are already concerned about the impact of the games on their own ability to recruit volunteers in 2007. So the minister should be concerned about this.
The success of these games is going to depend a lot on the goodwill from a lot of people here in the Yukon Territory, so when potential volunteers see 74 workers being pushed to give up part of their salary that is bound to affect the spirit of goodwill. Will the minister now agree to go sit down with the appropriate officials at Yukon College and work out a solution that doesnít penalize people who had no say whether or not their jobs would continue while the games went on?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our government is extremely proud of the excellent efforts that all Yukoners have gone to see these games take place in the north ó first time ever north of 60 ó and we have gone the extra yard as a government, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that the games and all the facilities are in place. We applaud the excellent work of our volunteers who are serving on these various boards and committees. Without these volunteers, we couldnít do what we have undertaken to do here in the Yukon, and that is provide excellent services for the games.
Mr. Speaker, further to that is the issue of staff layoffs at the college site that has just come to our attention today. As the members opposite know full well, Yukon College is an armís-length entity. Yes, it is funded by the Government of Yukon, but it is an entity at armís length from the Yukon government. We will do our level best to see that all Yukoners are looked after to the best of our ability and that Yukon does an excellent job in putting these games on and hosting this fantastic event.
Question re: Doctor shortage, tuition loans
Ms. Duncan: On October 31 of this year, I introduced a motion urging the Minister of Health and Social Services to examine new incentives, including forgivable tuition loans for medical students, to help relieve Yukonís shortage of health care professionals.
We all get calls all the time from people looking for a family doctor. Thereís a shortage in the Yukon. The minister has had three years to address this issue and has made very little progress. The Liberal caucus has put forward a positive suggestion: letís look into forgivable tuition loans.
Has the minister responsible for Health and Social Services taken this issue forward to the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Registered Nurses Association?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer is yes.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps we could have a more detailed progress report, knowing the way the minister likes to chat. The minister has had three years to work on this issue, as I said, and weíve actually gone backward. We have fewer doctors than we did a year ago. One of the main issues in the Copperbelt by-election was access to the health care system.
People are not accepting the view that the minister is doing enough to address this situation. In February of this year, the minister issued a news release that said the government was looking at ďestablishing a health clinic staffed by nurse practitioners and physicians on a 24-hour basis.Ē That was nine months ago; there has been no public discussion of this concept since then.
Has there been any progress on this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let us examine what our government has undertaken and done vis-ŗ-vis the doctor situation. Iíll be the first to acknowledge that there is a shortage of family physicians. Our government has negotiated a new agreement with the YMA, which saw a retention bonus ó the first time ever in the history of the Yukon: $16,000 after the first year, nothing after the second year but, at the end of the third year, a $32,000 retention bonus. Fee-for-service levels have also been increased, and if a doctor takes on new patients, thereís an initial fee for setting things up so orphan patients can be absorbed within the existing system. At the same time, weíre working on a number of other initiatives, which the member is attempting to pre-announce for our next budget cycle.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, that answer is nothing short of amazing. The minister continues to stand on his feet and say, ďWeíve done this ó weíve done that.Ē In fact, last April he said that the government was looking at other models of service delivery and service provisions. He keeps recognizing that, yes, there are orphan patients in the Yukon, but he is not giving Yukoners any solutions or any indication of what the government is actually doing about it.
How is a family moving to the Yukon going to access a family doctor?† The minister said in the House before that the government was working on a database and he would provide me with a phone number for these people to call. He never did that.
What is the government doing about orphan patients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For anyone who is without a doctor, the department keeps a list of those practices that are taking on new patients. They can contact the department ó I have given the number out in the House before and, unfortunately, I do not have it here with me today, Mr. Speaker, but I will get that phone number out and make it public.
Mr. Speaker, further to that, our government is looking at enhancing the program for doctorsí bursaries or training, or forgivable loans; we havenít decided as to how we are going to implement this for health care professionals, but it is underway. But it is predicated on the territorial health access fund that was announced by the federal Liberals over a year ago, Mr. Speaker, and that funding still has not flowed to the Yukon.
So, rather than let the member opposite pre-announce this new initiative ó you know, it is something our government is looking at and, if the federal government approves the funding, it will be contained within our next budget cycle of programs, such as the member described, for bursaries or for forgivable loans. Again ó I put the qualifier on that ó I do not know how the makeup of this is going to be but, at the end of the day, what it will hope to accomplish is encourage doctors who have just graduated and want to come and practise here in the Yukon to do so.†
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre programming
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Acting Minister of Justice.
It took the court scolding this government to get action for mentally ill prisoners at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Now, the courts again have pointed out the lack of support at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for addicted prisoners. The Minister of Justice said just the other day that rehabilitation is an individualís choice. He is blaming the victim, Mr. Speaker, and this government is particularly good at that. This governmentís strategy in dealing with real problems from real people is to hide behind elaborate and expensive consultation, such as the corrections consultation. People in need are expected to wait for this government to get their ideas together, however long it takes.
What is needed now is action. What action is this government taking to address the desperate and immediate need for programs for the rehabilitation of prisoners at Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Our government is committed to improving the corrections system in the Yukon and our government is working on providing that process through the review of corrections in the Yukon.
Unlike previous governments, this corrections consultation project is certainly Yukon-wide, broad-based and entails consultation. That is, we are publicly engaging all Yukoners in this particular process. This consultation is not just facility-based; it is about providing the necessary programming. It is about providing services that are culturally based, that provide healing, that provide the traditional knowledge that is so very direly needed within our communities.
Mr. Speaker, this corrections consultation is not just about the design of a new jail, itís not just about the location of a new jail; it is about what will work for the offender, what will work for the victims of abuse, what will work in terms of after-care support and treatment. That is exactly what we are endeavouring to do, and that is what we are doing.
Mr. Cardiff: † Meanwhile, while the consultation goes on, thereís a lack of programs at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The elders council from Council of Yukon First Nations met with the Minister of Justice this week and they told him, in no uncertain terms, that theyíre fed up with being exploited for political ends. The elders council worked in good faith, years ago under a previous government, to develop detailed plans for a correctional facility and the programs to go in that facility. The minister has said over and over again that the elders councilís input on corrections will be taken into account. But the elders want actions, not platitudes.
Why is this government turning a deaf ear to the elders council and dragging its feet on putting in place credible programs for prisoners at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †We are completely respectful of that input coming from the elders advisory council. In my stead as the Acting Minister of Justice, in my previous position as the Minister of Justice, as well as on the behalf of the Minister of Justice, we continue to collaborate and to coordinate, to consult with all our respective stakeholders when it comes to the delivery of corrections in our Yukon.
We certainly recognize and appreciate all the advice, all the knowledge that has been put forward by the regional elders council that was established and which was consulted. We also acknowledge the hard work that all the officials who contributed to this exercise put forward. We have stated on a number of occasions that particular information has not been set by the wayside. In fact, it is very much going to be used in the overall corrections consultation that is now underway.
I just might add to that process that the difference between now and three years ago is that we have undertaken a collaborative partnership between the Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations, and that is why we have conducted a corrections consultation based on that full partnership.
Question re: Vehicle wash bay
Mr. Fairclough: Yesterday, I had some questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about the wash bay blues in the transportation maintenance area. Now the minister has finally washed the soap suds out of his eyes and found his briefing notes, but his answers left a lot of muddy water in the bucket. So the minister can clear up some things today.
When does the minister expect the state-of-the-art wash bay to actually wash its first vehicle, and what will the final cost of this project be?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I plan to send the member opposite a special invitation to that event.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, at the rate things are going, the minister may not be a minister any more. Now, the original cost of the wash bay was supposed to be about $400,000. There have been about eight change orders in the original contract alone, and we are still not finished. Using the departmentís hide-and-seek on-line contract registry, we have been able to identify a number of contracts associated with this project, and we found that this boondoggle had already cost between $640,000 and $687,000, and it still hasnít washed one single truck or one single grader. Now, perhaps the minister ought to invest another $12 and buy a bucket and a sponge, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister table all contracts associated with this project, along with a detailed explanation of how this relatively small project slipped so badly off the tracks?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to correct some of the statements. In any event, everything is wholly above-board in this particular contract. Everything has been on the net. He has obviously been able to dig up all the information on this particular contract. Iím more than happy to provide anything he wishes on this particular contract. I would like to advise him that other improvements were made on the building, in addition to the wash bay, which created some delays, as he mentioned.
Question re: Alaska Highway, vehicle accidents
†Mr. Fairclough: I would like to get more serious with this line of question to the same minister. In recent years, a short stretch of the Alaska Highway through the City of Whitehorse has seen a high number of traffic accidents, including several fatalities. Since 1996, the section between Two Mile Hill and the Mayo Road turnoff has claimed at least four lives. According to the governmentís own figures, accidents along this stretch of highway range from a low of 14 in 2002 to a high of 40 in 1997; 17 accidents have been recorded this year alone, including one fatality, and we have barely begun the winter driving season.
The minister must be aware that there is a serious problem here. I would like to ask him what he is doing about it.
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite well knows that we have worked substantially on this particular stretch for the last couple of years. I believe that in his own riding he talks about accidents that took place in that particular region while his party was in power. I would say to him that weíve done extensive work on the traffic volumes and traffic routes. We put in a rumble strip down the centre to assist with the traffic flow from crossing that line in that particular area of Rabbitís Foot Canyon.
Mr. Fairclough: The narrow winding section of the road through Rabbitís Foot Canyon is particularly dangerous, as the member said. Last year around this time, it claimed the life of a much-admired Yukon artist.
A few years back under a previous government, remedial action was taken at some other high-accident spots, such as at the MíClintock River bridge.
There are other things the ministerís department could do to help reduce the number of serious accidents in the stretch from Two Mile Hill west. These might include reducing the speed limit, widening and straightening the road, or installing warning lights and median barriers. Will the minister take action now and during the next construction season to make this heavily travelled stretch of highway safer for the driving public?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are doing everything within the national requirements for highway signage, as well as the speed limit in that particular area. We have gone out of our way to do assessments on what volume of traffic goes through there and what kind of speeds and have provided that ó especially for those who live in that particular area.
We continue to monitor the situation and are looking at ways to improve the safety within that particular section.
Question re: Devon Energy Corporation, drilling program
Mr. McRobb: Instead of answering my question yesterday, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources crowed in the House about the oil revenue from the Kotaneelee gas field near Watson Lake. At the risk of bursting his bubble, I want to ask him about an order-in-council his government quietly signed and passed last December, involving Devon Canada, a subsidiary of Devon Energy Corporation, the largest independent oil and gas producer based in the United States.
That OIC significantly altered the terms and conditions of Devonís drilling deal. This ended up costing Yukoners millions of dollars in lost revenue. That OIC allowed this oil company to reduce the number of exploration wells it promised to drill from three to one.
Can the minister tell us exactly how much this sweetheart deal cost Yukoners in terms of lost revenue?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite is again wrong. Devon spent in excess of $30 million on gas exploration in the Yukon last year. Part of that project was on their Frontier territory in north Yukon. At that point, we worked with them on their dispositions to consolidate them. They did the drilling program and spent the money they said they would spend.
Mr. McRobb: † I wish the minister would actually answer the question, Mr. Speaker.
The oil and gas industry is raking in record profits yet this minister bends over backward to give it more, at the expense of our taxpayers. Itís scary to think what will happen after the minister throws open the whole territory to oil and gas development under his backroom disposition process. The minister is giving away our heritage to industry. Heís acting like a puppet for industry. Where and when did the minister ó
Speaker: Order please. The conversation is heading in a very uncomfortable direction. The terminology that the Member for Kluane is using is liable to lead to discord. Iím loathe to interrupt the member, but please watch it.
You have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess it could be said that weíre all still students trying to learn all the rules.
The industry is pulling the strings of this government. Is that acceptable? My question is: where and when did the minister get a mandate to practise this brand of Charlie McCarthyism?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís totally out of line. Itís casting aspersions upon the minister.
Speaker: On the point of order, Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: I donít believe itís out of order at all. Show me the definition of ďCharlie McCarthyismĒ and maybe we could start to understand what it actually means. Itís not out of order.
Speaker: There is no point of order. Itís simply a dispute between members over Charlie McCarthy.
You have the floor, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite doesnít know who Charlie McArthur is. Iím quite happy being called Charlie McArthur.
Anyway, did we get a bang for our buck with Devon? Mr. Speaker, I stand here to report to you that the public government garnered almost two and half million dollars with the investment that Devon put in southeast Yukon. Weíre sharing in those resources. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations received $116,000 in their share from the money that Devon spent on that one gas well. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin got $92,000 ó again, from the money that Devon spent in southeast Yukon. Kluane First Nation, from his riding, got $42,000 in revenue sharing backed up by the money that Devon spent in southeast Yukon. Little Salmon-Carmacks received $65,672 from drilling in southeast Yukon. Na Cho Nyšk Dun , $61,000; Selkirk First Nation, $70,000; Taían Kwachían, $51,000; Teslin, $78,000; Old Crow, $80,000 ó a total of over $700,000 last year was for the First Nations.
Mr. McRobb: The minister just made a case for a new rule in this Legislature actually requiring ministers to answer questions. Yukonís oil and gas resource is publicly owned by all Yukoners. This non-renewable natural resource is meant to generate revenue for our future generations for decades to come. We view our land, water and air in the same way, as our childrenís heritage. But in this ministerís haste for an oil and gas good-news release, he is prepared to give it all away. He is giving back millions of dollars to big oil at a time when theyíre raking in record profits. Heís giving away our environment by changing the ground rules in the backroom. Why is the minister ignoring the promise in the Yukon Partyís platform document to ensure Yukonís energy resources are developed and managed in an economically and environmentally responsible manner?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, in answering the member opposite, we are. We are doing exactly that. We are doing exactly what the member ó one well, one productive well in the Kotaneelee fields generates all those resources for all Yukoners. That field, that one well, Mr. Speaker, is the most productive well in North America. It has been turning over profits to Yukoners for 20-some years, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would ask all members to join me in making welcome in the visitor gallery my wife, Karen, and our daughter, Lauren.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 23, 2005. They are Motion No. 398, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South, and Motion No. 503, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Mr. McRobb: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify Motion No. 494, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne, to be called on Wednesday, November 23, 2005.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
†Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed. †
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Motion re appearance of witnesses
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move
THAT Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, and Valerie Royle, president of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 24, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Chair: It has been moved
THAT Craig Tuton, chair of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, and Valerie Royle, president of the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 24, 2005, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 60 ó Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act
Chair: We will now continue with Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: ††Further to my comments the other day with respect to this bill, we are here to introduce amendments to the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act. As I mentioned yesterday, this is primarily as a result of the recommendations that came forward from the Judicial Compensation Commission.
