Whitehorse , Yukon
Thursday, May 18, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of International Museums Day
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed my pleasure to rise on behalf of all members of the Legislature to pay tribute to International Museums Day. Each year, International Museums Day is celebrated around the world in recognition of museums, important globally as a means of cultural exchange, enrichment of culture and development of mutual understanding, cooperation and peace among people.
Yukon is truly fortunate in the diversity of museums, interpretive and First Nation cultural heritage centres in this territory. Each of these institutions tells the stories of the Yukon and the many things that have shaped the Yukon and its people, from our diverse culture, First Nations heritage, Yukon's natural history, the Klondike Gold Rush, the building of the Alaska Highway and other transportation history.
These institutions also make a significant contribution to our economy. They provide over 100 jobs in Yukon communities and help to diversify and sustain our economy, generating millions of dollars every year.
Museums are also a big part of our visitor experience. According to the 2004 visitor exit survey, 125,000 people visited heritage attractions in the Yukon . The survey further revealed that 58 percent of tourists visited a museum or heritage site, making heritage attractions the third most popular visitor activity.
The Yukon government recognizes the social and economic importance of preserving our history and culture throughout the Yukon . In total, $1.5 million in Yukon government funding, through the Department of Tourism and Culture, will be provided to Yukon's museums, interpretive and First Nation cultural heritage centres in this fiscal year.
New initiatives include $500,000 toward the expansion of the MacBride Museum and $200,000 in funding for projects to be identified by the museum community.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of events being held today in celebration of International Museums Day, which include all-day free admission at the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre. At 7:00 tonight, the Beringia Centre will be unveiling the last great ice age exhibit and ice age gallery, featuring the good work of George Rinaldino Teichmann. In partnership with the Yukon Historical and Museums Association, we will also be launching a new Web site, featuring Yukon's museums, interpretive and cultural centres.
At 6:00 tonight I will also be at the MacBride Museum to officially open the new natural world and children's discovery zone exhibits that have received the support of the Yukon government's community development fund. This exhibit will be a wonderful new learning experience for children.
Yukon Historical and Museums Association will also be offering free tours again this year. The Old Log Church Museum will also be offering free admission. The Yukon Transportation Museum will be featuring a number of activities for the whole family to enjoy, and it is a great day to ride the Whitehorse waterfront trolley.
International Museums Day is an opportunity for residents of Yukon to celebrate our outstanding museums and to recognize the importance of these learning centres to our community.
This summer I encourage all Yukoners to visit a museum, an interpretive centre in our community or cultural heritage centres throughout the Yukon to experience our history and culture. Show these important institutions and the many volunteers who help run these institutions that we value and support their efforts to preserve our culture, our natural world and our past accomplishments.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of Yukon Mining and Geology Week
Hon. Mr. Lang: I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in recognizing Yukon Mining and Geology Week. Mining and Geology Week takes place in the Yukon this year from May 23 to 27. Mining and geology play an important role in our everyday lives and have influenced our history, culture and economy in many positive ways. Yukoners are excited with the rejuvenation of our mining sector and we are looking forward to new hard rock mine developments that will lead to providing numerous benefits to the Yukon Territory .
This year the International Gold Show in Dawson City on May 19 will kick off Mining and Geology Week. Considering the important role that Dawson miners played in our economy, it is an ideal setting for this event.
As usual, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is hosting Mining and Geology Week in partnership with the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Klondike Placer Miners Association. A host of activities and contests are planned to celebrate this important week, including a chance in all of the Yukon communities to enter the poster or model contest for great prizes, all provided by community sponsors to show how mining or geology affect our everyday lives. At the Watson Lake Visitor Centre, May 24 to 25, events will include gold panning, soapstone carving, a mock field camp, a mapping exercise, a rock and mineral display and a contest for rock and gemstone kits.
At the Elijah Smith Building on Main Street in Whitehorse from May 24 to 27, events will include rock displays, poster displays -including the contest entries - a presentation on the rock cycle, and video animation on plate boundaries and glacier events. It will be open on Saturdays so that everyone can have a chance to vote for the contest entries. I encourage everyone to participate this year in Mining and Geology Week.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Hardy:I ask the Assembly to join me in welcoming Jorn Meier, vice-president of the Klondike Visitors Association and former president of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Returns or documents for tabling.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the big game outfitting land application policy. On the bottom it is dated October 6, 2005. This was a policy that was adopted by the government.
I also have for tabling the big game outfitting land application policy. On the bottom it is dated April 11. This is the present policy that the government is using. It did not go through any public consultation.
Speaker: Comments are not necessary for tabling documents. You just table the documents, please.
Are there any further 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
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to implement the Yukon museums strategy in partnership with the heritage community encompassing museums, First Nation heritage/cultural centres and interpretive centres to ensure the continued growth and development of museums in the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Party government no longer enjoys the confidence of this House due to its failure to fulfill major commitments such as the Children's Act review, education reform, the Workers' Compensation Act review, effective whistle-blower protection legislation, an independent commission of citizens to hold public consultations on electoral reform, an all-party standing committee to oversee Yukon government's appointments to governments, boards and committees, a process of establishing protected areas that strikes a balance between environmental protection and responsible development, and numerous other commitments made to the Yukon people, both before and after forming government.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
Speaker: Before the House proceeds to Question Period, the Chair would like to make a statement about events that occurred during yesterday's Question Period. At that time, both the leader of the official opposition and the Premier made comments that questioned the ethical behaviour of the other. The Chair has at times during this sitting cautioned members about personalizing this debate. This leads to discord as happened during Question Period yesterday.
The Chair will also remind members of a ruling given to this House on May 4, 2006 . At that time, the Chair informed members that it is not in order to question the ethics of other members. If members wish to discuss ethics, they should do so in the context of a debate on a bill or a motion that addresses that issue. In any other context, a negative reflection on a member's ethics will be considered out of order.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Outfitter concessions
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, an outfitter buys the right to provide a guided hunt for Yukon big game animals. The business has the right to provide guided hunts in a specific area known as a concession. To ensure the comfort of their hunters, outfitters have built cabins, lodges, airstrips and base camps and outposts in their concessions. They do not own or lease the land that these structures are built upon. The concession they bought - and they earn revenue on - was for hunting the resources in the area only. Under the big game outfitting land application policy, an outfitter can now come to the government and apply for the right to lease the land they built these structures on.
Mr. Speaker, last winter, an individual who built a cabin on land in Yukon wilderness was unceremoniously thrown off the land and the cabin destroyed. He didn't own that land or lease it any more than the outfitters do. How is it fair that an outfitter can apply for the land for his lodge, yet the average individual cannot?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This parallel that the Member for Porter Creek South is drawing is completely inconsistent with the facts of this particular area. The member is correct that outfitters have a concession and the right to harvest game, as set down in terms of the quota, the number of animals they can take. However, they have investments on the ground and the policy, which is a long-standing process - the issue of it being new is also incorrect - is not new. It is a work in progress that started years ago under DIAND. It does not provide title to the land. Applications are not guarantees of any particular site. It must be consistent with what the parameters of the policy dictate. It is to focus on pre-existing sites. These are also similar to what is happening on traplines today, in terms of this type of tenure - we will term it “tenure.” The Member for Porter Creek South is drawing a parallel that is inconsistent with the issue of the big game outfitter policy.
Ms. Duncan: Wilderness tourism businesses are licensed to guide people in a variety of back country activities - everything from river rafting to photographic safaris - everything but hunting. The terms and conditions of their licences require low-impact camping. In other words, in support of this business, the wilderness tourism operator, unlike an outfitter - both are using the same wilderness - cannot build a camp and then apply for land under the government's policy.
Does the Premier believe that the land application policy, as it is written, is fair to wilderness tourism operators? Why is there a policy for only big game outfitters to apply for land?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member is incorrect. There are a number of policies with respect to use and access of the land base here in the Yukon Territory, but I am glad that the official opposition is demonstrating their view of the outfitting industry and trying to create conflict between wilderness tourism and outfitting.
The issue here is very important because under the existing policy that was transferred by the federal government, it was deemed interim because there are other matters that must be addressed. Now that we are masters in our own house vis-à-vis devolution of April 2003, we have to address issues like wilderness tourism and legitimizing what they do on the land base also, just like this policy does for the outfitting industry.
Ms. Duncan: Under this one-off land application policy, big game outfitters can apply for the land they have built cabins on in the past, yet the average individual who has built a cabin in the Yukon wilderness is treated differently.