Mr. Chair, just for background information with respect to these recommendations, it was actually following a 1997 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on judicial independence that all provincial and territorial governments in Canada established independent pay commissions to make recommendations to government on judicial compensation.
The Yukon body, of course, which has come to be known as the Judicial Compensation Commission, or the JCC, was established under the Territorial Court Act. The 2004 JCC recommended that the benefits of the Territorial Court judges continue to be those established for members of the management group of the Yukon public service, under section M, conditions of employment, except as varied by this or a previous Judicial Compensation Commission and except as the Government of Yukon and the Chief Judge may agree that any benefit is inapplicable to the judiciary by virtue of the nature of the judicial office.
The Yukon government and the judiciary agreed, and the 2004 JCC approved that any new benefits under section M would accrue to the judiciary as they become available to management employees, and any changes in benefits involving increased costs to or reductions in the level of benefits will apply to judges, provided they apply to management group employees.
The report of the 2004 JCC also goes on to set out specifically which parts of section M apply and which parts do not. One part that applies in its entirety is part 9, dealing with benefits. These benefits include extended health care, dental, long-term disability insurance, life insurance, post-retirement life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment insurance and dependant life, accidental death and dismemberment insurance.
The 2004 JCC also held that the salaried presiding justice of the peace is to also have access to the Yukon senior management benefits, as have been identified in the report for the Territorial Court judges. This essentially means the senior presiding justice of the peace also has access to the benefits under part 9.
To provide all the group insurance benefits under part 9, Yukon government has insurance contracts with Sun Life Insurance Company of Canada and, of course, Yukon government enters into these contracts pursuant to the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act.
The Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Act also authorizes the Minister of Finance to enter into insurance contracts with respect to employees to whom the act applies. However, the minister enters into the contracts only on the recommendation of the Joint Management Committee. The act also specifically provides that it applies to persons employed under the Public Service Act or the Education Act, Members of the Legislative Assembly, persons employed under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, and retirees from the Yukon government who are receiving an allowance under the Public Servants Superannuation Act.†
I should say that what these amendments do under this particular act is to provide members of the judiciary, including our senior presiding justice of the peace, those very same benefits as identified under section M.
As I said the other day, we are pleased to adhere to each of the recommendations as set out in the 2004 recommendations, and I would certainly like to thank each of those participants who volunteered or offered their time and put forward the time and effort that resulted in these recommendations, and I understand these are the very last of the recommendations pertinent to the Judicial Compensation Commission and should be good for another three years, if I am not mistaken.
I certainly welcome any comments from the members opposite. I understand that we do have support from members opposite and we look forward to any comments coming forward.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to respond to Bill No. 60. I heard what the minister had to say. Iíve read through the bill. Itís one of these housekeeping bills, one of many of the housekeeping bills that the government has brought forward in this legislative sitting this fall, and it is housekeeping. Itís basically a couple of sentence changes. Basically, it extends coverage to the senior justice of the peace, and we on this side of the House understand it is housekeeping and have absolutely no problem with the amendments to the bill and we will be supporting them.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would reiterate what the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has said. This matter is very straightforward, and the bill that is before us in the Legislature is quite clear. I have no difficulty expressing our support for it and would suggest its speedy passage by the members.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I request unanimous consent, in light of the comments from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the minister, to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 60 read and agreed to
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 2 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Mr. Cathers: I move that Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, be reported without amendment.†
Motion agreed to
Chair: I understand the next order of business is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Can we take a recess while officials are called?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Weíll continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Bill No. 17 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Mr. Hardy: Where we left off yesterday was debate around a supplementary budget and all the aspects in regard to it and how this government has been spending the taxpayersí money and, from our perspective, has not been listening to the people of this territory, across this territory, on how the money should be spent ó not just that, but also in taxes, consultation, what breaks they do give and how they donít necessarily reflect the needs of the people. We do know the people of the territory have been very clear about some of the areas theyíre concerned about.
We can go into a lot of different sections. For instance, I was over at the biannual meeting of the Yukon Council on Aging, and they were very specific about some of the needs they have. They had also been given the impression that some of those needs were going to be met in the spring with the 2005-06 budget.
They were also given the impression that some of those needs were going to be met in regard to housing. They did see copies of an agreement that indicated that money from the federal government in collaboration with the territorial government was going to be used for seniors housing or was going to be used for social housing or lower income housing.
This is just an example ó I am going to use the seniors as an example at the moment here. They worked under the impression that the original agreements would stand. The money that was earmarked to assist social housing or lower income housing or seniors housing was going to be in place, and that money would have flowed in that direction. What happened and what the Member for Mount Lorne has tried to get out of the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation was that there was a change in the agreement, and the Yukon government was involved. We on this side heard that minister indicate that there wasnít a change, and if there was a change, it was the federal Liberalsí fault ó it had nothing to do with Yukon government. Well, thatís not the way it works. Thatís an agreement with two levels of government. Both sides have to agree for a change to happen, as I understand it.
The sad part is that there was a change made, and there didnít seem to be any ownership by the other side as to how that change came about and who was actually responsible, other than pointing fingers at somebody else. We all know, after three years, the ministers are masters at pointing the finger at other levels of government, whether itís a past government, federal, municipal or First Nation. They love to play the blame game. Weíve seen it time and time again, and we hear it all the time. Every time they feel uncomfortable with a line of questioning or they feel that we are finding out something that they donít want us to find out about ó thereby the public ó they generally attack the opposition.
They generally challenge us on this side. Well, thatís not the way it works in here. Itís our job to ask questions about budgeting; itís our job to ask questions about the spending priorities of this government. For some reason, after three years, they still donít have it in their heads that this is public money ó itís taxpayersí money; itís not theirs.
We are servants in here. We are accountable to all people of the Yukon and to other levels of government for how we spend that money or what kinds of agreements we draw up on their behalf.
I happen to get very irked with the members on the other side when I believe thereís an initial intention to spend money in a certain direction, especially if itís for those who often have very little, if itís for those who donít often have a strong voice out there ó a lobbying group ó for those who just make it day by day. When money is allocated in that direction ó I believe thereís something like over $5 million allocated to assisted housing in that area, as an example ó I would assume that any government, any minister, would fight to ensure that money flowed to them in the best possible way to reach those in need. That did not happen because, from my perspective, itís not a priority with the Yukon Party government. Those people do not count.
That agreement was changed, and those people are already struggling. What was it changed for? What was it changed to deliver? Who actually benefits from it? I can assure you itís not the seniors who are benefiting from it; itís not people who need social housing who are benefiting from it; itís not people who would benefit from lower cost housing. Theyíre not the ones who are benefiting from it, because most of those people will never be able to get the bank loan to get into a house of $170,000 or $190,000, which is where weíre at now with some of these projects that are being promoted by this government.
Most of those people live in terrible conditions, and I would invite any minister over there or any MLA in this room to come for a walk with me. I will show you where some of these families are living, where some of these seniors are living, and the conditions they live in. Iíll take them in some of their own communities that they are supposed to be representing and show them the conditions. Then they can look me in the face, and into the faces of people in those houses ó if you can call some of them houses ó and say, ďYes, we made sure money was going to assist you to improve your living conditions.Ē Look them in the face and say that. Donít tell me; tell the people who so desperately need it.
Mr. Chair, I call upon each member in here to be honest in that regard. Go back to your communities and look at some of the conditions people live in. A few years ago, there was a study in regard to housing. They found that the Yukon had the worst housing stock in Canada. Thatís why we started Habitat for Humanity. Thatís what itís there for. That will deliver a simple, clean, affordable house for that family. That is a non-profit organization, but where is the government and its responsibility to all citizens of the Yukon? Weíre delivering only one house. Weíre doing the best we can; we just started as Habitat for Humanity. The government has the means. They had an agreement; they had the money. They have Yukon Housing, and its mandate is supposed to be meeting that. It hasnít built social housing houses for lower income people in more than 10 years. Itís a shame, because the conditions are getting worse out there.
Thatís one example ó just one. We could talk about student loans and the burden that students are facing trying to get an education. I think everybody in here supports education. I would be surprised if anybody spoke against higher education or trades training. Yet, the burden on the students, not just in the Yukon but across Canada ó this is not just a Yukon problem ó is significant, and itís getting worse. Itís deterring people from going into education or finishing their post-secondary education. Itís a detriment. Weíve seen a lot of them not finishing their years of study to get their degrees, because they just canít continue to carry it alone. They have to get out and work. Thatís not a way that any country should go in. I say, ďShame on the federal government,Ē because they made changes that put more pressure on the students. They made changes at the university levels. We all know where the cuts came from. Shame on them, because that was transferred directly on to the students. No one can tell me that wasnít done intentionally.
We could look at the pension plan. Underfunding of pension plans is what has happened. The federal government did that. They were involved in changes to the pension plan. Now there is a serious crisis for people coming. They took that pension to pay down the debt. Do you know who paid down the debt? It wasnít the federal government. It wasnít the federal Liberals. It was the workers. It doesnít matter which party. People from all parties within the bureaucracy were paying into it. It doesnít matter. They paid for it, but now their pensions are in trouble.
And yet politicians stand there and pump their chests and say how great they are paying down a debt. I want to give credit to the workers who did it.
I have a lot of questions to ask, but I have been thinking about where it is appropriate to ask these questions, and I believe what Iím going to do is ask him when we get to the specific departments. But I did leave off with a couple of questions that I wouldnít mind some clarification around. I wasnít totally comfortable with the answers I got in ensuring that I get the responses back in the detail that I wanted. Of course, one of them was the community budget tour and the breakdown that was spent in each of the communities. I want to make sure that is on record and it is specific that that is what weíve requested. I believe the Member for Porter Creek South would also like that breakdown ó detailed breakdown, please. Also, of course, what was included in that was who attended, who was at it, what the money was spent on, how many people attended those meetings, and the minutes from them. Thatís not uncommon. Itís not uncommon. It has been given before by previous governments. This is the only government I have found to be very resistant around that.
I would also like ó just sticking with communities for a second ó to put on record my request for an update on a capital budget ó where weíre at, at this moment, in the summary community distribution of the funds. And if there has been money that was allocated to go into a community and has been cancelled or put on hold, I would like to have that update so we know where weíre at and how much is actually being spent in these communities.
I do thank the government for having supplied the information for us in the springtime. Weíd just like an update on that as well.
Iíd like to finish up with a warning. Itís a warning about messaging again. This is a government that talked a lot when they were elected about the trajectory of spending, and I looked after pension plans years ago ó did the finances around them and actually did a lot of work on pension plans for working people. You are always trying to project interest rates, for instance, and investments to ensure that you have the proper coverage down the road. Of course, you rely upon a lot of assistance and professionals out there to guide you in that. But one thing you always have to do is look much further down the road than just one year, two years, five years, 10 years. When this government was elected, they talked about the trajectory of spending and left the impression with people of the territory that this was a government that was going to get a handle on the trajectory of spending. They made the accusation that the former Liberal government had been spending out of control.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Iíve got one minute. Thank you, Mr. Chair, Iíll sum it up.
They left that impression out there, which is definitely up for challenge. They said itís a simple fact that the growth in government spending cannot be sustained. The Premier said that. The Premier said it on numerous occasions after he brought in his huge budgets that itís not sustainable. So my question is: if it is not sustainable, why do the budgets keep growing? If we are looking at five years down the road, 10 years down the road, what will happen? Itís a very simple question, something that my kids would ask me if they were involved with the budgeting of our household.††
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There were a number of questions that were just posed ó a very large number. Iíd like to address a couple of the early ones anyway.
In terms of affordable housing, again for the member opposite, this is a federal program. Itís in addition to the social housing program, which is to create new rental social affordable housing ó I can go through the criteria on that. Thereís also a rental program; thereís also a repair program.
The one we deal with on a day-to-day basis is, in reality, the affordable housing agreement. That provides the Yukon with up to $5.5 million for the creation or rehabilitation of affordable housing units. It does it in a variety of ways, and the changes the member opposite likes to allude to initially allowed us to deal with one big problem. The federal program required us to contribute 50 percent of the costs. For the jurisdiction of a large province, this is challenging; for a jurisdiction the size of Yukon or Nunavut or Northwest Territories, it becomes very difficult.
That particular change allowed us to consider the construction cost of Copper Ridge Place to be counted toward that contribution, which allowed us to open up the entire $5.5 million. It allowed us the latitude to do a variety of things with it. For instance, we could simply build a structure or build a house or an apartment or something like that and, with all due respect, Habitat for Humanity is an incredibly good organization. I commend the member opposite for his involvement and initiative on that.
I believe this government did participate in that in quite a number of ways. It created one house. It was a valiant effort and a good deal, but it was one house. What are some of the things that our government did with that? We took somewhere in the neighbourhood of $800,000 and put it into a project that allowed us an incredibly wide latitude. It allowed us in the neighbourhood of $23 million, I believe, coming into the territory for the construction of housing stock. Out of that, all units had to be funded. When they were under this affordable housing initiative, they had to be a barrier-free design. They had to be done in such a way that the home owners could reside in their homes for the longest period of time possible. In other words, people in the senior category or near senior category could purchase or rent a home that would allow them to stay in that home for the longest amount of time. As a result of that $800,000 investment and $23-million leveraging into the Yukon, very close to all of it went to Yukon contractors and contributed to Yukon jobs. Forty-four units at Falcon Ridge are designated to be barrier-free on the main floor and will ensure that the barrier-free homes within the Whitehorse market remain available. They are not social housing. That is a totally different program and one that we would continue to look at, but it does create these units.