Under the land application policy, big game outfitters can apply for the land camps are built on; yet, according to other rules, wilderness tour operators are not even allowed to build these types of camps, let alone apply for the land. One-off policy developments like this process for one private sector group alone aren't fair to all concerned. The government is picking winners and losers in a lottery for one of Yukon's most precious resources - cabins in the wilderness - and it seems only some Yukon businesses need apply.
How is the policy fair to all Yukon businesses and fair to all Yukoners who want to apply for land at their favourite wilderness camping spot?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That's what this is about: legitimizing who owns what and who can use what on the land base. That is not happening. There are all kinds of conflicts now, as the member points out, with respect to the utilization of structures out in the wilderness or structures on the land base.
The member is entirely correct that this is a one-off and that this is for one industry only. This policy provides clarity for all use on the land base. To suggest that the outfitting industry, after decades of involvement in the Yukon Territory and its economy and overall fabric, as stewards of the land, is somehow now an industry we don't want here is something this government will never, ever support. We'll support the outfitting industry, as we are with the policy. We'll support mining, as we do with the policies for mining. We're going to support wilderness tourism, as we have already. Look at the structures out there on the Yukon land base today that are totally specific to tourism.
I can't come up with any more facts for the member opposite, given the time I have, but there are hundreds of them that prove the member entirely wrong.
Question re: Outfitter concessions
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, or the Premier. The Premier responded to questions regarding the policy surrounding the granting of tenure for Crown land. I asked for an opportunity for the public to have input into what was happening with the outfitters in particular, and land use in general. The Premier replied, and I quote from Hansard, “There have been consultations that went on extensively with long lists of representative groups and First Nations.”
My research turned up only one such meeting, and that was at the request of a First Nation - a meeting that was held in Carmacks on December 11, 2002 , on the same outfitter policy issue. That was an information session, not consultation.
Can the Premier provide details of what was included in “consultations that went on extensively with long lists of representatives and First Nations”?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to encourage the official opposition to do a little more work before they bring questions into the Legislature. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has just made claim that there was only one meeting. I have before me minutes from a meeting in the Alpine Bakery, April 2002; Fireside Room, Yukon Inn, May 2002; Conference Room, High Country Inn, November 28, 2002; Heritage Hall, Carmacks, December 2002. There's a long list of participants in these meetings. There's a tenure policy that dates back to federal jurisdiction that is years in the making, including forms of leases already being allocated by the federal government. Now the Yukon government is responsible.
Once again, this is proof positive that the members opposite are incorrect, although I'd like to use another term.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier doesn't know those were not consultation meetings. He should check them carefully. They were FTLAC meetings.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I note that in 1993 there was a proposal on the issue, which ended after little discussion in the process of being suspended. I also note that in 1998 the process was again suspended, and it was suspended because of lack of public support and lack of public consultation. You see, Mr. Speaker, there was little public input into the issue, which resulted in the process being halted.
Now, the key operating words here are “consultation with all Yukon people”, not on just this issue but on the bigger issue of land use policy and a policy that outfitters will have an integral part of. Will the Hon. Premier put an immediate halt to this present outfitting policy and allow all Yukoners to participate in a made-in-Yukon policy on land development and land acquisition - a policy we can all support, including the outfitters?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The short answer is, no, absolutely not. We are not going to reinvent the past. We are more concerned as a government to build the future.
Once again, though, the member has made assertions that are incorrect and I would encourage him to pick up the Funk and Wagnell Dictionary and look up “consult”. The meaning is pretty clear. All that has transpired with this issue is all about consultation, engagement with the public, First Nations, stakeholders, industry - all concerned.
Furthermore, these are third party interests on the land base. What does the Member for Mayo-Tatchun call 30 years of land claim negotiations, ensuring and establishing this certainty of third party interests on the land base? We couldn't do any more consultation on this.
Furthermore, this policy now allows the engagement through application for further consultation on the land base with respect to these applications. This has been so slow, it is like listening to corn grow in Iowa.
Question re: Beetle infestation
Mr. Cardiff: I won't comment on that.
I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. A great deal of time and effort went into developing a forest management plan in the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations near Haines Junction. A lot of thought was given about how to create sustainable jobs in the area by harvesting beetle-killed wood without harming the environment or damaging important wilderness values, including the region's tourism economy. But a month before the draft plan came out, the government issued a request for proposals to industry based on a cut of one million cubic metres. What analysis was used to come up with the one-million-cubic-metre figure and why did the government put out the RFP before releasing the draft management plan?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We worked with our partner, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, on the forest plan for the southwest Yukon. Of course he is right; we are putting one million cubic metres of beetle-killed wood out for harvesting. Proposals will be out until the middle of July, I think, but as far as when we put them out and how we came to the million-cubic-metre figure, I don't have that in front of me, Mr. Speaker. That was done by the capable people who were working on this forest plan.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didn't answer the question. He doesn't know.
We're all in favour of creating jobs in rural Yukon, and we support a value-added Yukon forest industry, but we have trouble with the government putting the cart before the horse. Tourism has been an economic mainstay in the Kluane region for a long time, and we need to ensure that logging doesn't destroy the scenic, heritage and ecological values that the tourism industry depends on. We also need to make sure that logging activities are compatible with the recommendations in the fire risk assessment report sponsored by the Village of Haines Junction and the Kluane National Park and Reserve and with the community's FireSmart objectives.
Will the minister take this proposal back to the drawing board so that these major concerns can be addressed, and will he take it back to the people who will be most affected?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That's exactly what this process was about. We have another responsibility to make sure the pristine wilderness doesn't burn down. That is a big responsibility for this government and also a big concern of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, a total partner in this whole proposal. So we have an issue, and the issue is managing the forest in the southwest Yukon . We're doing it in partnership with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and we're moving forward in doing just that.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister should read the letters that are coming across his desk. A million cubic metres is a lot of wood. Even if it is harvested over 10 years, we don't have any sawmills in the Yukon at present that can process that volume of timber. There are mills in northern B.C. that can, but why would we here in the Yukon export jobs and training opportunities outside the Yukon? Besides, B.C. has a huge volume of beetle-killed wood that will keep those mills busy. If we want to create jobs in the Yukon that are going to last, we need to address the capacity issue.
If this proposed cut in the Kluane area does go ahead, what assurances can the minister provide that there will be benefits of value-added processing that will stay here in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the letters that cross my desk, I have had one letter questioning this decision - one letter from a concerned individual in Haines Junction. The rest of the communication has been very positive.
The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Yukon government are maximizing the work benefits that that forest can supply to the area. We are putting out the wood, we are looking for interest, and we are certainly going to work with industry to get the job done. There is an overabundance of beetle-killed wood there. There is a responsibility for us as Yukoners to address the issue, and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are very concerned. We as a government are concerned, and the opportunity is there to harvest the timber and do two things: put Yukoners to work and minimize the impact of the beetle kill in that area of the Yukon.
Question re: Education reform
Mrs. Peter: Experiential education programs, such as ACES, experiential science and the MAD program, have been very successful in Whitehorse . Several speakers at the education forum our caucus recently hosted strongly endorse these programs. Experiential learning works because it is based on real life experiences. However, the location of the programs and how students are picked present real barriers to many worthwhile candidates. The selection process doesn't take into consideration the unique situation and psychology of many rural First Nation students.
Does the minister plan to expand these highly successful programs into rural Yukon to include more First Nation traditional content and to open them up so more rural and First Nation students can benefit from them?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess the ideal situation would be for this kind of program to exist in every community in the Yukon ; however, that's not the case, as of today. I believe this is something that has not been brought to my attention by the department, or a request for it.
Mrs. Peter: These issues are outstanding. Academic graduation rates from Yukon high schools are the third lowest in Canada. Many students are being lost along the way. One alternate program for dropouts, as good as it is, won't solve the problem.
Currently, graduation rates are calculated by counting the number of those eligible to graduate who actually do. We need to know more about when and why students are dropping out. What are the numbers? What does it mean to the school system? If we want to fix the problem, we need to identify where the problem exists.
Is the minister concerned enough about this issue to implement a system of tracking individual students from kindergarten to graduation to determine the reasons why students are dropping out?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for this question, because it is very important. We know right across the Yukon that there are several reasons why a student may drop out of school; however, the tracking is not there. Mr. Speaker, that is one of the main reasons why this government embarked upon the education reform process. That is to try to identify any issues that are barriers and create stumbling blocks within the education system.
Some of the things the government has taken on to try to address these issues is by putting $375,000 into a home tutor program; the school cultural activities, again, another $305,000; the student grants, $300,000. Mr. Speaker, the government is trying very hard to address these issues. The Individual Learning Centre is another very important step in trying to address some of this issue. Mr. Speaker, this problem has existed in the territory as long as I've been around, which is over 40 years.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, even among graduates, there are often serious problems in terms of literacy and numeracy skills. Standardized testing hasn't solved those problems. Meanwhile, valuable resources that are already on the front line seem to be ignored when it comes to designing education policy. Teachers and special assistants deal every day with children who are potential dropouts. Parents struggle along with their children who are having trouble learning. Students themselves have insights that should be tapped. Our education forum stressed that the whole community needs to be involved in education to make it successful. How is this minister encouraging teachers, parents, students and community members to help identify causes and come up with solutions to the problems in our schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated previously, I believe one of the main functions of addressing this very issue is to have a territory-wide consultation process through education reform, which is going to identify some of the issues that the member is talking about - dropout rates. What can be done differently in the system? That's a question that has to be answered. It's easy to talk and criticize and throw rocks from outside but, once you do get inside the house, you have to look for solutions. That's what we're doing. We are finding solutions.
Question re: Tourism brand
Mr. Jenkins: The decision of the Minister of Tourism to accept a change in Yukon branding without question and justify that decision on the amount of money spent on developing the initiative reminds me of the Canadian long-gun registry, which became larger than life when the amount of money misspent on the gun registry was offered as a reason for maintaining that registry.
Economists have a name for this type of argument. It is called “sunk-cost fallacy.” To acknowledge sunk costs and then change course need not be an admission of foolishness or even failure but one where the minister can demonstrate true leadership. My question to the minister is this: will the minister review her total buy-in of this highly questionable Yukon brand before the sunk costs are out of line, similar to the Canadian long-gun registry?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have spoken about this issue on a number of occasions with the Member for Klondike, and I'm pleased to respond again with respect to the determination and research behind the development of the Yukon tourism brand strategy, the first-ever brand strategy that has been implemented and developed in the Yukon Territory.
It culminated, first of all, with 10 months of research, which incorporated discussions, surveys, questionnaires and a great degree of consultation among our key stakeholders in the Yukon as well as in our key international markets, as well as North America . From those discussions evolved a number of different options for brands, one of which was the “Larger than Life” brand strategy.
From there, we were able to go out and focus-test the “Larger than Life” brand and, from there, we received overwhelming support for it.
Mr. Speaker, this was identified as the number one priority among the senior marketing committee, and we are very pleased to deliver.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the amount of federal dollars that flow into the Yukon , there are some who would brand the Yukon as “sunk-cost fallacy land”. Branding is very important. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it's extremely important, and the minister has missed the objectives of branding.
Is it the Minister of Tourism and Culture's intention to downplay the Yukon visitor industry with a poor brand, in order to have Yukon created into one big park, so the Department of Tourism and Culture can become just the keeper of the gates?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I don't even know where to begin with a question like that, but I will try my very best to respond.
Again, 10 months of solid research - research that we rely upon from experts in the field that incorporated the advice that came forth from five different companies, three of which were from the Yukon. We think that they hold a great degree of expertise, and we are very fortunate to have that expertise right in the Yukon. We relied upon that expertise, and it is also interesting to note that several other jurisdictions in the country are, as we speak, reviewing their brands as well.
In addition, we have ensured that our brand strategy also complements the efforts of the Canadian Tourism Commission, that it is actually complementary, it is in keeping with the another and it has been confirmed - confirmed, I might add, through a great amount of research that has been conducted.
We are very pleased to promote tourism in the Yukon. Tourism is a serious business; it is one that generates millions of dollars of business in the territory, and it is one where our government has taken the initiative to listen to industry, to take the lead of industry, and this was identified as the number one priority.
Mr. Jenkins: Let me help the minister here. Let's look at a few things the government could be doing: unlock the campground gates as soon as possible; put the ferries into operation as soon as possible; maintain government services such as the road reports seven days a week. These are a few of the initiatives government could be doing to enhance our visitor industry but sadly they are not being done.
Why will the Minister of Tourism and Culture not insist that the Yukon brand be recognized both nationally and internationally, as a start, and how many dollars will the Department of Tourism and Culture be spending to attempt to get the new brand's profile advanced before the next Minister of Tourism and Culture is forced to discard this brand and start all over again?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, hopefully that Minister of Tourism won't be the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Speaker, unlike the Member for Klondike, we do take the initiative to listen to industry. We take the lead from industry, and we actually follow the research and the results that have occurred as a result of the goodwill and the good initiative of industry. Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we have invested millions of dollars. In fact, this year alone, we'll be investing over $8 million worth of tourism marketing dollars through the Department of Tourism and Culture. It includes scenic drives, which will assist the Member for Klondike in marketing his area of the territory. It includes dollars for conventions, meetings and incentive travel. It includes money for tourism cooperative marketing - $500,000. It includes the development and the full implementation of the tourism brand “Larger than Life”, one which I support and one that the industry supports 100 percent. In fact, I have letters to back it up, and I would be very pleased to send them over to the Member for Klondike.
We will be incorporating and executing the “Larger than Life” marketing campaign brand strategy in all our campaigns commencing here on out. We will also be working with other departments like the Department of Health and Social Services to further attract health care professionals in our territory, among other efforts.
Question re: Outfitter concessions
Mr. Mitchell: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Premier on this government's decision to grant special rights to outfitters - rights that no one else in the Yukon is even allowed to apply for. I'm talking, of course, about the one-off policy that has been written for outfitters by this government. I understand this big game outfitting policy was a big topic of discussion at the Yukon First Nation chiefs leadership meetings that are taking place in Whitehorse this week. Yesterday, representatives of the Yukon government got an earful about this policy from First Nation chiefs. They are not happy. Has the Premier met with First Nation chiefs to discuss their concerns about this unprecedented land giveaway?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will try not to take licence with the official opposition, who are becoming a very large target on this issue, with exposing their position of how they view the outfitting industry, certainty on the land base through land claims, protection of third party interests, the difference between jurisdictions - I'm getting the feeling the members opposite would be looking toward diluting jurisdiction, both First Nation and public government.
I will not take that licence and will simply say I meet with First Nation chiefs on all matters, including this one. The officials were there by agreement between the Grand Chief and me to provide a presentation on this whole area. It started with what the policy is not, and much of what the members opposite continue to articulate in this Assembly is what the policy is not.
It is the same question from the leader of the official opposition and his colleagues, which we've been listening to for days - same answer from the government side.
Mr. Mitchell: Same non-answer, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Party government has decided on its way out the door to give a parting gift to Yukon outfitters. They're giving them rights to land that no -
Speaker: Order. Would one think there might be an implication of government malfeasance in that statement? I'd ask the honourable member not to use that terminology. You have the floor.
Mr. Mitchell: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
They are providing rights to land that no other Yukoner can get. We have asked repeatedly that the government do a full and proper public consultation before proceeding with this land giveaway and the Premier has refused. Yesterday, Yukon First Nation chiefs met to discuss this issue, and they are not happy. They want the government to put the brakes on this policy until it has received a full and proper public hearing. The Premier talks about working in partnership with First Nations; it's time to put those words into action.
Will he agree to put this on hold, as requested by First Nations, until their concerns have been addressed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Same question, same answer. We have already answered that. I find with interest the member alluding to First Nations not being happy. I agree, they are not happy with the approach the official opposition is taking on a number of matters, especially when it comes to the government-to-government relationship and the members' look backward in designing some sort of department within government, reducing the significance of First Nation government-to-government relationships. This government will keep it at the highest level - Executive Council Office and the Premier's office.
With respect to partnership, I want the member to respond to the First Nations and the public: what does he think education reform is? Correctional reform? The Children's Act review, which is ongoing? Joint investment plans for the northern strategy? The targeted investment program? And, for now, the new northern housing trust? And much more - the Co-operation in Governance Act and the Yukon forum?
Another interesting item is that we are jointly going to develop amendments to the Children's Act in this territory. I ask the member: what does he think about that partnership?
Mr. Mitchell: I think First Nations are looking to see this government walk the walk, not just talk the talk. That's what I think.
The Yukon Party government is treating the outfitting industry differently. They are giving special rights to land that ordinary Yukoners can't get. Many, many Yukoners are upset about this double standard, and that includes First Nation leaders.