The Yukon Housing Corporation has also partnered with the private sector to develop, through the use of a fully recoverable joint venture program, a totally different program. This is an example of how barrier-free homes are encouraged and how theyíve been built. As a result of those types of partnerships, another 20 units were built by developers, and most are barrier-free.
In October 2004 there were 32 seniors on the waiting list for social housing with Whitehorse Housing Authority ó actually, 29 were non-seniors; I should correct that. As of October 2005, weíve dropped to 24 seniors on the waiting list. The Yukon Housing Corporation has made two significant changes to the program criteria for social housing ó again, another program the members opposite continually confuse. For instance, the rent supplement program was amended so that seniors experiencing affordability problems could remain in their apartment or home, because the Yukon Housing Corporation entered into a rental agreement with the landlord. These seniors are now assessed rent based on their income, and the Yukon Housing Corporation pays the difference between what the landlord charges for the apartment and what the senior can afford.
This came directly from a number of requests made to the Housing Corporation and to me and this government.
This approach helps seniors who enjoy where they are living but experience difficulties managing rental costs. Itís a very big issue.
The second change enabled seniors with mobility problems and whose income exceeds the core income threshold the opportunity to apply for social housing. This is a temporary approach, as the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors monitors and evaluates the emergence of new rental construction. It is hoped the Yukon Housing Corporation can provide an interim solution to a need that will ultimately be serve by the private sector.
The board of directors recently visited the community of Faro and met with local representatives to discuss the housing needs of local residents. The board will be making an announcement in the near future ó actually, I believe that was today ó regarding a response to the citizens of Faro. I understand this is very positive and consistent with the requests made at that time.
The board of directors has also directed staff to commence work on the potential construction of a seniors building in rural Yukon, in one of our communities. The building will contain independent apartments for seniors, as well as common areas and sufficient space for the delivery of services by Health and Social Services staff. This government assumed office in November 2002, and by the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year ó in that one year, Mr. Chair ó we increased the balance in the seniors housing management fund to $979,000. The current balance in that same fund is $1.808 million. The forecast for interest revenue from senior green mortgages, which is transferred at the end of the year, is $280,000. That will see the fund surpass the $2-million mark.
This government has almost doubled the value of the fund in a short two and a half years, again due to good management. It is yet another example of how weíre planning and budgeting for the emerging housing needs of our senior citizens. Criteria for the fund are being finalized and will be reviewed by the Yukon Housing Corporation Board of Directors in the near future, probably at the next meeting.
But if we get back to the affordable housing program that the member opposite questions, the $5.5 million ó I can give him the exact figure on that ó was based on the fact that we do not exceed a $25,000 per unit average. Now, this doesnít mean that each unit will be allocated $25,000, Mr. Chair. Itís an average amount of funding allocated per unit. If the Yukon Housing Corporation can generate 220 eligible units, then the Yukon Housing Corporation can invoice CMHC $5.5 million. Thatís where the $25,000 average comes from.
Now, when you try to look at that on a project-by-project basis, that is where the difficulties come in. The members opposite continually try to look at things on a project-by-project basis, and they donít look at the overall average. An old story was told to me years ago that might, in a very strange way, allow the Member for Mount Lorne to better understand this. That is, of course, the story of the three deer hunters who went out hunting. One took the shot and hit a tree 10 feet to the left of the deer. The second one took a shot and hit the tree 10 feet to the right of the deer. The third hunter, the statistician, jumped up and yelled, ďGot íem.Ē You have to look at averages. Itís difficult to assess anything in terms of average, obviously. But as long as we can average the number of units at $25,000 apiece, we can spend less for one and that allows us more for the other.
It does allow the Yukon Housing Corporation to go different directions. For instance, look at a seniors building in one of our rural communities, which I hope will make some members opposite pleased. These units can be almost anything. They can be single detached; they can be in a duplex; they could be in a multi-residential building; they can be any one of a number of things. The individual unit contributions can wander all over the map as long as itís a $25,000-per-unit average.
This wraps into the $3.5-million contribution to the athletes village project, and thatís based on an allocation that took into account the overall projections and that averaging.
The Member for Mount Lorne, several days ago, questioned where that money was coming from. I would point out that that was actually in a number of different lines. We certainly apologize for not putting it on a single line that he could simply read with the proper heading. When you look into that budget, you will find that all that money is not only there, this House has already passed that amount of money. In fact the Member for Mount Lorne has already voted against it.
These are some of the examples of how we have used creativity in the Yukon Housing Corporation, and the Yukon Housing Corporation board has done an exceptional job of using creativity to create a wide range of different types of facilities. We then submit the invoices to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and those invoices have to be approved by CMHC. Again, this is a federal program; we must follow CMHCís rules and we must answer to them. We canít vary with that.
When you start looking at a lot of these different things, these create the affordable housing units. Once they are created and exist, they can be used in a wide number of ways. First of all, under that same program ó looking at the rental units, for instance ó the rent must match the average rent for that part of the Yukon or that part of Whitehorse for a minimum of 10 years. What we do is go to the Bureau of Statisticsí quarterly reports that show rental cost by unit size and neighbourhood ó all of us in this House get them; they go out on a regular basis to all media. We cannot exceed those rents. Those are fixed rents.
Iím pleased to say the board has already considered that four of those rental units will likely be dedicated to social housing. Thatís not written in stone; I canít make a commitment that that will be done. In fact, the end use of much of the athletes village wonít be determined until 2007 when everything comes out and we have the ability to really know what weíre going to do with those. But if they are occupied by seniors or they are occupied by people with disabilities, they will be barrier-free.
The members opposite in the official opposition have also looked at the cost and have given us some thoughts and figures on that. First of all, Mr. Chair, much of the construction is being done by Yukoners, Yukon corporations and Yukon workers.
The total amount of money that the members opposite continually refer to is not a cheque that is written to an Alberta firm. That is a relatively modest portion of where those modules are built. The rest will all be spent in the Yukon, and much of it has already been spent in the Yukon, obviously in site preparation.
If you work it all out, the construction budget does mean a cost of about $204 a square foot. Now, our construction people and our good staff with Property Management tell me that $200 to $250 per square foot for a building of this type ó do not put this in terms of a small residential home. This is $204, so weíre in the right range. Building A, the student family residence, has 12 two-bedroom suites and 12 three-bedroom suites. In addition, there is approximately 14,500 square feet in the lower basement level, and that will be used for dormitory space for the athletes village. What weíre getting is a student residence and taking advantage of all of these and many other programs to allow us to use them for the Canada Winter Games for the few weeks that they will be occupied. This is not a construction of an athletes village that weíre going to wonder what to do with at the end.
Building B, the Yukon Housing building, has 18 one-bedroom suites and 30 two-bedroom suites. The basement, again, has about 21,600 square feet ó dormitory space during the games that will be converted later to other uses. So we have a total of 72 suites in the two buildings, plus about 36,000 square feet in the basement levels.
The buildings do contain residential suites. Those prices, to my understanding, do also reflect some furnishings and everything else.
The basements are concrete construction. This is why I give this for the members opposite to compare this to building a small house in whatever community they live in. The basements are concrete construction. The walls are 10 feet high and 10 inches thick of solid concrete. The concrete foundations are to support three storeys of modular construction and to withstand local seismic loading conditions ó in other words, earthquakes. Partially this is very good construction and partially this is necessary construction because of possible future uses, such as the northern research cluster and other things that have been considered.
Both buildings are barrier-free design throughout. Both buildings are fully sprinklered including the basement level ó far beyond what most people would build into a home. Both buildings are designed to meet the green home design guidelines for energy efficiency. Both buildings have elevators. In fact, the Yukon Housing building has two elevators, and both buildings will have paved parking lots with electrified parking plug-ins. All these things are beyond the normal construction, but look at what we get out of that. For instance, the Yukon Housing building will be paid for. We are not looking at mortgage components of that. We can guarantee that those rents will be low. If we need them for social housing, they can be utilized under the other ó and I emphasis ďotherĒ ó social assistance programs. This is affordable housing. Itís very, very different.
We do have serious housing problems in the north. We are talking here phase 1, or part 1 of the affordable housing initiative, and phase 2 is still being argued over. While we get $5.5 million ó I believe the figure for us is a little over $300,000 or something like that ó I think the Northwest Territories got† $275,000. Their housing corporation promptly dubbed it ďthe affordable house initiativeĒ, which I think irritated some of the people. We are still looking at the difficulties in terms of per capita funding versus regional funding. Nunavut could use housing stock that almost exceeds the total existing housing stock of the Yukon. They have a horrible situation there. We have big problems in our communities, many of which are in settled First Nations and ó at least most of us recognize ó that is the responsibility of the federal government. For a wide variety of reasons the federal government has been a bit slow, I think, in responding to that requirement.
When they do, hopefully those things will be addressed. But we are very sympathetic to the plight, for instance, of the people of Carmacks, who have run into serious mould problems. This is something that INAC is going to have to deal with. In the interim, we have used Yukon Housing stock to house some of the families to get them out of these dangerous homes, so we are doing what we can to respond to that problem. But in that case, the problem is in fact INACís ó it is a federal problem.
The problem that was given to us during the community tour in Old Crow, for instance ó many of the families in band-owned housing wanted to make improvements on their own and they wanted to be able to utilize small mortgages. The federal government ó CMHC ó tells us that itís not possible to give mortgages to First Nation-owned housing unless there is an agreement with the First Nation. We have spoken with the Vuntut Gwitchin on this and explained this, and I hope we are going to come up with a settlement on that. But these are problems, again, that Yukon Housing cannot respond to.
In general, utilizing the limited resources that we had, I think the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Yukon Housing Corporation board has done an exceptional job to respond to those difficulties.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am rising in general debate just to confirm for the record our governmentís commitment to provide the official opposition and the third party with the costs for the community tour and who was in attendance. It was committed to yesterday and the leader of the official opposition made mention of it again today. That information is currently being assembled and will be sent over as soon as itís available.
Ms. Duncan: While the Acting Minister of Finance is on his feet, could he also indicate whether the information on the expenditures or any activity under the immigrant investor fund is also being sent over?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís a schedule for the member opposite in the public accounts that refers to it. It is just being brought current and will be provided to the official opposition and the third party, as we said yesterday.
Ms. Duncan: I have looked at the schedule in the public accounts. I was wondering if there was any additional information available.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: †† The year-end for the immigrant investor fund is December 31, whereas the fiscal year-end for government is March 31. The Department of Finance is not aware of any new initiatives in the immigrant investor fund. It remains static, to the best of the knowledge of the Department of Finance. The immigrant investor fund does come under the Department of Economic Development and that may be a question the member opposite might want to pose to the Minister of Economic Development.
As it currently stands, to the best of the knowledge of the Department of Finance, there has been no change.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line examination.
The Chair seeks some direction as to which department is the first to be called.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)†
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís my understanding, as the minister has stated, weíre moving to Health and Social Services.† Does the minister require a short recess in order for officials to arrive?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím prepared to move right into it. The officials are upstairs waiting, and theyíll be down shortly
Department of Health and Social Services
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím pleased to introduce the first supplementary operations and maintenance and capital budget for Health and Social Services for the current fiscal year. The total increase requested for operation and maintenance is $7.9 million, with an anticipated recovery of $2.1 million. The total decrease for capital expenditures is nearly $3 million, with an anticipated increased capital recovery of approximately $1 million.
On the operation and maintenance side, the budget continues to hold the course on the priorities that this government has set by increasing funding to critical areas of need for Yukoners: adults and children with disabilities and special needs, NGOs, childcare, seniors, the FASD action plan and health care.
Some highlights include increased funding to support children with autism and other disabilities, and their families. There has been an increase of $228,000 in this area. There has been an increase of $35,000 to support stakeholder consultations for changes to the childcare regulations. There has also been an increase of $40,000 for childcare subsidies for children with special needs. There has been an increase of $45,000 to support the Canada Western FASD Partnership and FASD symposium.
We have increased the social assistance rates for persons with disabilities, and that is $93,000. We have increased support programming at Kausheeís Place, including a continuation of the older abused women pilot program. That has another $90,000-odd.
The seniors association in Haines Junction has been offered the same program as the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake ó at the insistence of our government that they examine fully what our government has provided to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake and that they accept an offer from our government on a ratio basis, predicated on the number of seniors, and there has been a $25,000 increase to the seniors association in Haines Junction.
Further to that, the Yukon Housing Corporation is fully engaged in examining a drop-in, assisted-living type of facility for Haines Junction, and that will probably come to fruition in the not-too-distant future.
A copy of the review that was done by an independent Outside consultant on this very important area has been made fully available to the Member for Kluane and his officials. The Member for Kluane is well versed with its contents. He is also well versed with the tremendous effort the department has gone to to assist the seniors in his community, which, after due consideration, has resulted in the Yukon Housing Corporation and the Department of Health and Social Services moving forward on various plans.†
The demands in continuing care are increasing, as we experience an increase in life expectancy. Thereís an increased aging population, and more Yukoners are choosing to remain in the Yukon. That has shown an increase in people coming into care and, at the same time, Yukoners ó as they race through the years ó are choosing care within their own home. This has resulted in increased demands on the department for home care services, which shows an $80,000 increase. That also indicated a number of increases in other areas in the department.
Our government has opened another pod at Copper Ridge Place, as well as additional rooms at Macaulay. Weíre moving forward on opening another seven rooms at Macaulay as I speak. The main cost when we open these additional rooms is the cost of the health care providers ó the various staffing levels required, given the level of care these facilities have. This fiscal cycle and this supplementary clearly indicate another $463,000 associated with the opening of the additional 12 new beds in Copper Ridge Place.
Before the member asks the question about Copper Ridge Place, there is still one pod of 12 beds that can be opened. We still have room to grow.
An additional $4.8 million of this supplementary is required to continue to provide the best possible health care for Yukoners. The basic price and volume drivers have been the outpatient and in-patient rate increases in British Columbia hospitals, including substantial rate increases for mental health patients, as well as volume increases, which amounted to some $1.3 million. We have an increase in medical claims due to the increase in the number of physicians and specialists, more local surgeries, easier access to walk-in clinics and more overall physician services. This has resulted in a volume increase of $1.8 million.
There have been price-driven increases due to chronic disease extended benefits and the childrenís drug and optical program of $531,000. There has also been an increase to drug costs at the Whitehorse General Hospital of some $300,000. Overall, where we are seeing the most increase and the biggest cost to our health care system is from the drugs that are used in the system. Some of the drugs are extremely costly, Mr. Chair. One antibiotic that was recently provided to an individual in need was in the order of magnitude of $600 per day for this drug.
We have many other areas of priority health care spending, which include support for the start-up and the training of the electrocardiogram program at the Whitehorse General Hospital, $50,000. One of the other areas that we are expanding into and have been doing more and more on the preventive side is the tobacco control program campaign ó thatís another $98,000.
Our telehealth program is another $90,000. Weíve had increases in various areas to support community nursing, including additional costs for the immunization programs, the costs associated with the successful control of TB outbreak, and increase in support staff training and mentorship programs, $641,000. Weíve expanded the Yukon Family Services program to Carcross, and that has resulted in an additional cost to the department of $57,000.
Weíve continued our contribution to the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre for pregnant womenís housing; that is $28,000.
On the capital side, there is a $5.2-million decrease due to the delay in the Dawson City multi-level care facility. This has been offset by increases to cover renovation and equipment to support continuing care, which was $628,000. Continuing care, for example, is one bed for Copper Ridge Place and the sundry equipment. The bed frame is about a $10,000 cost and about another $10,000, so itís $20,000-odd per room just for the basic equipment. That gives the member opposite some idea as to the capital cost, and this equipment needs to be replaced on a continuing basis.†
There have been some revotes for various group homes and there has been a $400,000 increase in capital provided to the Yukon Hospital Corporation for the purchase of a digital fluoro machine. Thereís a revote of $1 million for the Thomson Centre renovations; a $270,000 increase to community nursing for various renovations around the Yukon; a $91,000 increase for re-siding the ambulance station; and that covers a number of the major components of the Health and Social Services O&M and capital that are contained within this supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: Iím prepared to put aside taking issue with what the minister said, for now at least, to promote a cooperative atmosphere in here this afternoon, hopefully. Itís now slightly after 3:00, so with the break we have probably two and a half hours to cover this department. There wonít be much more time to do that after today.
So, Mr. Chair, this occasion represents about the only opportunity open to the opposition parties to access information from this government. Iím asking for the ministerís indulgence to try to be as productive as possible this afternoon. Many Yukoners are depending on us to get the information weíll be requesting. I would suggest it would be best to try to keep the debate in question-and-answer format and to avoid lengthy speeches.
With all that in mind, I would like to start by requesting from the minister a revised breakdown, by community, for this department that reflects the revisions from all supplementaries in conjunction with the main estimates.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite knows, we do not break it down by communities. We deliver health care across the Yukon in as consistent a manner as we possibly can. The member knows full well that we have one acute care centre in Whitehorse. To break down the services provided by the Whitehorse General Hospital by community would disclose information that would be accessing private information, and weíre not prepared to do that, Mr. Chair. The other areas where the member wants a breakdown, we can provide a breakdown, which I have done, regarding some of the programs and their related cost to those communities. But overall, what the Department of Health and Social Services strives for is a consistent application of primary health care to all Yukoners on a consistent basis. The breakdown that the member opposite is requesting would be an infringement on the privacy of Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Would he provide this information in terms of capital allotments?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that is done annually by community throughout the Yukon Territory, with the budget breakdown overall, and the member has ready access to that information.
Mr. McRobb: The community breakdowns that we have access to were issued to us back in the spring. Since that time, there have been supplementary budgets brought in and there have been lapses identified. I will give the minister an example: the $5.2 million for the Dawson Health Centre was identified in those community breakdowns. We now know itís not in there. There could be dozens of changes ó a blind man can see that. I am asking the minister: can he provide us with the most current information possible in terms of a community breakdown of capital expenditures for his department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member to go back and review Hansard because I have just done what the member opposite has requested.
Mr. McRobb: I fail to understand. Could the minister explain?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, if itís a difficult question that the Member for Kluane poses, I answer it right away. If itís an impossible question that doesnít have an answer, I canít answer it, Mr. Chair.
Now, what I said in my opening remarks was with respect to the capital. I can read it into the record again for the member opposite or I can encourage the member to not waste time here and just review Hansard, because itís all contained therein.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I beg to differ with the minister. I did put out a bit of a challenge for him to be cooperative. Already we are seeing a failing in that regard.
Nowhere in Hansard does the information I am requesting exist. It probably exists on the ministerís desk or it could be compiled easily by his officials. He has sitting beside him the deputy minister, who has probably told the minister that he could get this information on the computer in a matter of about 30 seconds. But the minister is not being forthright. He doesnít want us to know what the changes are. He doesnít want us to know what the most current capital expenditures are in the department on a by-community basis in the Yukon.
He has cancelled projects. He has added projects, the complete description in the context of the breakdown we were provided in the spring does not exist in Hansard, yet the minister is saying it does. Well, Mr. Chair, how is that being cooperative with the opposition? Iím going to ask the minister again: will he provide the opposition with the most recent breakdown of capital expenditures by his department on a community basis?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíve done it once, and Iíll do it again. The capital highlights contained in the supplementary ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: A $5.2-million decrease due to the delay in the construction of the Dawson City multi-level care facility. There has been an increase in programming at Kausheeís Place here in Whitehorse. Thatís $93,000. The continuation of the older abused women pilot program is an additional $90,000. Support for the seniors association in Haines Junction, $25,000. Demands in continuing care are increased as we experience increased life expectancy, aging population, the opening of the new 12 beds in Copper Ridge Place ó $463,000. Thatís Whitehorse. This is some of the capital. I have mentioned it once.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is becoming argumentative. If I have the floor, I can continue. If the member opposite wants the floor, Iím prepared to sit down.
If we look at the purchase of a digital fluoro machine for the Whitehorse General Hospital, thatís $400,000. Thomson Centre renovations ó $1 million. Community nursing breaks down to $114,000, and the biggest ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Because $126,000 of that was for the purchase of an X-ray machine for Old Crow.
The re-siding of the ambulance station here in Whitehorse is $91,000. There are the highlights of the capital budget.
Now, pencils and erasers that the member opposite may be referring to are expensed, they are not capitalized. There is quite a difference between an operational cost and a capital cost. There is quite a difference in capital. Capital is the structures, the equipment and those capital items inside the building. In fact, the government even chooses to capitalize painting. The member opposite may want to be very careful when he wants a breakdown of capital and what is contained in it, because the private sector and what it can capitalize is determined by the Income Tax Act but the government is a little bit different. It has been a bone of concern for myself over the years. It takes one a little while to get an understanding of the issues.
If the member opposite needs an understanding in these areas, I am sure he would have available to his caucus funding that would allow him to access programs that would train him in the world of accounting.
It is a very important issue to understand the difference between capital and O&M. The member opposite is obviously having difficulty, so I was pleased to help him out.
Chair: Before debate continues, making personal comments about taking courses is out of order. Additionally, the Chair is having difficulty following along with the memberís responses because other members are interjecting comments. I would appreciate members holding their comments until they have the floor.
Mr. McRobb: The minister identified some of the highlights. Well, we want all the highlights. We want all the low lights too. We want all the changes and cancellations that heís not telling us about. We want all the capital expenditures for this department on a community basis. Whatís wrong with that, Mr. Chair? The answer is, absolutely nothing. It is responsible for an opposition party to request this information. I am trying to be responsible by requesting it. The minister has no reason to not provide it. Furthermore, getting bogged down in the definition of ďcapitalĒ is a moot point. We accept the same definition that is used when we were provided with a complete by-community breakdown at budget time in the spring. Letís remain consistent; we will accept the same definition that was provided before by the government. There have been a lot of changes to that capital budget that we had in the spring. Not all the changes can be found in Hansard and maybe some of them can, but what pages are they on? Thereís probably over a thousand pages of Hansard, and thereís a piece here and a piece there; we are asking the minister to provide it in compiled format as he has at his disposal. In the computer age, it would take just a few seconds to compile, print out and give to us. We donít need it today. Can the minister give us an undertaking to provide that information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have provided the member opposite with that information, Mr. Chair, and virtually all the capital costs incurred have been related to Whitehorse. There has been very little in the surrounding area, and the major reduction has been in Dawson City.†
Mr. McRobb: Well, so much for an open and transparent government, Mr. Chair. Yet most of the changes ó we want all the changes. This is not tough to do. You know, why do we even bother doing this, Mr. Chair, if the government refuses to provide information? What opportunity does the opposition have to request information that is basic information? This is the only opportunity, Mr. Chair, because the Yukon Party cancelled briefings for the supplementary budget. They cancelled them ó another step backward in democracy because of this government moving backward into a more secret state of government. They cancelled them.
This government wonít provide responses to written questions. It wonít provide responses to motions for production of papers. It wonít answer questions. It wonít respond to information requests. All we get is a bunch of excuses.
Go look in Hansard. Well, Mr. Chair, go look in Hansard. Iíve got volumes and volumes of Hansard books. Where do you start to look? Even the legislative Web site where you can search Hansard doesnít work properly. The minister can get this information in seconds ó certainly a lot faster than the length of this afternoonís debate about it. I tried to appeal to the ministerís good side ó I know heís got a good side ó to try to be cooperative this afternoon. Yet weíre getting bogged down on the first question. Once again, he doesnít have to provide it today, just an undertaking to provide it. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member to go back and read Hansard because Iíve attached the monies that have been spent and earmarked under the capital programs to various communities. They are the Thomson Centre, the Whitehorse ambulance station, the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, Copper Ridge Place, Yukon Hospital Corporation, the Haines Junction seniors, and the purchase of an X-ray machine for the nursing station in Old Crow.
Now, what more of a community breakdown can I provide the member opposite? Those have been the increases. That has been where the money has been spent. I have clearly identified the money that has been spent in those areas and, further to that, the one major reduction is the $5.2-million decrease in the capital budget, due to the delay in the construction of the Dawson City multi-level care facility. So, reductions: Dawson City; increases: Whitehorse, Haines Junction, Old Crow. Itís clearly defined and clearly spelled out, for the third time.
The member opposite knows full well that we did not cancel briefings on the supplementary budget. They were never provided by the previous Liberal government or the previous NDP government. Ours was the first government that, in our opening session, was courteous enough to extend an olive branch in the spirit of cooperation to provide a briefing on the supplementary. Thatís where we are at, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: My recollection is different. Previous governments did provide briefings on supplementaries. This government cancelled them.
The minister is only focusing on highlights, which I presume are only some of the increases in communities. What about the rest of the increases? What about the decreases?
He says, ďHow much simpler can he be?Ē Well, ditto.
Obviously the minister is against providing information in the spirit of good government. Let me ask him a related question: does he consider this approach by government acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím here to debate the supplementary budget with the member opposite, to provide the information contained in the supplementary budget to the member and this House. That I have done.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously the Yukon Partyís position is that it believes this approach to be acceptable. I guess thatís something for future governments to keep in mind, as they determine their approach to how they treat the opposition.
††††††† Obviously the actual spending totals for each major category in this department have been altered by several supplementary budgets that include lapses. We note the annual spending is approaching $200 million per year. I recall not long ago how a previous Yukon Party Minister of Health and Social Services engaged in pursuits to try to investigate SA recipients because the Health and Social Services budget had reached $100 million.
Weíre up to nearly double that under this Yukon Party government.
So, Mr. Chair, I want to try to ascertain if there is a trend thatís building in the territory. To do that, I need some actuals for previous years. There are some main categories identified in the financial summary on page 9-2 of the supplementary budget. I would like actual totals and, for this year, the most recent figures possible for each of those major categories on page 9-2. Would the minister provide us with that information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, all this information is published on an annual basis. It is a subject of considerable debate in this House. I am here to debate this supplementary budget. I am not rewriting history and I canít change the numbers. The member opposite has all that information from prior years readily available and at his disposal. The member opposite has been here for quite a number of years, and thatís the way it is.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I beg to differ with the minister. I do not have that information. Iíve been Health critic for about one and a half years, I believe. We have limited research budgets; we have a limited library. Once again, this is information the minister has at his fingertips. We would like to see what the government figures are, because itís the government figures that the government needs to realize. So we want to be talking oranges to oranges and apples to apples.
Besides, if we had a researcher to go back over the past five years for these, how could we be certain the numbers that were published in any one document were actually final numbers for those years?† Things change a lot, Mr. Chair. How many supplementary budgets have we dealt with so far this year? Weíve got $60 million in lapses. This is easily accessible information for the minister. Itís important for us to have it. We are asking the minister to provide his governmentís numbers on behalf of Yukoners. Will he please do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite has a copy of this supplementary budget. Iíve provided him with the highlights of the supplementary budget for the 2005-06 fiscal year. This is the only supplementary that has been tabled, and the contents are fully disclosed. I donít know where the member is wandering to.
Mr. McRobb: Iím trying to make sense of what the minister said. I really am. I just look at the bills that have been tabled in this sitting and I note that there is another supplementary budget for last year, so we are dealing with two supplementary budgets in this sitting. There were at least two in the spring. We would like the final figures. The minister has tried to compartmentalize debate to this fiscal year only. I am trying to broaden it so we can determine if there is a trend that has been established, so we on this side can be aware of it and perhaps discuss it with the government. The minister has this information. If he doesnít, all he has to do is snap his fingers and he will get it.
The past five years, the major categories ó thatís all Iím asking. Would the minister undertake to provide it?
Okay, the minister is not getting up. His premise apparently is that anything outside of the current fiscal year should be ignored by the minister in budget debate. Is that the position of the Yukon Party government and is it prepared to live with that position in future?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would encourage the member to dwell on what we are here to deal with. It is Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. If the member had issues to raise with Bill No. 16, which was the Fourth Appropriation Act, 2004-05 to close off that fiscal period, then the member opposite could have taken the appropriate steps during that debate to deal with it appropriately. But he chose not to, and in the spring session when we tabled the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon, the Member for Kluane, the official opposition House leader, refused to go the extra number of days it would have taken to debate that budget at that time ó the main estimates and the capital, which have done a lot to put a lot of Yukoners to work ó and move forward, but he refused to do so. So be it.