At the CYFN leadership meeting yesterday, they told the government what they thought of the new policy and they asked the government to take it back to the drawing board. Will the Yukon Party government drop this my-way-or-the-highway approach to this issue and work cooperatively with First Nation leaders to address their concerns?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would suggest the member opposite reconsider, refocus and recognize what the official opposition is actually representing here. The statements are entirely incorrect. This is not special treatment for anybody on the land base. Furthermore, how can the member suggest something like that when, after 30 years of land claims and the processes therein, these areas were provided third party interests on the land base and were protected throughout the course of negotiations and, in agreements, these third party interests are absolute?
All we're doing is following through with the policy that started years ago. These are not special rights. In fact, I think the member opposite does not recognize what rights on the land base are all about. These are rights that should be there. We support the outfitting industry; we support mining; we support other resource and land access. That's what this government does; it's obvious the official opposition doesn't.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, Member for Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have two points of order. Number one, at the beginning of Question Period today, you instructed us not to personalize debate and Standing Order 19(g), I believe it is, also suggests not imputing motives.
The Premier has repeatedly stood up today and said the official opposition has taken a position that we don't support a particular business or take some action or another. That is imputing motives, Mr. Speaker, and I would ask that you review the Blues in that instance.
Speaker: On the point of order, I'll review the Blues.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan: The time for introduction of visitors has passed, and I was unable to introduce Mr. Sullivan's class from Porter Creek . I would appreciate the opportunity to reflect in Hansard that Mr. Sullivan again made the effort to bring Porter Creek Secondary School students to the Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We'll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07. The department currently under debate is the Department of Health and Social Services. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute break.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 20 - First Appropriation Act, 2006-07 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We will continue now with Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, the Department of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank the members opposite for the continued debate on the Department of Health and Social Services' budget. I will briefly address and summarize a few of the priorities that are within the department in the 2006-07 fiscal year.
This includes moving forward on priorities such as the health human resource strategy for which we have allocated $12.7 million over the next five years with the goal of ensuring Yukoners' access to health care professionals. The first area we will be rolling out under this strategy will be addressing access to family physicians through two components of the program - one being debt repayment in exchange for years of service, which will be offered to graduates from any Canadian medical school. The second component will be a bursary to assist Yukon students in attending medical school. Again, there will be a requirement for a commitment to return to the territory and provide service.
Also, in that same area, the health human resource strategy is allocated under the territorial health access fund for which a total of $21.6 million is allocated over a period of five years. The territorial health access fund is funding we received from the federal government following the efforts of our Premier and the premiers of Northwest Territories and Nunavut in laying out to the federal government the need for base funding due the inadequacy of per capita funding arrangements to address our needs north of 60 due to our large jurisdictions and spread-out populations.
Other areas that we are addressing under the territorial health access funding include the following: improving safety through measures such as emergency preparedness planning and risk-management quality assurance through improvements to policies and practices; enhancing dental health services available, particularly within communities; improving supports for mental health at a community level, including increasing counselling and increased housing supports; early identification focused on mental health to identify individuals and provide them with assistance in a timely fashion; improved supports for patients with tuberculosis with the intent of improving patient outcomes; and other community and First Nation supports in areas such as diabetes. There will also be a focus on planning and implementation of services at the community level for palliative care, and for that we have allocated $1.2 million over the next five years.
There is also implementation of plans for support for dual-diagnosed clients who have, for example, an addiction and mental health problems. That will include case management assistance and support for health care delivery to them.
Also, in the area of healthy living and health promotion, we have allocated some $2.1 million over the next five years to focus on campaigns and assistance in the area of healthy living/healthy eating, including anti-smoking campaigns and assistance to help people break their addictions.
Mr. Chair, other areas of priority within the department for this coming year include the medical travel fund, which is provided at the rate of $1.6 million per year over the next five years. We will be using the medical travel fund to do several things, one being that we will increase the support provided to Yukoners travelling outside the territory for medical treatment from the current level of $30 per day, effective on the fourth day out of territory, to a new level of $75 per day, effective on the second day outside of the territory.
This change will be effective on July 1, as will the increased support to Yukoners travelling within the territory for services such as specialist services. The travel subsidy within the territory has previously been at a rate of 18.5 cents per kilometre. It will be increased to 30 cents per kilometre. For the first time, it will be provided to Yukoners living in rural areas who live outside of a community.
Additionally, under this medical travel fund, there is an initiative through which we will be enhancing the supports available within the areas of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to provide coordination services and assist Yukoners who are outside the territory, particularly those who do not have a member of the family or a friend travelling with them.
This assistance will be provided to help them make sense of the appointments and areas within the city. It can be very confusing and a somewhat harrowing experience for an individual who may be in a significant amount of pain while they're outside seeking medical treatment, to try to make sense of where they have to go within a city. We are going to provide that support to them, to have someone assist them and organize their travel arrangements within those areas while they are in those cities seeking medical treatment.
Additional priorities within this fiscal year include moving forward with the planning for expanding our continuing care capabilities. $100,000 is allocated in the budget for planning for new facilities for continuing care. This will also connect with the review that has been done with regard to the Thomson Centre. We hope to have the Thomson Centre at a stage where we can make a decision in about a month's time on what the usage of it will be in the coming years. Repairs are not quite complete on that facility, but they are intended to be completed within this construction season. We will once again have the Thomson Centre back into service and, for the first time in its history, it will meet building safety codes.
There's also $50,000 in this year's budget for planning to increase the housing supports for people with mental health issues. As I also touched upon before, we have additional supports outside of the territorial health access fund for moving forward and addressing issues related to palliative care.
I would also like to take this time to point out to members opposite that the Yukon has a very good quality of health coverage in comparison with many jurisdictions. I note a review that was done on Yukon health services by the Canadian Snowbird Association, which they provided in their Canadian traveller's report card on government policy and practice within Canada. They gave the Yukon an A rating, including A-plus in two areas. This is related to people who are travelling outside of Canada to other jurisdictions, and the main focus of the Snowbird Association in this report is informing its members on the issues they may have to face if they travel outside of their home jurisdiction to other parts of Canada or to the United States or other countries, with regard to their health coverage and its continuation.
With regard to preservation of health coverage for frequent travellers, they have given the Yukon an A-plus rating noting that, while Yukoners must normally be present in the territory to qualify for health benefits, residents who are not absent for longer than 12 consecutive months can still have coverage if they complete a temporary-absence form to ensure health coverage, providing residents of the Yukon greater freedom to travel than anywhere else in Canada, except for Nunavut, which has an equivalent rule.
With regard to emergency health care coverage when travelling, Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions that fulfills the portability requirements under sub-paragraph 11.(1)(b)(ii) of the Canada Health Act. The territory reimburses $1,297 per day for emergency in-patient services required by travellers while out of the country. In addition, the Yukon reimburses emergency outpatient hospital services at a rate of $158 per day, which is the average daily rate for in-province service in other jurisdictions. Emergency physician services are reimbursed at Yukon rates.
Again, this is an A-plus rating from the Canadian Snowbird Association. I would point out to the members opposite that one of the reasons I am raising this issue and identifying it is because these are changes that have been implemented under our government and we are pleased that we've been able to enhance the supports available to Yukoners.
Our primary goal and intent with regard to health care and social services is maintaining and enhancing the services that are available to Yukoners. We recognize the challenges in the years to come, particularly with regard to issues such as health professionals retiring. I have noted before in the House that the average age of nurses within the Yukon is 47 years. We are anticipating a number of them retiring within the next five to 10 years. We are committed, through measures such as our health human resources strategy, to planning for coming shortages and addressing current needs.
I understand I am out of time. I thank members for their attention.
Mr. Hardy: Now, that was nice of the minister to go back and start all over again, but we really didn't need it; we've heard that already. We left off talking about tobacco addictions yesterday, and I would appreciate it if the minister can stay on track because it would help the debate a lot.
There was one area that I am just going to touch on and then I'm going to start touching on a lot of the others.
A report that came out that I was referring to yesterday said that in 2002 an estimated total of 37,209 Canadians died from tobacco use - 37,000 - accounting for 16.6 percent of all deaths in Canada that year, and of course cancer was the leading cause of death at 17,000. In relation to that, 4,258 deaths were attributed to alcohol, which accounts for 1.9 percent. It really does point to a serious question: if a government werevery serious about health, they would take a serious look at the addictions and how we can prevent or reduce as much as possible tobacco consumption and they would consider tobacco legislation in this territory. However, we do know the position of this government and they are not willing to do this at all.
There are other addictions that have to be considered - gambling addictions. I don't know what the government is doing regarding gambling additions. That is getting to be a very serious problem within our communities and something that needs to be addressed. Obesity may not be an addiction, but this minister has talked about it being almost a larger problem than tobacco use, and possibly there is some merit in that position. It is actually considered an epidemic in Canada now, and there are some serious concerns. What is this government doing in relation to that? Do we still allow a large degree of junk food - and we know what junk food is - to be sold in schools? Is that acceptable? Is the curriculum in school designed to help promote healthy lifestyles? Are children able to participate in physical activities to enhance healthy lifestyles? Those are questions that need to be answered. I'm not sure. Maybe those questions are more for the Department of Education, and when we get to the Department of Education we might bring those up. However, it is a health issue.
What are our plans for an avian flu outbreak or any pandemic outbreak? How much does the public actually know? I do know that there has been a fair amount of preparation done within some departments and over at the hospital with the professionals, but how much does our public actually know, and what do they know about where to go if they are seeking information? What can they do for themselves? Do they have the knowledge? Are they comfortable in knowing that we are prepared to deal with something like that? I'm not sure, in talking to many people within my riding - my constituents - if that knowledge and information is available, and that's a shame, because if something like this ever did happen, that would be pointed directly at a government failing to plan properly.
Now, there have been a lot of discussions over the last 20-some days regarding nurses and issues surrounding them. Of course, the collaborative clinic has been discussed. I believe that the minister referred to it a couple of days ago.
I just want to make sure that that stays in the forefront - that worked with the nurses in this regard and other professionals and para-professionals to address some of the shortages we face in that area. There are many other issues and many other areas in this department. This department really deserves a lot more debate. It is a massive department. It has so many different areas.
I'm going to list some of them. It's really quite astounding when you look at how deep and involved this department is and how much, in so many different ways, it affects people's daily lives - if not daily, then weekly. It's no wonder people care so much.
Family and children's services - there are lots of issues there. In family services and child protection services - we have touched on some of those and we've talked a lot about the Children's Act and what's happening there. From our position, the third party, we have talked a lot about what can be done now. We believe some things can be done. We've been disappointed that this minister has not been willing to move on that.
In the adoption services area there are issues that need to be addressed. Children in care - where do we start with that? There are serious issues, ranging from children from the communities being put into foster homes in Whitehorse - how many if that happens? Are they moved out of the community into another community? Those are questions that need to be looked at.
Fostering services - how long a child remains in foster homes. Special supports for training and respite for foster homes - many questions. Early childhood and prevention services - there's a working group that's looking at how to resolve a dispute over contracts. Where are we at with that and what's happening around that?
You move on to the healthy families program - the minister has mentioned this a few times. Obviously, the number of families that are served is steadily increasing. Do we have the capacity to deal with that? Youth justice - we can go on for hours and hours debating and discussing the issues surrounding youth justice.
Children's assessment and treatment services - how are these services provided to the communities? How is outreach? What is the success? How is it measured? There are many questions.
Alcohol and drug services is a huge area that affects so many people's lives, either directly or indirectly, and it has to be considered - whether it is right from treatment centres, ideas that have brought forward by First Nations in regard to treatment centres, regional treatment centres, group programs for families, relationships that alcohol and drug services has with Alanon, AA, NA, GamAnon. Are they up and running or do they exist? What training is available?
I have already asked questions around the substance abuse action plan and how much of that money is earmarked for what.
The prescription drug overuse problem - we've talked about that in the past. I would like to have seen something addressing that in this budget. There is still nothing happening there.
Fetal alcohol syndrome and residential support - what about that? There is an idea out there of an intentional community. I think it's a very, very good idea. Is the minister aware of that kind of idea and has he or his department been exploring that?
How about the FASD five-step plan - where are we at on that? How far along are we on that? The telehealth pilot project - I've heard really good things about the telehealth pilot project and I applaud the work that is being done in that area. It's one of those things that maybe the minister may have wanted to expand on a little bit, but I have heard some good reports about it.
Adult service units, the financial services - these are social issues. These are another side we always have to look at because it is the department not just of health, but of social services.
I have already talked about social assistance and why it hasn't been increased in 15 years. I've asked for the food allowance - if one thing is looked at, at least look at the food allowance. Anti-poverty strategy - the need around that. Those issues are very important to be looked at. We can't ignore those and we can't just focus on one or two things in a department or when the minister stands up and talks.
What services are available for disabled people? Is there a difference between services in Whitehorse and rural communities? If so, why, and maybe that can be explained.
Seniors facilities throughout the Yukon - there is a growing demand without a doubt, not just in Haines Junction, not just in Teslin, not just in Watson Lake , not just in Dawson or Whitehorse. Many people are recognizing that seniors may need a facility. I'm not talking about a multi-care facility to that extent, possibly, even though we could look at regional models. Maybe the minister could expand on that. But maybe just a residence, because some of the homes and conditions our seniors, our elders, are living in as they age may not be adequate for them any more. To have a residence in some of these communities would be good. I don't think there is a community out there that would say no to something like that. That has been brought up to me in my travels around the Yukon .
Home care - we've already talked about that and I won't go into that any more. There are lots of issues around that.
Macaulay Lodge, Copper Ridge, McDonald Lodge - we've expanded and talked more about that.
Insured health and hearing services - now there are questions around that. Has the department researched or considered establishing a residence similar to the one in Edmonton that the Northwest Territories has?
And in Ottawa , as well, there's the LARGA for N.W.T. patients - have we considered that as an option, a residence for something like that? Have we looked at what the other northern territories are doing?
Again, I've talked about prescription drugs, not just the fact that many people are addicted to them, but also the cost of them. They're adding a substantial amount of money to this budget. Have we looked at ways of getting generic prescriptions and trying to reduce these costs?
What hearing services are available? What testing is done?
There's an interesting thing. I've heard from some mothers talking about having to pay now to get their children's eyes tested. At one time and when I went to school, that was done in the schools. Somebody would come in and do the eye testing. Of course, if there were an identified problem, then they would go to the optometrist and that could be dealt with. It's not cheap to get your eyes tested. It's not cheap for a single mother who may be a working mother but doesn't have a lot at the end of the day to have two or three children and have their eyes tested on a regular basis. It was free at one time. It doesn't seem to be now. Maybe it is. Maybe this person wasn't aware that there was a way to get that funding back.
There's an interesting thing. I walked here today, and I'm sure everybody has seen it. There are a lot of people walking around with little headphones on, and you wonder about that - the constant noise in the ears, especially given the loudness that it is often played at, when you can hear what's being played 10 or 15 feet away. Can you imagine when it's directly into the ears? And it's recognized now that the hearing problems are starting to arise out of what they call iPods and so on. I don't think any government wants to be dealing with very severe hearing loss because of a situation like that. So is the government looking at - in the schools, anyway, with the young ones - education and at least trying to address that problem before it becomes a serious detriment to a person's life?
Mental health services - we've talked about some of those issues already. We've covered dental health. Just understanding this department is quite amazing.
We've touched on environmental health.
Health promotion unit, tobacco reduction programs, obesity in schools - which is considered an epidemic. “Drop the pop” is another one of these little programs, but is that as far as we go or is that good enough? The minister can elaborate. Maybe there's more of a plan down the road. I know he stood up and talked about this as a very serious issue, so I would assume there would be a serious approach to that program.
Communicable disease control - I already mentioned at the beginning about what preparations are in place.
We've been talking about community nursing now for quite a few days.
Emergency medical services and ambulance services - there are three new ambulances in the budget, I believe. Where are they going? I don't think we are, but I hope we're not going to have the same debate we had a couple of years ago around the ambulances purchased. Where are they going? What is the style? Have they met the requirements of the ambulance workers and the concerns they had? Were they even consulted to make sure they could work with the ambulances and the ambulances weren't going to be a detriment to them?
Training - we've talked about the building.
Here's an interesting one: out-of-territory medevacs are estimated to be up four percent but the government claims that, because we employ more specialists, it would reduce the number of medevacs. I'm not sure how that jives. If we're employing more specialists, if we have more equipment here to do more testing but the medevacs continue to grow, what's the reasoning behind that? I thought the idea in moving in this direction was to reduce the medevacs.
We have already talked about the transfer of EMS to the Hospital Corporation and stuff like that.
Regional services - how many social workers are in the communities? Where are they? What positions are being filled? I see a lot of positions advertised. There is still the question around the Dawson one. Was that advertised already? If the minister can tell me if it was actually posted and if that positing is complete, or if it hasn't been posted, I would appreciate it. We have dealt with that a fair amount in Question Period.
Then we go into the recoveries and revenue. I know the minister gave out some good information already. A lot of that we can see within the budget. However, there are so many other areas around that - the breakdowns that have been requested by the Member for Kluane, which I think are pertinent, because it helps us in our debate and understanding of where the money is going. I think the minister should provide that kind of information on recoveries, revenues, transfers and all that stuff.