Weíre here to deliver services and programs to Yukoners and we will continue to do so in the best possible manner that we can. Iím fully prepared to deal with the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Bill No. 17, but the member is choosing to wander all over and interject into general debate things that are not of a general nature related to this supplementary but to prior supplementary and prior year-ends, and even back to situations that occurred some 15 and 20 years ago. Mr. Chair, this is very, very naive of the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I was expecting you to make a ruling on your colleague over there, but obviously there wonít be one.
Now, I want to follow up by saying that Iím not going to get sidelined as the minister would like me to, and start debating what he put on the floor, because we have an important responsibility here to hold this government accountable for the Department of Health and Social Services this afternoon, and Iím willing to ignore the cheap shots and the inaccuracies that have been put on the record. We will take issue with them later on.
I want to just sum up what happened. Once again, the Yukon Party government finds it acceptable to close debate on a budget to any year outside the current fiscal year being dealt with in a budget. Thatís very interesting ó very interesting. We will note that for the future.
I will move now to my third question. The minister has received funds from Ottawa in this fiscal year. We have asked him in prior budget debate to provide us with a breakdown of where those funds are spent. We are still waiting. So I would like to ask him now if he would provide us with a list of where those additional funds have been spent.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is obviously making reference to two funds that have been agreed to between Canada and Yukon just over a year ago, Mr. Chair, and have yet to flow because they donít have legislative approval from the Parliament of Canada. We canít spend those monies until we receive them ó until they are clearly identified for the Yukon.
With that said, I would encourage the members opposite to concentrate once again on the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 and the information contained therein. There will be an opportunity next spring for another budget debate by all members of this House.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, you know, when somebody, especially somebody from another party, tries to draw a box and then directs me to stay within the box, it raises some suspicions, because we have to think creatively in here. We have to think outside the box. We have to look at the bigger picture, Mr. Chair. Thatís what Iíve been trying to do.
Obviously, the minister doesnít want us to have certain information. Now, he mentioned two funds that have yet to be appropriated by the federal government. Can he at least identify them by name and amount, if possible, and also indicate if he has a spending priority list for those funds if and when they are appropriated, because thatís likely to happen after the sitting here is over or after the Health debate is over, and we wonít get a chance to ask the minister this question during this fiscal year? The minister just said he wonít answer questions outside the fiscal year, but when we sit after April 1, heís going to use the same excuse then. Would he provide us with the breakdown now of his priorities for spending, identify the names of the funds and how much money, if possible, is in each fund?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Although it is not relevant to this Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, I would be pleased to identify the funds that have been agreed to between Canada and the Yukon ó actually, they are between the three northern territories and Canada. There is a territorial health access fund and a medical travel fund. The territorial health access fund is $150 million for the three territories over five years and the medical travel fund is $15 million over five years for, again, all three territories.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. That answered most of the question. For the remainder of the question, I will have to go back and re-ask the minister just what are his spending priorities for those funds if and when they materialize.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: They are concepts and ideas that we are just currently working on.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we know the minister has spent some time identifying priorities. As a matter of fact, this government introduced a motion in the spring sitting that identified, I believe, eight spending priorities in this area for these funds. The official opposition tabled an amendment that identified probably a couple dozen additional priorities for the consideration of the minister. Over the summer months we were hoping the minister would have taken out his pencil and somehow tried to integrate the priorities of the official opposition with the government and reconsider the spending priorities for these federal monies, but we are not hearing anything from the minister today. Thatís unfortunate because as government House leader he would have called that motion in the spring, which would consume most of a dayís discussion in this Legislature.
Given that weíre some seven or eight months further into the calendar year, it really shows that little progress has been made, in terms of the government identifying its health care priorities.
Once again, the minister is not prepared to provide the information we requested. All I can do is ensure that that failing is on the record ó and now it is.
My fourth question has to do with the number of FTEs in this department. The various supplementary budgets and lapses have varied the numbers we were provided in the spring. We would like to know how, so would the minister provide us with an updated breakdown of FTEs by various agencies within this department?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated earlier to the member opposite and to this House, the largest increase in FTEs came about as a consequence of opening more beds in Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay Lodge. That has resulted in the largest number of FTEs.
Rule of thumb ó itís about $1 million annually in labour costs for a dozen beds in a continuing care facility. That said, we have recognized the demonstrated need in a number of areas ó social workers and home care workers ó and there has been a corresponding increase in social workers and home care workers across the Yukon Territory where we are delivering services.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, once again, I must take issue with the ministerís refusal to provide information that has been determined in the past to be standard. If you examine what the minister just said, you will discover that his reasons were qualified. He used the term ďlargest increaseĒ, and then moved from there to the Copper Ridge facility. I think you will determine that, really, what the minister said had no bearing on the question. The question, once again, was this: can the minister provide us with an updated number of FTEs in his department, with a breakdown by various agencies? We want numbers for each agency of the FTEs, the latest updated numbers. Can he provide those?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as the member knows full well, Iíve clearly identified that the increases in this supplementary budget here before us, Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, are centred around the additional staffing requirements. In fact, Iím given to understand itís virtually all staffing increases at Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Deputy Chair, once again, the minister is ignoring the brunt of the question. He qualified his response in two ways. Firstly, he used the qualifier, ďcentred around,Ē then he used the qualifier ďvirtually all.Ē
Mr. Chair, we want the exact, current figures of FTEs, by agency, in this ministerís department. He is refusing to provide that. Now, I want to remind the minister that this is standard information. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, Iíll draw his attention to a legislative return received by this member, the Member for Klondike, back on April 4, 2001, from previous Health minister Roberts.
This same member requested that information and received it from another minister. Will this minister fess up and provide this information or is this another example of the Yukon Party moving backward in terms of democracy and openness?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I clearly pointed out to the member opposite, in the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Bill No. 17, the FTEs contained within this supplementary refer to the additional staff required at Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay Lodge.†
Mr. McRobb: Isnít that amazing.
I want to follow up with another question. Is the minister saying that, aside from the difference he just mentioned, there are no other differences in the number of FTEs, by agency, in his department related to the mains budget we received in the spring? Is he saying that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, is what we have on the floor here today for debate. What I have clearly indicated to the member opposite is that the FTE increase is referring to the O&M costs of staffing level increases at Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay Lodge.
††††††† Mr. McRobb: The minister avoided the question. He was unable or unwilling to confirm that there have been no other differences between this supplementary and the mains budget in the spring, yet all he wants to respond to are the differences in the supplementary budget. Well, letís take a step back and examine what we have here. Itís like trying to put together a puzzle with some of the pieces missing and the minister is not willing to give the opposition the missing pieces. He has them in his back pocket, but he wants us to try to put together the puzzle with the pieces missing.
Now, whatís wrong with this picture? Well, itís puzzling, it really is, because if one looks back at the Yukon Partyís campaign document, you will see all kinds of wonderful promises about how it was going to be accountable, how it was going to cooperate with all parties in the Legislature, how it was going to practice a collaborative style of government and seek consensus building, and so on and so forth.
Yet, here we are at the three-year mark; the clock is running out on this government: it has less than a year left. Time is running out, and letís do a bit of an assessment; letís take stock.
This government has reverted to a form of confrontation between government and opposition parties in so many instances that it would be difficult to identify them all. It would be a major undertaking to identify them all. Weíve heard a few today, a few on other days, but there are literally dozens of ways this government has rejected openness and cooperation and collaboration, and the ministerís refusal to allow us to put together the puzzle in its complete form and take a look at it and scrutinize where this government is spending the health care money, maybe come up with some suggestions, really raises some serious questions about why.
Why is it doing that? Is it for the benefit of Yukoners? I canít imagine so, Mr. Chair. Anyway, I guess we canít get blood out of a stone.
If the minister ó if itís his partyís position to not deal with issues outside of the scope of the particular year that is dealt with in any one particular budget, then our options are limited, Mr. Chair, and the responsible approach for us to take is just to assume that that is the position of the Yukon Party government and it is prepared to live by the same rules the next time it finds itself in opposition. So I will move on.
A couple of weeks ago, I tabled a motion for the production of papers, requesting a copy of the agreement between the government and the Yukon Medical Association. The minister referred to it earlier. The government has not provided that document, so Iím going to ask the minister now if he would provide the opposition with that document.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Deputy Chair, the member opposite is free to bring that motion forward for debate. We have provided full disclosure in this House as to the contents of that agreement. Whether we can, in fact, release that agreement ó I am not sure if it is a document that is available for the public, given that it is a contractual arrangement between Yukon Medical Association and Government of Yukon. But there have been some tremendous increases in programming and initiatives between the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon government. One was a retention bonus of some $16,000 a year, payable after the first year and then payable not the next year but the following year. So there would be a $32,000 payout next year to members of the YMA who qualify.
There are also additional benefits on the fee-for-service ó that has been increased. And any new patients that are taken on by a practice ó there is an initial orphan patient set-up fee that is provided to the doctor. So, across the board, we as a government have successfully negotiated with the YMA an agreement for the doctors that probably will stand our Yukon doctors in very good stead. But itís not just about salaries; itís about the quality of life and the standard that they can enjoy in this community. By and large, more and more of them are choosing the lifestyle here in the Yukon.
So, I trust that will answer the question that the member posed. Iím sure he will not be satisfied with the answer, but I bring the member back to the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and nowhere is this subject matter contained within this supplementary estimate. Iím fully prepared to debate the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Bill No. 17. Thatís where we are at today. Hopefully I can see my way clear for the member opposite to engage in meaningful debate on the contents of this supplementary and not wander all over into the mains that should have been debated last spring.
Mr. McRobb: Well, in response to that, I want to make a general statement; that is, we are in general debate for the Department of Health and Social Services and in no way should our questions or the discussion be limited to only the line items in the supplementary budget. This is standard. There is a precedent set in this Legislature for a complete spectrum of issues to be discussed when a department is called.
The same could be said about budget years, but the Yukon Party government has now a policy to not discuss any other budget year. It seems the Yukon Party has a policy to not discuss anything else identified other than a line item in the supplementary budget. However, at least Iím afforded some support on that point, because the House rules indicate we can ask questions on anything in the department. So itís a Yukon Party policy that doesnít jibe with the House rules in that regard.
So what else is new?
The minister was asking me to accept his version of the agreement. Mr. Chair, I completely refuse to do that. Thatís like him asking me to accept his version of why he wonít pay back his government loan. I totally refuse to accept his version of that as well. I could probably name dozens of other things that I feel likewise about, but I feel thatís unnecessary. The point is we wonít accept his version, and weíre requesting a document. Is the request fair and reasonable? Well, it most certainly is.
The minister said that itís not in the supplementary. My response to that is, ďSo what?Ē I covered that area. There are no limitations on requests having to be embedded as a line item in the supplementary in order to be valid. There are no limitations of the sort.
Iíll give the minister one more opportunity to reconsider providing this document before I draw another conclusion about this Yukon Party governmentís approach to how things should be in the Legislature.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if the government can legally release the document ó the contract between the Government of Yukon and the Yukon Medical Association ó I am prepared to do so. But I want to ensure that I am legally allowed to do what the member opposite is asking of me.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a different response, Mr. Chair, and itís one Iím willing to accept and move on.
I want to ask the minister about the technical review committee that is apparently required under the Health Act section 4(2)(e) and section 37. Does this technical review committee still exist and, if so, can the minister provide us with a report of its activities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have come here prepared to debate the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Bill No. 17. Thatís where weíre at today. The member opposite is wandering into very, very interesting detail that is not related to this Second Appropriation Act. I would encourage the member to reflect back to last spring when he had an opportunity in general debate on the budget to deal with this matter. He chose not to do so, and there will be an opportunity again next spring. But as we currently stand, I am prepared to accept any reasonable question related to the Second Appropriation Act.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, there are so many points there I disagree with that I donít know where to start. I probably donít have time to cover them all because there are constraints to debate, unlike the suggestion from the minister. So what if we had an opportunity in the spring. Is he now saying we could only ask questions that we didnít have an opportunity to ask in the spring? How does he know what our opportunity was? There were all kinds of departments to debate and only a limited period of time in which to do so.
Thatís completely ridiculous. The minister says he came here to debate the supplementary. When we are in general debate on a department, we can ask about anything within that department ó a matter of policy, a matter of expenditure, a cost, you name it. Thereís virtually nothing that is disallowed. The minister also, in relation to the technical review committee, ignores the fact this committee makes recommendations on a wide array of issues in his department, some of which are contained in the supplementary budget.
This debate is approaching the point where I would just about call it useless in terms of productivity. Weíve been asking this minister questions for nearly an hour. He has refused, for various excuses, to provide the information. There is only one possible question he is responding to and thatís the YMA agreement, if itís not legally binding to keep it secret. Otherwise, all the questions so far he has refused ó some open and accountable and transparent government this is.
Now he refuses to talk about the technical review committee and even confirm whether it still exists. This is ludicrous. We are in here speaking on behalf of Yukon people, asking the Government of Yukon questions. This is the only opportunity we have between the spring in one year and the spring in the next, and this government is stifling debate, it has closed the door on information requests; it is being anything but all the glorious promises we heard at election time in terms of how it would be open and collaborative and consultative.
I donít understand why the minister refuses to answer that question. Itís not related to a line item, he says. Well, Mr. Chair, I want to impress upon him that our questions in general debate donít have to be related to line items. Do you know why? We are in general debate. We are in general debate on the supplementary. The mains budget wonít happen until the spring, if there is a sitting in the spring. This is our opportunity to ask questions on matters such as the technical review committee. The minister refuses.