There is one we have raised time and time again, and that is the federal child tax benefit for Whitehorse and the regions, which totals $289,000. We know that the child tax benefit supplementary is clawed back from social assistance clients. Is the money that is clawed back given to the kids recreation fund? There is only $200,000 in the budget. Does all that money go to that? If not, where does the rest of the money go? How much is clawed back, and where does that money go? I guess that's the question I am asking.
I know I've put a lot on the plate. I do know that other people want to ask a few more questions in this department, so I did that in consideration of them. That would pretty well conclude my debate, even though I still feel that, unfortunately, we have limited time. I wish we didn't have closure, in the sense that we have fixed closure dates. I think that has been a mistake.
We should be able to continue debating until we have satisfied our questions and our interests in the budget as we historically used to be able to do. I have always found this to be a restriction, but there are four or five other departments that still need to come up, and we have to make sure that they at least get some attention, so that concludes my comments. If the minister would be so kind as to try to address some of those, I would appreciate it. If he can't address them today, I am quite open to having him send information over at a later date.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I hope the member will forgive me. I'll try to address all of that, but he rattled off quite a list and it can be somewhat difficult in a long stream to answer all of it. If I miss some of it, I hope he will remind me of that and I will be happy to address that at that point.
In answer to a point the member just raised regarding the kids recreation fund -he referred to it as being only $200,000 - I would remind the member opposite that this represents a $140,000 increase from its previous level of only $60,000, so it has significantly enhanced the ability to help out underprivileged children.
The member touched on the issue of smoking legislation. We did engage in a very lengthy debate on this topic yesterday, so I will only briefly touch on the issue and just note that the conclusion I thought we came to yesterday is that the member and I have different views on how to approach the topic and how to reach the end goal of seeing fewer people addicted to tobacco. As the member himself noted, most people who smoke have tried to quit at some point. The approach that we have taken is in believing that we are better to help people help themselves break their addition, that it is possible to break their addition and that increasing that support will help them do so, and that increasing the education to try to keep kids from ever being tempted to take it up in the first place under the misplaced idea that it is something cool to do is another effective component of that area.
Simply putting legislation in place that pushes the problem out of sight and out of mind and requires significant enforcement at significant cost, not to mention the significant court cost involved in fighting the Charter issues pertinent to this subject, is not the most effective expenditure of resources. We believe most smokers do want to quit, and we believe we can provide them more assistance in doing so and that that is the more effective solution at this time. Anti-smoking legislation is something that could be considered down the road but, obviously, we're not standing here today to table that bill.
With regard to pandemic planning the member referred to, I would like to make the member aware that we are planning a public education campaign related to preparing for a possible influenza pandemic and would note that influenza pandemics have occurred throughout human history, and that history and the review of epidemiologists is what gives us the greatest cause to believe one will occur at some point. It is not anything particularly due to the A/9H5M1 avian influenza strain that makes us think it will become a pandemic strain of influenza, it's simply that it's the most likely candidate for crossing the species barrier that has occurred in a number of years. It is usually through crossing the species barrier from an avian source that pandemic strains of influenza usually originate. What starts out as a pandemic influenza strain then becomes the common strain of flu we deal with on an annual basis.
The current flu strain that is common - the type A variety - is the strain that was the last one that caused the pandemic.
We are committed to doing the planning, as I mentioned. I was at the health ministers conference last weekend, which focused on preparing for this. We need to recognize the primary impact of a potential pandemic, whether it occurs within a year or 20 years from now or 100 years from now. The primary issues will be workplace absenteeism, economic impact and the fact that, as a society, we have become far more dependent, particularly within the Yukon and similar jurisdictions, on food supplies from other areas, and we are very dependent on the transportation network.
Workplace absenteeism within the transportation sector, within the distribution sector, could have an impact on the food supply if we do not do the planning for that. If the planning is done, there is capacity within the system to address the problem. We are committed to moving forward and doing so. We are working with other jurisdictions, including the federal government and the Government of Alberta, in doing the planning to be ready at such point as that should occur.
The suggestion has been made by our Emergency Measures Organization that people should have a stock of their own food and basic supplies on hand in the event of a power outage, a forest fire or a pandemic. This is something that is indeed a prudent measure. The government will certainly take the steps we can to ensure we are able to respond to needs in as timely a manner as possible. It is a prudent measure for people always to have some degree of ability to take care of themselves in the event of unanticipated emergencies.
I'll move on to other matters raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. The member referred to the suggestions of collaborative practice clinics, an interdisciplinary clinic. As I have stated several times for the member, it's a matter that we're very interested in. We recognize the success that has occurred in other jurisdictions that have implemented such things. There are also some challenges associated with that that we have to address. As I have stated before on the floor of the House, our primary concern is we want to have some more discussions with Yukon Medical Association, and we had hoped that they would have a level of comfort with such a thing before we would move in this area. It is something that the Yukon Registered Nurses Association in particular has been pushing forward, but there was a discussion on this that took place - I guess this would have been last weekend - with seven different professions involved in the discussions. I did have discussions actually just this morning with Yukon Advisory Committee on Nursing, which provided a bit of an update on that matter. But as the meeting was organized by the YRNA and representatives of six other professions, they advised me that they should probably have everyone in the room to provide a full discussion on the matter. I made the request that we set that up as soon as it meets their schedule and mine. It is an area that we're very interested in examining and making some determination on. We're quite committed to making improvements within health care delivery, and we want to do so in partnership with all the health professions that are involved in delivering care.
The member also touched on subjects such as children in care, child protection, adoptions and foster homes. Adoption and foster home placement is something that the department has been enhancing efforts on during the past two years. In working with First Nations if the child involved is one of their citizens, the department makes best efforts to inform the First Nation government and advise them of this. Attempts are made, when possible, to place a child with a suitable relative in temporary foster care.
With regard to adoption, attempts are made to place them within a home in the community or within the Yukon, as the second option, and try to ensure that cultural issues are respected and children are not disconnected from their roots wherever possible. There are matters related to this that will be discussed within the Children's Act review. It is one of the matters we have committed to working on with the Council of Yukon First Nations and the First Nations and we will honour that commitment. It is a matter that is of concern to them as well as to the member opposite. It will be on the table, as I stated before. It is our intent and sincere hope that revisions to the Children's Act will be ready for tabling in the fall of this year.
With regard to the member's suggestions that we should perhaps be doing something in areas such as obesity, smoking, et cetera, I would again remind the member opposite, as I have stated, that we have allocated money under the territorial health access fund for these initiatives. That is in addition to initiatives currently ongoing, such as the QuitPack initiative that is being pursued. We have allocated $2.16 million for healthy living and health promotion over the next five years. We treat this matter very seriously and that is why we've allocated the money to this end.
I will be happy to have discussions with the member if he has any specific suggestions related to this, but initiatives are underway in these areas, particularly things such as healthy living and healthy eating and the issues such as encouraging people not to take up smoking in the first place and, if they do, providing them with assistance to successfully break their addiction.
Telehealth is another area the member mentioned. I would reiterate, as I stated previously in the House - but obviously the member did not hear me when I noted it before - that we have put increased investment in telehealth and have an allocation specific to it for the first time. Previously it was run off the side of other programs, so to speak. We are enhancing the allocation in this area. We recognize the value of it and recognize that, down the road, it can provide even further service to rural communities where they have difficulty accessing specialists, or people within Whitehorse. We can significantly expand that access through the use of the telehealth program and the video conferencing abilities provided therein.
The member opposite mentioned the issue of child care and contributions. I would remind the member we have significantly increased the direct operating grant to childcare. Our government increased it by 30 percent previously and have added to that a five-percent increase, effective this fiscal year.
The issues related to contribution agreements with the childcare operators are ones that we recognize and, under my predecessor's watch, we did not proceed with a contribution agreement that had caused concern among them. This government did listen to their concerns and we acted upon them.
With regard to the federal funding that is provided, there will be accountability measures related to that which we are not able to get around and we must comply with - that, of course, being the 2005-06 and 2006-07 contributions flowing under the early learning and childcare contribution that will be provided to the territory. That pot of money will be discussed with childcare operators. We made that commitment. On discussing how to allocate it, the original intent was to allocate it toward wages; however, the fact that this is a one-time injection rather than the ongoing funding that it was originally expected to be may perhaps change that. We have stated to them that we are prepared to discuss other areas or invest it in wages over a staggered period of rolling out that fund over a number of years, but we have a limited amount of money and we have to discuss with them how we are going to use it, because we only have what we have for that cash and it is a one-time contribution.