Well, letís not belabour it because my opportunity is limited. Time is running out. This government obviously wants to play a game of beat the clock instead of being open and accountable. It knows the opposition has only a certain amount of time open to it to debate departments. It knows that by stalling debate, the advantage goes to it because it will have to do less work and be less accountable. So, as long as Yukoners know thatís the kind of government they have and they know that on election day, thatís fine. But letís make sure they do know that. Letís make sure the word gets out about what really happens in this Legislature at the hands of this government. Itís not up to me to try to correct the ways of the member opposite and how he deals with matters, but it is up to me to make sure the people know.
I had more questions about the committee but I will have to dump those because there is no point.
Now, I want to ask the minister about another matter. Itís a very serious one on the national front. There is a lot of discussion about opening up our model of health care to private business. The minister has made several trips to meet with other ministers, and indeed one of them just met with him today here in Whitehorse. Can the minister provide us with some return on the investment in his travel budget and give us an update on where this issue stands? What is his governmentís position with respect to privatization of health care services?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The minister says ďclearĒ. Why wonít the minister answer this question?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is abysmal. The minister remains sitting in his chair, yelling ďclearĒ. He is refusing to answer a very important question for Yukoners. His rationale is unknown to anyone other than himself.
Let me try to take a guess. Is he thinking thatís itís not a line item in the budget? Is that it? Well, if one went back to previous debates, we would see how the Member for Klondike was afforded just about every luxury in the book when it came to being provided with information. I donít believe that even once was the door closed shut on him. Yet, now he finds it acceptable to close that same door to anyone else. I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that this is a very unfair approach.
Moving on, this government said it would use the Dawson bridge as a P3 experiment. Now that the bridge has been put on the shelf, at least for now, is the government planning any P3 experiments in the area of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have come here to debate the Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, Bill No. 17. The member is asking a very hypothetical question. It is not contained within this supplementary estimate. It is not part of this debate. It is totally hypothetical.
Mr. McRobb: Well, how do we know that, Mr. Chair? The true answer is we donít. We donít know that. Once again, the minister is expecting us to accept his version, and we cannot do that for reasons already put on record.
I donít know what to say that hasnít been said already, but this really is an embarrassment, Mr. Chair. I donít recall any Health and Social Services minister ever before taking such a closed approach to debate, especially general debate. This is sad.
I want to move to another question. Can the minister provide us with a summary of the content of the proposed legislation resulting from the Childrenís Act review that was due last May and promised for July of this year? Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what we have provided is the full consultation overview, and if the member would like it again, because he hasnít had the time to critique it, Iíd be happy to provide him with a second copy.
As to legislation, the legislation has yet to be developed. As to P3s, the member should pay attention when the Premier is speaking, because the Premier has indicated very clearly on the floor of this House on a number of occasions that the P3s do not work for schools and hospitals here, and they will not be used.
Mr. McRobb: On the last point first, Mr. Chair, how degrading to suggest the opposition should listen carefully to the Premier. That is really degrading; at least I feel it is.
Second, with respect to schools and hospitals, examine that for a minute. In terms of capital expenditures and service provisions in this department, is it only limited to hospitals? Of course it isnít, yet the minister uses that as his reason to not provide information. That is very unreasonable.
Third, he said the legislation isnít ready. My question referenced the proposed legislation, not ďtheĒ legislation, so again the minister is avoiding the question. This proposed legislation was scheduled to be out in May and it was promised to all the stakeholders in July. Itís now mid-November. The official opposition is requesting this document but the minister is playing the shell game.
He also referred to a consultation overview and suggested he could re-provide it. I have that; Iíve read through that. As a matter of fact, thatís the very document where I learned about these deadlines for the proposed legislation.
So if you examine those three parts of the ministerís answer, what are you left with, Mr. Chair? Again, one concludes that the minister doesnít want to provide information to the other side, that he wants to have it all to himself. He doesnít want the people whose job it is to hold him accountable to be armed with anything close to the latest information.
He knows that if he skates out of this sitting and if there is a next one and he does the same, he doesnít have to answer to any of these issues before an election. He knows that.
We in the official opposition also know this could be our last opportunity to question the ministers on their first three years in government and what they have done and to ask questions on behalf of the Yukon public. Thatís whatís driving me to stand here and ask these questions.
So, Iíll try one more time. Will the minister provide a summary of the content of the proposed legislation that was due out last summer? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Not at this time, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, another qualified response with no commitment. Letís move on to another area.
Back on May 25, the minister faced an angry crowd in Haines Junction when he said the region wouldnít be getting a seniors care facility and they would have to wait five years for another needs assessment. In response to pressure, he shortened that period to three years, but those in attendance were still unimpressed. The Premier has since usurped his ministerís authority by launching discussions with some representatives associated with this issue.
Can the minister provide us with an update of where this stands?†
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I just did earlier on in general debate. I indicated clearly to the member opposite that the Department of Health and Social Services has provided the seniors in Haines Junction with an agreement similar to and modeled after the agreement that Yukon has with the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake. Itís contained within the supplementary estimates here.
Also, Yukon Housing Corporation is working on an assisted living building, a drop-in centre. These are initiatives underway. As the member knows full well, the Yukon government, the Department of Health and Social Services, will be sending a consultant in to do an evaluation of the north Alaska Highway needs in this area in a shortened period, from a five- to about a two-year cycle.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what the minister provided for us earlier on was not an update. It was only some of the information that he wanted us to know. I requested an update, which should include basically a factual update of the situation.
Now, we heard the minister† ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite is referring to a factual update and implying that the information being provided is not factual. The information provided is completely factual and completely in keeping with our Standing Orders. The member is calling into dispute the accuracy of the information I am providing.
Chair: Order please. There was no accusation of a memberís intent to deliberately mislead the House. The Chair would expect that we are debating all the facts here. The Chair does recognize that members do have a different opinion of what the facts are.
Mr. McRobb: The minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation alluded to a Yukon community that might receive a particular building. The Health minister wonít elaborate as to whether itís this particular facility. I believe that I heard the other minister suggest that he hopes it ďmakes some members across the way happyĒ. I believe thatís the term he used. Iím wondering if maybe the government intends to construct something in the next fiscal year. Obviously, itís being closed about what it is. There would have to be some relation to the supplementary budget, because it costs money to consult.
My question related to an update. The minister could have stood up and told us with whom the government is consulting. There are questions about what type of a facility this would be. At the May 25 meeting ó the minister probably wants to block it out of his memory and I donít blame him ó there was a lot of discussion about the semantics and the definition of ďmulti-levelĒ. That confused debate carried over to the Premierís Cabinet tour meeting last month. A lot of debate is wasted because of that type of confusion. The government should instead dispense with the confusion and just respond to what the community wants.
I am asking the minister if he could provide some of what I have identified and give us an update on that information.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís pretty sad, but letís move on. This supplementary cuts $5.2 million for the Dawson City multi-level care facility. Can the minister tell us what stage this project is at? Is there a conceptual design yet?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer, Mr. Chair, is yes.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with a copy of the conceptual design?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, we can, Mr. Chair. Subject to its availability, weíll send it over in due course.
Mr. McRobb: † Well, thatís one of the first positive things Iíve heard from the minister, even though it had at least two qualifiers built into it.
What services will this building include? I know there was some discussion about the amalgamation of the nursing station and at least one of the emergency services ó I believe it was ambulance ó as well as replacement of the McDonald Lodge. Thatís three potential entities. Can the minister identify if this building will be containing those and anything else it might contain?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the conceptual plans clearly indicate the areas that the member mentioned.
Mr. McRobb: Okay. One more question. What is the estimated cost for construction of this facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The newspapers reported $14 million ó I donít know where that number came from. But our budget envelope is $5.2 million ó we donít anticipate spending more than that other than it being indexed for the inflationary cost of construction since the concept was originally proposed.
Mr. McRobb: All right, so Iíll assume the answer is somewhere between $5.2 million and $6 million. Can the minister provide us with an update on the new facility in Watson Lake? Is there a conceptual design and cost estimates he can provide to us for that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The project there is a design/build project manage, Mr. Chair. It is currently under construction ó I havenít seen it since my last visit to Watson Lake but the concrete foundation was poured and in place. Thatís where that project is. If there are some conceptual plans available, weíll send them over to the member opposite. The budget envelope is contained for this project, this $5.2 million.
Mr. McRobb: All right, just in case there isnít something available called a conceptual design, we will be more than eager to accept something else in its place such as the building specs or whatever. I think the minister knows full well what we are looking for.
A new question, still on the topic of buildings: is there anything in the supplementary budget to address the need for a Whitehorse health centre as suggested by the Yukon Registered Nurses Association?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíve already outlined what is contained within the supplementary budget, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I have to wonder about the ministerís answer and if, indeed, he identified every purpose for the spending in the supplementary budget as he would like us to believe.
For instance, the line item ďHealth ServicesĒ is listed at more than $89 million. Has the Legislature heard the purposes for all that money from this minister today? I highly doubt it. Iím unwilling to accept that answer. I donít think the minister can reasonably expect us to accept that answer.
Whoís to say there isnít study money for that facility built into this supplementary budget somewhere? Thatís what Iím looking for. Is there anything in this supplementary budget related to the YRNAís suggestion of a Whitehorse health centre?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíve clearly outlined for the member opposite what is contained in this supplementary estimate ó very clearly, on both the operation and maintenance and capital side.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I would say, so what, Mr. Chair. The minister should be more than willing to respond to the question when itís asked. It takes a longer process to deal with it when he doesnít respond with a yes or no. Iíll review Hansard, if I have the time, Mr. Chair, to see exactly what he said. But Iím very doubtful.
Iíll move on. What does the minister plan to do to replace aging health centres in the Yukon communities, and can he provide us with a priority list for the scheduled replacement of such facilities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we are underway with the replacement of the multi-level care facility or the building of the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake, and weíve postponed Dawson City, but that will be underway, hopefully in the next budget cycle.
Mr. Chair, I would encourage the member opposite, when he reviews Hansard, to spend a considerable time reviewing the line of questioning that the member is bringing forward, because we are concentrating today on the supplementary estimates of 2005-06, Bill No. 17, and the relevance to the area the member is exploring would defy the imagination of even Einstein himself, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister just confirmed that when it comes to rural Yukon, this government doesnít look beyond Watson Lake and Dawson City. My question related to all Yukon communities. I guess we have to accept the answer we got. Once again, the minister is basing his constrained answer on some perceived limitation related to this supplementary budget. Once again, we are in general debate and anything goes.
I want to move to an area of equipment. This ministerís approach to allocating new ambulances has been a willy-nilly shell game. Does he have a priority list for replacing these vehicles? If so, can he provide us with a priority list of which communities will have units replaced first?
Before the minister gets up and explains that I am asking for something that doesnít exist, we know it exists. The same exists with the community fire departments. The government has a priority list for the replacement of fire trucks. Itís reasonable to assume the government uses the same approach with respect to ambulances. Will he provide us with a priority list?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can advise the member opposite that there are two new type 3 ambulances that are on order. As soon as they are delivered, they will be going to the Whitehorse ambulance service.
Mr. McRobb: Once again, the minister is not complying very well with the oppositionís questions now, is he, Mr. Chair. Letís move on.
Letís go to some health service issues. We have had considerable discussion on the expenses for outpatients. Those are patients sent outside the Yukon for diagnoses and treatment. I would like to ask the minister something that was requested 18 months ago and something he promised to provide but we are still waiting for, and that is the cost of providing reasonable expenses for these outpatients.
Also, will he consider using the residence in Edmonton for outpatients? He said he was considering this in the spring. He has had all summer and fall to think about it. We want to know if he has done anything in the way of a decision to use something like the N.W.T. model of using LARGA. Also, has he considered establishing a residence in Vancouver for Yukon outpatients?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I pointed out to the member opposite, the health care delivery model that the N.W.T. and Nunavut work on is considerably different from what the Yukon works on. The N.W.T. has contracted with the Capital Health Authority and theyíve ended up leasing or purchasing an apartment complex in Edmonton. They move a lot of their people who require medical attention from N.W.T. to Edmonton for that purpose.
The Yukon is fortunate in that we have a higher number of specialists and we have specialists who come here to provide services. Weíre on a different model. The last time I checked, Nunavut had nine doctors for a population of approximately 25,000. Their major cost is medevacs of their population to southern centres where medical treatment can be provided.
So the member opposite is, once again, comparing apples to turnips.
Chair: Weíve reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We are currently in Vote 15, Department of Health and Social Services, in general debate.
Mr. McRobb: At the break I was discussing outpatients and whether he has considered using residences in Edmonton or Vancouver. All I was able to find in his answer was something to the effect that we use a different model than the N.W.T.
Well, we knew that a long time ago. We really want to know if the minister is considering using these residences. He indicated last spring that he was. Has he made a determination with respect to using residences, such as the example provided, in Edmonton or Vancouver? Where is he at?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Currently, the Yukon does use residences in both of those areas. Our people are well versed, and a booklet has been published by the department that shows all the residences and facilities that are available to Yukoners who must travel for medical attention to Vancouver, Calgary or Edmonton.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís still not the answer weíre looking for but unfortunately we donít have the time that would be required to keep pressing the minister on this issue to the point where we might get an acceptable answer. So, Iíll move on.
I want to ask about home care services. We know the territory has received extra federal dollars that are spent in this area. Now, the question for us is, weíre unsure how this money is spent with respect to community breakdown. So, what weíd like to request from the minister is a breakdown that provides the number of clients that are served in each community across the territory and also the number of home care workers allotted for each of the communities.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member oppositeís question is predicated on the premise that weíve received additional funding from the federal government for this initiative, he is treading on very unsound financial ground. The federal government has announced funding for this area; nothing has flowed. They announced it over a year ago but, again, nothing has flowed to the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, weíre unsure of that and weíre reluctant to take the ministerís word for it; however, we would still like the community breakdown, which was the question that was asked. Irrespective of where the funding comes from, will he still provide the information asked for in the question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The expansion of Yukon Family Services to Carcross is contained within this supplementary estimate. It is $57,000.
Mr. McRobb: I know that Carcross is not the only community that receives health care and home care services from the government. What we got was a partial answer; maybe about a three-percent answer.
Iím willing to cooperate with the minister. If he doesnít have the information at his fingertips, he could give a commitment to provide it to us. We want to see a complete list. Is he prepared to give us what we are requesting?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have given the member all the information that is contained in this supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, itís not good, for the minister to take that approach. It really isnít good. Again, weíre only getting part of the picture.