With regard to the area of FASD, we are moving forward on implementing the FASD action plan. We are also expanding in areas such as the substance abuse action plan, which we have discussed several times on the floor of this House, and that includes areas such as safer communities legislation.
Additional supports that are being provided include the work that we are doing with the No Fixed Address Outreach van and the agencies involved in that. We are having those discussions to work with them on how we can expand the support on the outreach provided through that service, as well as assist them with their coordination requirements.
Residential support for FASD raised by the member opposite - I will mention again, as I stated in the House, how we have provided funding for such things as the Options for Independence residential program, which does exactly that, and allocated for the first time in the 2005-06 budget, and continued in this fiscal year, $180,000 to provide that support.
We have also worked with and will continue to work with the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon. When the federal funding was ending and the federal government did not continue their contribution - the contribution that was cancelled by the previous federal Liberal government - while continuing our efforts to work on the new government to urge them to come back to the table and take up the area of responsibility vacated and abandoned by the Liberals, we provided a contribution for this fiscal year to assist FASSY in ensuring that they are able to keep their doors open, provided them with bridge funding that we committed to them and will provide up to $200,000 this fiscal year to ensure that they are able to continue operating the With a Little Help From My Friends program. That brings FASSY funding for this year to $198,000 as a direct commitment from the government, which will be intended to be ongoing. The total amount for this year, bringing it up to - I believe the total amount we have is $362,000 for this fiscal year, including the one-time funding that is provided.
Mr. Chair, with regard to the issues the member raised regarding support for people with disabilities, I would remind him that we have provided in this fiscal year, for the first time, support to the Haines Junction Development Society, which operates a community greenhouse project with an approach similar to the concept used by Challenge for a number of years within Whitehorse. The contribution we have given them is $50,000. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are also a funding partner, and it was in part due to a request from that First Nation and the chief that we partner with them in doing so that we provided this financial assistance. I appreciate the efforts that are engaged in by this community project and appreciate our partnership with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations in this regard and thank them for their efforts in this area, as well.
We have also funded the Yukon Council on Disability, which was previously not funded. In 2003-04, the Yukon government did not fund them. It is now funded in the amount of $25,000 per year. We created the workplace diversity employment office within the Yukon government building to assist people with disabilities in getting access to the Yukon government workforce. We have also increased the funding allocation to Challenge to a level of $503,000.
Again, with regard to issues such as substance abuse and mental health, I would note that we have increased the contribution to the Yukon Family Services Association to a level of $899,000 per year.
I still have a little time. I will touch on a couple other issues raised by the member opposite.
The member opposite raised the issue of generic drugs and the pricing of those. I would make the member aware that this is an issue that the health ministers have had discussions on and the health ministers are collectively proceeding with an initiative to review the pricing of generic drugs. In particular, that is under the lead of Health Canada. It is an issue of concern that the federal minister has identified. He has invested significant effort in reviewing comparisons to pricing in other areas. We will be taking a look at this to ensure we are getting effective and appropriate pricing for our citizens.
I understand my time is up. I look forward to questions from the member opposite.
Mr. Mitchell: I will try to be brief, because I know we are short of time to get through all the departments that are left in the few days we have left. There are a few questions I would like to ask. I'll try not to repeat things that have been asked and answered, unless I've missed the answers. I know our Health and Social Services critic has asked a great number of questions, so we have a great deal of information. I know the third party has also asked questions.
In looking at the statistics, one of the things that caught my eye is the projections for increases in the average number of persons on waiting lists for extended care facilities -Macaulay Lodge and the care facility at Copper Ridge Place. I know there are some plans to add the additional beds that were initially planned for Copper Ridge Place, but can the minister provide me with some information on the longer term planning being done by the department to accommodate what appears to be an increasing number of Yukoners who are choosing to retire and live their senior years in Yukon? That's a very positive thing; it speaks well of the quality of life that we have in the Yukon, compared to many other areas, because people are no longer feeling the need to leave when they reach retirement age.
I sort of see it almost like an iceberg where there's 10 percent on the surface and 90 percent under the water. As I look in my own neighbourhood, three out of my four immediate neighbours have built their houses to accommodate their own parents living with them. Inevitably, the day may come when the type of care those people may need will no longer be available at home, and we're going to need more home care visits and more extended care and seniors facilities.
Can the minister speak to that?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I did address this matter yesterday, but I would happily respond briefly for the member opposite and provide him the information on this, rather than urging him to review the Blues. Perhaps he may have more questions in following up on this.
We have placed the investment in this year. Once two contracts are dealt with - improvements to the nurse call system in Macaulay Lodge and the contract related to the elevator improvement - there will be seven new beds open in Macaulay Lodge. There is one more wing remaining at Copper Ridge Place comprised of some 12 beds, which we are making plans right now to open up. It will have to be acted on probably sometime later this year.
The statistics the member referred to are correct as far as increasing population and projected increased demand, as laid out in the budget. That is exactly why we are acting. We are placing quite a significant and enhanced focus within Health and Social Services on the planning for continuing care because we recognize the demand occurs and we are committed to meeting it.
The wait-lists now are something that, in fairness to previous governments, would not have been anticipated five years ago because we experienced a significant and unanticipated increase in the population of seniors. In October 2005 versus October 2004, the Yukon population statistics for the first time reflected the rumours we had all been hearing about increases in the number of seniors moving in and Yukon residents bringing up elderly parents to be with them.
For all the demographics over the age of 55, we experienced between a 5.5-percent and 8.5-percent increase in every one of those demographics in the population versus one year previous. As laid out in the budget book, which those listening may also wish to review, the increase is expected to continue.
We anticipate a significant demand for continuing care beds in the next five to 10 years, so we are committed to addressing this matter. That may include the Thomson Centre as I have stated before. We hope to be in a position in about a month's time to make a determination regarding what usages and what service delivery will be accommodated within that facility. We had a functional review done on what the most effective uses of that space will be.
Other items that are currently within that facility and have been suggested for possible inclusion will have to be addressed in some way, shape and form. If they are not accommodated within the Thomson Centre, we will have to look at another building to address that matter, or renovations and expansions to other existing facilities.
In addition, we have $100,000 in this year's budget for planning another continuing care facility, because even if Thomson Centre were to be fully operated as continuing care, there is the anticipated demand beyond that, coupled with the time it takes to properly plan and establish a new continuing care facility. This does take several years. Copper Ridge Place took approximately four years to design and build, and we note that that was actually done in fairly expeditious time considering the issues that are related to that, and that is based on the advice I have received from the department. We are committed to taking the action and having new facilities ready. We want to be able to address that demand when it occurs.
We will also be doing this, of course, through expanding home care. Home care supports are provided currently and we will need to enhance those in the future. We want to ensure that Yukoners have the opportunity to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
I would also like to touch on a few items that had been mentioned previously in debate. I was not able, in the time I had, to answer all the questions asked by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. With regard to the Dawson social worker position, my understanding is the position has been posted. The last update I received was that it currently had not been filled and was out as an active job posting, but that may have changed, and there may be a replacement hired by this point. I would have to check on that. The intent is to fill that job as soon as a qualified candidate is identified and has gone through the appropriate process.
The issue of increases in medevacs is due in part to the fact that we do have an aging population, which can create an increased demand on those services. We have increased specialist services to try to alleviate that demand. I would remind the members opposite that the demand projections we have for the next fiscal year are just that - projections. We are simply doing our due diligence in identifying what we think will occur based on previous trends. If the trend does turn out to be less than that, according to our contract with the supplier, we simply do not pay them the full amount allocated. They're paid based on the service provided.
With regard to ambulances, yes, we do indeed have three ambulances that will be purchased in this fiscal year - $345,000 for three new two-wheel-drive ambulances. They do fully comply with the recommendations of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and they are the type of ambulance that has been requested and is considered appropriate by those who deliver the services there. As far as where they will be located, issues related to allocation of new ambulances are going to be discussed with the EMS supervisors, and the appropriate decision will be made. The department will be addressing the needs based on where the appropriate place is. I should point out to the members that these ambulances are replacement ambulances for existing vehicles within the fleet. So that will be based partly on a mechanical review. There may be some adjusting of what ambulances are where, and that will be done based on discussions with the ambulance supervisors and with the people who were involved in maintaining those vehicles. It will be based on technical matters. We are simply addressing the needs.