You know, the same argument I used before about the puzzle and what was in the mains and the supplementary and the lapses applies here. Itís impossible for the opposition to try to tie together all the loose ends that may exist in various documents, and the minister knows that full well, yet he insists on continuing with this approach that is not very helpful to those who are tasked with the job of holding him accountable. If the minister really wanted to be held accountable, he would have no problem providing such information to the opposition.
Our whole system, by the way, Mr. Chair, is founded on a good working relationship between government and the opposition in terms of information flow. How is the information flowing from this government? Well, itís not. The river has been dammed. There is no flow. So obviously the minister doesnít want to provide the community breakdown for the delivery of home care services in the territory. He doesnít want to tell the opposition how many home care workers are in each community.
You know, one of the follies of the government taking this approach is they leave themselves exposed to speculation from the other side about reasons why the information is being withheld.
Such an allegation might be, perhaps, that the funds arenít allocated fairly across the territory. A good government would see this one coming and would be more than willing to provide the numbers ó but not this one. So letís move on.
Next on my list deals with mental health: weíd like to request stats for voluntary and involuntary in-patient admissions to hospital for mental illness, particularly for women, men, what type of illness, whether the people are First Nation or not, the number of outpatients, as well as the process for involuntary admission and voluntary admission. Those are quite a few related questions to deal with this particular issue, so Iím more than willing to accept the minister undertaking to get back to us with that information. Would he provide it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member raises a very good issue as to what weíre doing with mental health. There is an issue here in the Yukon Territory and that is being examined. Weíre moving forward on an initiative to establish a medical detox/mental health ward in the buildings surrounding the hospital.
Mr. McRobb: I assume the minister is refusing to provide us with the information requested because he refused to respond to our request. If Iím incorrect, heís more than welcome to redress it the next time heís on his feet.
Sticking with the mental health issue, I would like to request a list of community mental health services available outside of Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In the smaller communities, access is provided through community nursing. In the larger communities, there are doctors present who make referrals on a continuing basis. Our health care system is in very capable hands with the Department of Health and Social Services, the doctors, and the Yukon Hospital Corporation. It is functioning extremely well.
May I encourage the member opposite to concentrate his efforts on the supplementary estimates? This appears to be a fishing expedition by the member opposite and Iím sure that he is well aware that, in most areas of the Yukon, a lot of the access for fishing is frozen over now, so it is very difficult to get through the ice. So, rather than go on a fishing expedition, can we not concentrate on the supplementary estimate, this bill that is before the House now for debate, Mr. Chair?
Mr. McRobb: What the minister is proposing amounts to a drastic change in a budget debate. Now he has expressed his view and Iíve expressed my view. The two views obviously are different, but the minister is trying to force the opposition to accept his view. Well, Iím sorry, but we canít do that.†
Our questions are allowed to vary completely across the spectrum because we are in general debate. Once we are in the line items ó for example, dealing with the line item for community nursing, $274,000 for patient services ó then of course our questions must pertain to that narrow topic issue. But we are in general debate. What the minister is suggesting is that we canít ask questions that donít relate to the line items. Well, thatís absurd. We totally disagree. As a matter of fact, if the minister just wanted to take what he is trying to force upon us now into the public forum and ask Yukoners, I think he would see another backlash, probably to the same degree that he experienced in Haines Junction on May 25. People wonít accept it.
We can ask questions on behalf of Yukoners about any health or social issue at this opportunity. This is the only chance we get. The minister is playing an old shell game of trying to limit the questions. Well, it wonít work. Iíve been around here for just as long as he has, Mr. Chair ó more than nine years. I didnít just fall off the turnip truck. I wonít be fooled easily and I certainly wonít be fooled into accepting the ministerís constrained view of what the opposition party should be asking and what is outside the scope of questioning.
About the only thing I am falling victim to is that Iím getting sidetracked by these diversionary tactics to talk about process rather than actual questions. I am falling victim to that to a degree. I am trying to limit my comments in those areas and focus on the questions Iíve prepared for the minister, but that has turned out to be rather unproductive because the minister wants to force his views of constrained questioning upon us.
Well, Iím sorry, but we cannot accept that. If he wants to change the rules of the House I would suggest he call together the SCREP committee ó SCREP is the acronym for Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges ó and in the wisdom of SCREP, if that committee deems that the rules of the House should be changed to reflect what the minister wants, then so be it.
Unfortunately, this government hasnít called a meeting in ó well, about three years. So, certainly weíre not going to accept the ministerís new method of constrained questioning in the Legislature. And you know what, Mr. Chair? I donít think he would accept it, if he were on this side of the House. It seems itís the Yukon Partyís new policy, and apparently one theyíre prepared to live with when in opposition, but it shouldnít force what it is prepared to live with upon others.
I want to get back to the question. I asked the minister to provide a list of community mental health services available outside of Whitehorse, and he refused to do that.
Let me move to the next question. He can answer the last one at the next opportunity, if he wishes. I think thatís about three now that have been compiled. What is the government doing in terms of programming for suicide prevention?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There isnít anything contained within the supplementary estimate for suicide prevention, but the department does have a very comprehensive intervention, as well as help lines in this area, which the member knows full well.
Mr. McRobb: Iím sorry, but I disagree with the minister again. I donít know full well; thatís why I asked the question.
Moving on, I want to ask the minister about dental health. How many dental therapists are employed in the territory and what are the duties expected of them?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The duties have not been changed. The responsibilities havenít been changed for the dental therapists and the number of FTEs has not changed.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that doesnít answer the question, does it, Mr. Chair? At least the minister is consistent.
He has changed the whole governmentís approach to the provision of these services. I want to ask him if he can provide us with an explanation of the differences.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is unbelievable. The minister remains seated, yelling ďclearĒ. He refuses to answer a very reasonable question. I would say that if this isnít classified as an abrogation of responsibility and duties, I donít know what is. You can call me on a point of order, Mr. Chair, on that one. I will take the risk. This is an abrogation of responsibility and duty by this minister. He should resign for what he is doing. He doesnít deserve to be minister of anything.
Chair: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: I believe I just called the Committee to order.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The Chair has listened very closely to debate today and is becoming quite concerned that members are entering into debate that is beneath the expectations that Yukoners have of members in this Assembly. There have been statements made. I can appreciate that there are differences of opinion expressed in this Assembly, and sometimes those differences in opinion cause frustration, but by no means should it become acceptable or allowed that members sink to a level of name-calling or hurling insults.
It is certainly beneath the dignity of this Assembly.
Iím looking forward to the debate continuing, and I would encourage all members to elevate the level of debate.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for that ruling. I would also suggest it is incumbent upon a minister to stand up and respond to a question when asked in budget debate.
So I have another one for him on environmental health. What is the governmentís strategy to ensure that all Yukoners have safe drinking water?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue is safe, affordable, potable water, Mr. Chair. Our government has taken unprecedented steps in this area. We have soon to be implemented regulations for municipal water supplies. At the same time, our government provided a well-drilling program, the uptake of which has been phenomenal. The uptake is approaching $1 million for those wishing to drill a well to supply potable water to them and their residence. This is but one initiative.
The other area that I do have some major concerns with, though, Mr. Chair, is what the federal government is doing with the provision of potable water to our First Nations, members of various communities around the Yukon. There needs to be a lot of work and a lot of initiative by the federal government to deliver safe, affordable, potable water to First Nations in a number of the areas of the Yukon and at the same time, safe, affordable housing to those same members.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isnít that interesting. The minister gets up and answers a question unrelated to a line item in the supplementary budget. I wonder why that is. Has he got a new approach thatís called pick and choose? Very interesting. If he would like to respond to the questions he has refused to respond to because there wasnít a specific line item in the supplementary budget, I would invite him to do so. Or at least undertake to get back to us with the information we requested.
Weíve had some discussion previously about the hardships imposed upon Yukoners by the ministerís branch with respect to sewage and water regulations. Iíve suggested before that the government should have balanced the requirement for small businesses to meet stringent requirements with the implementation of the program that would help them fulfill these regulatory requirements. For example, the Koidern River Lodge, which has problems meeting the requirements of the environmental health branch, simply cannot afford to replace the water or septic systems. The government did introduce a well-drilling program that the minister has identified, but it could have easily expanded that to include small businesses, it could have created a similar program for septic services like an NDP government did in the early 1990s. But it didnít do anything and across the territory we have small businesses facing real hardships as we speak, because they are being forced out of business by this government that doesnít really care. It is forcing them to comply or shut their doors ó thatís basically it.
I want to ask the minister what heís doing to try to give these small business owners a soft landing in this respect.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is not an issue of a soft landing or anything of the type. Itís an issue of the respective business serving the public, having safe potable water and conforming† ó not as the minister refers to it as ó to the department, but to the law: the law surrounding conditions that apply to potable water that is provided to the public, the law surrounding the issue of sewage disposal. These are the issues.
What the member is suggesting will probably take us down the road to another Walkerton here in the Yukon, and I have some serious reservations and concerns with the due diligence being followed with respect to the overview of safe potable water here in the Yukon.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, Iím rather uncomfortable with the Minister of Health and Social Services suggesting that another individual in the House is recommending a course of action that would repeat the difficulties that the community of Walkerton, Ontario, experienced. That was a very ó unfortunate isnít a strong enough word. There were deaths; there were officials who were criminally charged. It was a terrible time, and to suggest that someone is recommending a course of action that would repeat that terrible time in a Yukon community is suggesting motives in my view. I would suggest that perhaps you might want to call the member opposite to order on that.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, there is no point of order. The issue is that there is a law regarding potable water and its supply to the general public. There are laws dealing with septic fields. When those laws are broken or not abided by, it can lead to a situation such as Walkerton. We do not want to have that here in the Yukon. The member opposite is suggesting we back off.
Chair: Order please. I am just going to ask the membersí indulgence to review the Blues and take a look at this debate and come back to the Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: I would submit the minister is fear-mongering.
Chair: Order please. That comment has been ruled out of order in this Assembly previously.
Mr. McRobb: Oh, Iím sorry, Mr. Chair. I didnít realize that word was off limits too ó I really didnít.
You know, the minister, by mentioning Walkerton, is doing the very thing he requested the opposition parties not to do in this sitting, and that was to raise public fears about the avian flu. So we werenít going to go there, anyway, but now the minister is his own worst example ó by what he just did. He should reflect on that.
I want to ask about the promotion of health in the territory, particularly with respect to smoking. Does the department have a recent evaluation of the last smoke-free campaign?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The department has published the statistics. It shows an alarming trend of the youth in our society, specifically females, smoking, and we are above the average in Canada. The overall trend, though, is downward and continues to be downward.
Smoking is an addiction. Itís one of the toughest addictions to kick or get rid of. That said, the Department of Health and Social Services has a very comprehensive program in this area to support those who want to quit. But itís not like we can go in there and force somebody to quit smoking, especially if theyíre above the age of majority.
The federal government has restrictions in place as to who can buy tobacco products but, again, there are always ways to circumvent that.
Itís one of the major substance abuse problems here in the Yukon, and we have many more, of which the member opposite is aware. Our overall government substance abuse action plan clearly outlines the steps we will be taking.
Our substance abuse action plan will be leading us into four strategic directions: number one is harm reduction; number two is prevention and education; number three is treatment; and number four is enforcement. I would encourage the member opposite to get on board like his party was at the outset, as well as the third party, and join with us to do our level best as legislators to deliver these programs as fully and comprehensively as we can to Yukoners so that they can get out of the scourge of substance abuse.
Mr. McRobb: What programs? They are all hypothetical. The minister refused to assign any funding or timelines to this substance abuse action plan, and he knows it.
I asked him about an evaluation of the last smoke-free campaign. He talked about stats and trends and who it was, but Iím uncertain as to whether that constitutes what an evaluation is. If the minister could clarify that when heís next on his feet, I would appreciate it.
I want to ask him if the government will consider legislating Yukon-wide smoke-free workplaces.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís the trend today. I see it coming into place either through Workersí Compensation or through a direct piece of legislation here in the Yukon in the not too distant future.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, he didnít answer the evaluation question.
Letís go to community nursing. Can the minister give us the number of community nursing positions that are classified as auxiliary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there isnít anything of that nature contained within the supplementary budget that is on the floor here for debate today.
Mr. McRobb: So? Can the minister provide us with that number, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, there isnít anything here in the supplementary estimates that pertains to the question that the member opposite ó there isnít any funding in this supplementary pertaining to the area that the member is examining.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate where I might find the rule that we must ask questions that pertain only to line items in the supplementary?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In the Standing Orders, Mr. Chair. The Standing Orders are specific as to the rules of debate.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps the minister would oblige my request and cite the Standing Order where that rule can be found?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, after nine years in this Assembly, I would see the member not needing to pick up the book and examine it in detail. I would encourage him to examine the rules of debate. We are in the supplementary estimates, 2005-06, and we are dealing with the issues in capital and in operation and maintenance costs that I have clearly identified at the onset of debate, and I am prepared to entertain any question dealing with the substance contained therein, in the Health and Social Services envelope.
Mr. McRobb: Iím calling the ministerís bluff. He said that rule is in the Standing Orders. Itís not. Is he going to back down from this challenge, or is he going to stand up to it? Whatís he going to do? Show us in the rules where we are prevented from asking any questions other than a line item in general debate. Show us now.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am going to continue to answer questions on the supplementary, and on the capital contained in this Bill No. 17 before us today. If the member wants to wander off on a fishing expedition, I donít know; he is probably going to either come up with a sucker or a carp or a catfish or something, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, there you have it. The ministerís bluff was called and he was unable to deliver. It was another wild goose chase. Itís more of the same shell game, Mr. Chair. Things shouldnít be like that in here. We should have questions and answers with the information provided. Why is it so difficult to deal with this Yukon Party government? This is incredible.†
So, Iíve tried to ask the question about nurses ó let me ask him about what he plans to do with community nursing. Does he intend to bring it under the jurisdiction of the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no funding identified in the supplementary budget for the purpose that the member opposite is referring to.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, but is there funding not identified for that purpose?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no money identified in this supplementary for the purpose that the member opposite is questioning.
Mr. McRobb: But there could be money that is not specifically identified for that purpose in this budget. That is what the minister is saying. So, once again, itís a shell game. The minister doesnít want us to know. He is withholding some of the pieces of the puzzle. We are trying to put it together but itís impossible without all the pieces.
Again, itís rather telling to see to what extent of closure this government is prepared to move. Once again, I certainly hope itís prepared to live by the rules the next time it happens to be on this side of the House, which could be very soon, Mr. Chair, given the fickle nature of the Yukon voters.
The Yukon Party should realize that the last four governments have been tossed out, and not by just a small percentage; it has been a wave. I think if Yukon voters realize just what this government is really like when it comes to being closed, I would suggest the Yukon Party is going to be riding a big wave out of office in the next election. If itís so unfortunate as to have any survivors, it will to be forced to potentially live by the rules it is forcing us to live by now. If I were a backbencher over there, I would have some serious concerns. I wouldnít let the government House leader get away with this.
It could be me having to live by the same rules heís forcing us to comply with today. This is outrageous. We cannot do our jobs given the constraints forced upon us that canít be found in the House rules, as the government House leader suggests. Even though itís probably pointless to continue with questions, I will try anyway, just because I know that there are people out there counting on me to ask these questions.
There have been some issues about the security of our nurses, especially in some rural communities. What security measures are being taken by this government?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite might refer to the Standing Orders, page 23, Committee of the Whole, where it spells out the composition, the proceedings, and 42(2) states that speeches in Committee of the Whole shall be strictly relevant to the item or clauses under consideration. You canít speak for more than 20 minutes, but I think that should be a reflection on the Standing Orders, and is an area which I am sure that the member opposite has considerably overlooked or he has chosen not to acknowledge the Standing Orders and proceedings as they currently stand. This should be a clear message as to what is transpiring.
With respect to the security, there were staff increases some time ago to address this responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Standing Order 42(2) does not constrain questioning to only the line items while in general debate. It only restricts possibly the discussion to the line items when in the line items. That rule was put into force because there was a need to prevent members from wandering off and giving big long speeches unrelated to the issue before them. We have seen that happen on occasion. This rule wasnít put in just by some members. It was agreed to by all members. In no way possible, Mr. Chair, is this particular rule meant to constrain general debate and the line of questioning.
My questions have been relatively short as they pertain to the length of time required, which is the focal point of the clause he recited. So it is completely unrelated. The minister is grasping at straws. Heís trying to vindicate himself. Well, Mr. Chair, self-vindication is no glorification. I believe there is a saying to that effect, and it applies here.
Letís move on. NGO funding ó the group named Blood Ties Four Directions ó and just for the ministerís information, ďFourĒ is spelled f-o-u-r, not f-o-r, as he has characterized it as previously. I would like to request some statistics for clients served with HIV and AIDS and hepatitis C from the minister. Can he give us a breakdown on those numbers in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To avoid needless repetition, the simple answer is no, I cannot.
Mr. McRobb: Well, why not?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Because itís an NGO.
Mr. McRobb: So the minister is out of touch with a number of patients in the territory afflicted with HIV, AIDS or hepatitis C. Well, isnít that interesting.
Now, today I saw the ministerís letter to the organization, which finally responds to its letter from weeks ago. The minister refers to the agreement between the government and the organization. Can he provide us with a copy of that agreement?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government has increased the funding for Blood Ties Four Directions from some $130,000 to $167,000. Those numbers are pretty accurate. I might be off a thousand or two, but overall there has been a significant increase in the level of funding provided to Blood Ties Four Directions by this government, as well as the increase that is anticipated to be flowing, subject to approval of the Legislature for the next fiscal cycle, which the member opposite will, in all probability, vote against.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if Standing Order 42(2) is any good, this minister should have been called because his answer did not relate to the question ó the issue before the House. I asked him if he would provide the agreement. Instead, he talked about some funding increases that he believes he has provided to the group. How were the two related? Well, the answer is, theyíre not.
Therefore, the minister didnít adhere to clause 42(2). So, I want to ask him again: will he provide us a copy of this agreement?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I was always taught that one does not ask a question in this Legislature unless one knows the answer to the question. I would suggest that it may appear that the member opposite already has a copy of this agreement and he is just wasting the Houseís time by asking for a second copy.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís pure speculation. Weíve heard this excuse before from the minister. Just because he was taught one way, surely it doesnít mean that everybody should be taught the same way. As a matter of fact, I would recommend the opposite to anybody who wants to be a Yukon legislator, that they avoid taking the same approaches this minister has. Certainly we ask questions because we want answers to those questions. If we ask questions we already had the answer to, we wouldnít be asking very many questions because this government has blocked the flow of information. We donít have the answers, and this government is terrible when it comes to giving any kind of answer.
So, once again, I wouldnít be wasting our time that is allotted for debate in this department asking for something I already have. For the third time, would the minister provide this agreement?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Subject to approval from blood ties for direction, the answer is yes.
Mr. McRobb: Well, once again the word ďfourĒ is spelled F-O-U-R, not F-O-R. The minister keeps saying, ďblood ties for directionĒ, which implies that he misunderstands the word ďfourĒ.
Letís move to the area of family and childrenís services. I want to ask the minister about the number of child protection cases that are also on social assistance. Can he give us that number, please?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In this supplementary budget, I am pleased to advise that we have increased support for children with autism and other disabilities, and their families, to $228,000. It is a significant increase in funding in this area in the Yukon. In fact, this is an area we have concentrated on as a government. We have also increased support to the Canada Western FASD Partnership. At the same time, contained in this budget, childcare subsidies for children with special needs have been increased by $40,000.
That is what is contained within these supplementary estimates.
Mr. McRobb: Once again, the minister did not respond to the question asked, so the minister is getting a backlog of unanswered questions and, at this stage, I would like to repeat that if he is prepared to respond with written material we would accept that information at a future date.
Whatís the department doing about the effect of poverty on children? Is the department handling the child protection cases related to SA differently? I would like to get an answer to those questions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Contained within the supplementary for 2005-06, Health and Social Services has continued to increase funding in critical areas of need for Yukon citizens: adults and children with disability and special needs, NGOs, childcare, seniors, the FASD action plan and health care.
There is increased support for children with autism and other disabilities and their families: $228,000; to support stakeholder consultations for children for the childcare regulations, $35,000; childcare subsidies have been increased for children with special needs, $40,000; we support the Canada Western FASD Partnership and FASD, $45,000. Those are but some of the increases that are contained within this budget envelope, Mr. Chair.†
Mr. McRobb: Well, again, that didnít answer the question. Nor did it respond to the previous unanswered questions.
I want to ask him a statistical question. Across the territory, by community, can he give us the numbers of social workers, social service workers and family support workers ó which communities theyíre employed in, how many there are, et cetera?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím pleased to advise the House that the government has expanded the Yukon Family Services to Carcross, contained within this budget envelope, to $57,000.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís about a two-percent solution, Mr. Chair. What about the rest of the Yukon? The minister is ignoring that.
Can the minister give us the number of children in care? And what type of information would he be able to provide about the children in care? Subject to privacy constraints, is he able to give us, for instance, the ages or age ranges for the number of children in care? What can he provide for us in the way of this information?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, of children in care in the Yukon, there isnít anything contained within this budget envelope that addresses that area.
Mr. McRobb: So? I asked him the question.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Here we have another case of the minister remaining seated, yelling ďclearĒ and refusing to answer a question. Apparently his premise is that there is not a line item related to this question I am asking in general debate. Now weíve gone around this bush a few times, Mr. Chair. Weíve whacked the bush and thereís nothing in it. We explored Standing Orders 42(2) and found it wasnít relevant. The minister was further unable to provide any other Standing Order that constrains the ability to ask questions about matters other than line items following general debate. So the whole thing is a Yukon Party smokescreen. Itís a big bluff and it certainly is not consistent with a government that wants to be accountable, open, transparent or a good government.
Why wonít the minister answer the question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Because I have, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: This is sad, really sad.
I want to ask him about youth justice. How many young offenders are there in Whitehorse and in the communities? What happens to young offenders in the communities if they canít make it to the young offenders unit?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to advise the House that there isnít anything contained in the supplementary estimates dealing with this area.
Mr. McRobb: Well, so what? The minister is repeating an irrelevant answer ó completely irrelevant. Perhaps somebody can revisit Hansard on previous occasions when that member found himself on this side of the House and looked particularly for any occasion when the government side tried to constrain the line of questioning only to line items while in general debate and, particularly, the Member for Klondikeís response, if any such occasion existed. That would be quite interesting.
It would be unbelievable to expect the member to have simply accepted such a one-sided constraint when he was in opposition. But now that heís in government, heís had his hands on the levers of power for three years now. Maybe the power has gone to his head, and he doesnít think very clearly. He doesnít remember what it was like being in opposition. He wants to change the rules.
Well, maybe the government should have gone to the polls before it decided to change the rules away from the democratic system we have. And maybe it should have tried to get all-party support for the changing of the rules. So, weíre not prepared to accept such autocracy on this side of the House ó certainly not.
Iím uncertain if I have any questions that pertain to the line items because I intend to ask line item-related questions once weíre out of general debate and into the line items, which raises a bigger question.
If we canít ask about anything other than line items in general debate, then what is the real purpose of general debate? Is anything in order to be discussed in general debate? I recall several previous occasions when this Member for Klondike would try to shut down general debate if the discussion related to a line item. He would say, ďMr. Chair, there is a line item on this. If the members want to agree to end general debate, weíll deal with this in the line item.Ē There we go. The Yukon Party wants it both ways. We canít talk about line items when in general debate and today we canít talk about anything other than line items in general debate.
According to this Yukon Party, we canít talk about anything in general debate. Thatís the type of government it practises. Thatís what it expects the opposition to swallow and abide by. Again, I am harbouring some thoughts, Mr. Chair. Would this member and his colleagues, if he has any left after the next election, be prepared to live with these same constraints? I canít see it happening. If thereís any justice in the territory, that scenario will happen.
At this time, I am prepared to pass the floor to my colleague from the third party. I donít have a question for the minister at this time, because Iím going to have to review my questions to try to figure out if there are any not related to line items or related to line items. I will try to figure out whatís allowed and what isnít. It really seems like nothing is allowed.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the rules of debate are quite specific, and the rules for debate in Committee are spelled out in chapter 8. I would encourage the member to read them ó or at least re-read them ó and refer back to Standing Order 42(1): ďThe Standing Orders of the Assembly shall be observed in Committee of the Whole so far as may be applicable, except the Standing Orders limiting the number of times of speaking and the length of speeches.Ē Standing Order 42(2): ďSpeeches in Committee of the Whole shall be strictly relevant to the item or clause under consideration.Ē
Mr. Chair, further to that, the member opposite is constantly referring to my time in opposition. Like the member opposite, my time in opposition was a learning exercise. In my time in opposition, I always tried my level best to ensure that, if there was constructive criticism of any type ó constructive criticism ó that it led to a better way of serving Yukoners, that has been my position and the way I have proceeded.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the members opposite are kibitzing, but what we have before us is a health care budget, and the operation and maintenance budget addresses quite a number of issues, Mr. Chair.
It addresses the needs of adults and children with disabilities and special needs, non-government organizations, childcare, seniors; it addresses the FASD action plan and it addresses health care. Those are the focal points. Our governmentís commitment to families who have an autistic child is at an all-time record high. The families with autistic children have come together and established an NGO that our government has funded. There is a demonstrated need there and the parents of autistic children have done a fantastic job of addressing the needs of their children.
Government is not a very good parent, Mr. Chair. The best parents are the biological parents and, failing that, other family members or other members who have joined in to become a member of that family.
If we look at our increase in subsidies for children with special needs, the childcare subsidy has been increased further by $40,000. Our support for the Canada Western FASD Partnership and FASD symposium is $45,000.
Our increase in social assistance rates for persons with disabilities in itself puts in another $125 per month, $1,500 per year, for those on social assistance who are disabled. There was a demonstrated need in that group in our society and our government addressed that need.
The member opposite constantly referred to increasing the SA rates. The Yukon has, for single categories, the highest SA rate in Canada. Itís over twice what it is in Alberta, and just about double what it is in British Columbia. That should send a clear message to the official opposition as to where we stand on the social agenda. Our government is committed to addressing the needs where there a demonstrated need exists: increased programming at Kausheeís Place; continuation of the older, abused women pilot program ó and the member opposite goes on at great length about some new-found initiative of funding seniors in Watson Lake. That same initiative and program was offered to the seniors in the community of Haines Junction.
Letters were written much prior to our meetings in Haines Junction. Those letters were tabled in this Legislature. Letters were sent to a number of the seniors in the community of Haines Junction long before the member opposite got involved in the public meetings in his community dealing with the multi-level care facility.
Our governmentís commitment to our seniors is clearly demonstrated by our increase in the pioneer utility grant ó† $830 or so. It is indexed. Next year, it will be increased again for this winterís fuel consumption. We value our seniors. They have made a considerable contribution to the Yukon, and weíre going to do our level best as a government to help and assist them.
Mr. Chair, home care services and the opening of new beds in Copper Ridge and Macaulay ó these are but some of the initiatives that our government is dealing with and addressing, because there is a demonstrated need.
Continuing care increases in costs are being experienced because of increased life expectancy ó increased aging population. And more and more Yukoners are choosing to retire here, in large part because of our social safety net. That speaks well for what our government has done. Our government and the Department of Health and Social Services ó any NGO that is funded out of Health and Social Services has seen an increase in their funding of three percent last year, and weíre anticipating, subject to legislative approval, another three percent next year. At the same time, quite a number of these NGOs have a demonstrated need, which has resulted in considerably more money flowing to that group. Those are just but a few of the examples of what our government has committed to do and has done.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 60, Act to Amend the Public Service Group Insurance Benefit Plan Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.
Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has passed Motion No. 7, calling for witnesses from the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to appear before the Committee on Thursday, November 24, 2005.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House is adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.