Mr. Chair, I believe I have answered the questions that were asked by the member opposite and the previous questioner. At this time I would invite more questions.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for his answer. He referred to the $100,000 for planning. Is that a different $100,000 from the $100,000 for planning the Dawson multi-level health care facility? In other words, I know that $100,000 was discussed yesterday for planning the multi-level facility in Dawson, and I'm just asking the minister to clarify if he's also talking about another $100,000 for planning of perhaps additional facilities in Whitehorse . I see the officials are nodding and getting that information so I know the minister will be able to clarify that for me, and I thank the officials for assisting.
I don't want to get into any form of rancorous discussion about the status of the health care facilities or the lack of completion in Watson Lake and Dawson , because we've discussed that at great length in this House during this session. I am interested in whether or not there is additional money for planning a new facility in Whitehorse. As important as I believe the facilities in Dawson and Watson Lake to be and, indeed, we know there's demand for some form of seniors health care facility or assisted living facility - we're not certain what the final resolution will be - on the north highway in Kluane - specifically in Haines Junction. I know there is some funding in the budget to at least start that planning process via the Yukon Housing Corporation. I still believe the additional 12 beds in the additional wing of Copper Ridge Place will not cover the demand for very long.
I'm asking the minister for the five-year or 10-year - the long-term - planning and if there's planning for an additional facility or facilities in Whitehorse , the only area where we're having such a rapid expansion of population. I'd be interested in hearing details of it.
It's not only current residents who are bringing their parents up to live with them, but many Yukoners intend to live much of their lives here.
I know he is a few years younger than I am, but I can tell the minister, having achieved the age of 55, that what once looked to be the distant future catches up to us in a great deal of hurry. Although I certainly don't think of myself as a senior, I know that day will come, and I'd like to be comfortable in the idea that I can continue to live in the Yukon regardless of what my needs might be.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Mitchell: I think I'm getting some advice from the Member for Kluane on where I could live or how I might live. Perhaps I would choose to live in Haines Junction, because I know it's a beautiful area and I enjoyed the years when I lived in an area that was surrounded by beautiful mountains.
In any case, if the minister could give an indication of more of the long term rather than X number of beds next year or the year after. If there is a long-term vision, I would be interested in hearing it.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: That's what I was referring to with regard to the planning money that was identified here. In answer to his question, there is $100,000 identified for planning specific to the Dawson multi-level care facility. There is also $100,000 specific to planning for our continuing care needs particularly within the Whitehorse area.
We recognize, as I stated, the need to plan for a new facility. The demand has increased, and we expect it to increase more. At this point, we are in the situation - because of the time it takes to bring these facilities on-line, we can't go back five years in the past and build a new facility five years ago, or do the planning work five years ago so it could be built right now.
We are making the move as quickly as we can in this area, and part of the solution will probably include continuing care beds within the Thomson Centre as at least part of the mix of what is in that facility.
We do need to move on this, and we need to move quickly, because we don't want to see waiting lists where someone who needs to be in a facility is not able to get in, and so we are committed to moving forward and doing that.
In addition to our capital budget related to continuing care, we have another $849,000 for improvements and for some repairs we have to do. We are very committed to maintaining and improving the existing facilities as well, but we do have to make a move to develop new continuing care facilities, and that is why we are making a move in that area.
With regard to Haines Junction, there is a project right now for a seniors central residence. That is under the Minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. The review done by Options Consulting determined that there was not a need for multi-level care facility in the Haines Junction area at this time.
We are addressing the need where we know it does exist, and that is within the Whitehorse area and within the area of Watson Lake with regard to building a multi-level care facility there. It is an active project at this time.
Although construction of a multi-care facility in Dawson has been delayed from actually occurring in this fiscal year - the intent is to have construction occurring in next fiscal year. That is why there is more planning being done this year. It is not quite at a plan-ready stage so that we can build this fiscal year. That $100,000 will enable us to get to that, and we hope that the 2007 construction season will see the project occurring in Dawson City as well.
I believe that answered all the questions that have been asked by the member opposite yet again. I stress again that we recognize continuing care. Absolutely. There's a demand. We expect the demand to grow and that's why we're doing the review. I should also mention we're doing the planning and looking at five and 10 years out. Some of that review has been done already and some of it will have more work done in that area, but we're planning on doing what should have been done five years ago, and doing a multi-year plan to address the needs in the five- and 10-year duration to ensure we don't get into a situation again, or remain in a situation, where we have wait-lists at facilities. The wait-lists and the time for accessing the space within our facilities - continuing care and assisted living. That wait-list has suddenly shot up and we're not prepared to live with that situation. We're acting very quickly to address it.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for the clarification he provided on the two amounts. No, we wouldn't want the minister to go back to the future, so to speak, and try to back up five years and do planning that he perhaps feels should have been done. It is important we plan for the future as we can best predict it right now.
In terms of the facility in Dawson, which he said we're not ready to build based on where we're at, I hope this minister won't decide to take a hands-on approach to drafting and design like his predecessor did. Perhaps we'll let the experts be the experts and the politicians be the politicians, and if we can keep those two groups each doing their respective jobs, things will proceed more expeditiously.
I am no expert on this, but I have had a number of people, including a number of employees who work as ambulance attendants and as EMTs, raise to me the issue of the location of the ambulance station with the changing population demographics in Whitehorse. They have questioned whether there might be some benefit, if not in relocating, then in locating a second station at the top of Two Mile Hill where there is a fire station now. The current location, in effect, basically means and ensures that any ambulance run will be the longest possible run it could ever be, starting at the hospital and having to get back to the hospital.
There have been some suggestions that, if there is going to be additional capacity required, it might be a good idea to locate that capacity at more of a hub by the Alaska Highway . I'm just wondering if the minister's department has given any consideration or done any research into that possibility. Because of the length of the runs, as we get further and further into some of the newer areas, we are perhaps getting beyond that crucial time for certain emergency situations.
I'm wondering if the minister can answer if that's on the drawing board at all.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the member's questions, with regard to a hands-on approach, I believe there is a balance that needs to be struck in exercising appropriate management direction. But restraining oneself, as a minister, from the point of actually pulling out a T-square and revising the architectural drawings - I can assure the member opposite that I will not be pulling out my T-square and drafting pencil to make revisions to any of our buildings that are in the design stages.
We will be moving forward on this. We will be exercising the decisions we need to make based on recommendations of the people we have hired - the architects, the engineers, et cetera - in constructing the design and in making the decisions to move forward with those, and that includes the multi-level care facilities in both Dawson City and in Watson Lake.
With regard to the location of the ambulance service and the EMS, there has been some discussion regarding its location. The travel distance certainly is an issue, and downtown traffic, of course, is another issue. It has also been suggested by some people that maybe the hospital shouldn't have been built where it is in the first place, but that's a decision that's water far under the bridge. The cost of even contemplating such a move would be extraordinarily expensive, and we would be far better to place that investment in purchasing medical equipment and improving facilities within communities and building continuing care facilities, et cetera. The location of the ambulance service is something that is under consideration right now. There is some potential of working with the City of Whitehorse regarding a building that they have at the top of Two Mile Hill. It's under consideration right now. No decisions have been made, so I can't tell the member whether it will happen or not. It is under consideration, whether all or part of ambulance services might be based out of a more central hub location. We will be making the decision based on that once the discussions and review have taken place in that area.
Mr. Mitchell: Just one more area I'd like some clarification on - I know the minister has spoken to both Health and Social Services critics about this. Some of the comments made were regarding the possibility of a multi-disciplinary facility or an incubator clinic - there are lots of different terms that are used - or a publicly run facility where new doctors might work, rather than having to necessarily work within the existing models of private clinics. That's a model, I've been told, that some of the foreign doctors in particular are more comfortable with. The minister responded by saying he wanted to make sure they didn't take any precipitous action without proper consultation with the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, to make sure he wasn't causing problems. That's an approach I can certainly appreciate.
Are there any particular timelines on those discussions? Has the minister set a particular timeline or is he just saying he doesn't want to move forward without having had the discussions?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: We're not in a position right now where we can really set a timeline because we do have to work with the Yukon Medical Association and the other professional organizations involved. I can't really set a timeline without coming to an agreement with them about when their availability will occur. As I stated to the previous questioner, I had a discussion just this morning with the Yukon Advisory Committee on Nursing, and they were not the group that actually organized the discussions last weekend on a collaborative practice clinic. There were seven professional organizations that did this work and participated in it, and that was led and organized by the Yukon Registered Nurses Association.
At that time, I requested that we set up a meeting and they advised that they felt it should have all or most of the partners involved in that meeting so we could have a full discussion and debrief, so to speak, on that meeting that I was unable to attend, due to being in Toronto for the health ministers meeting.
So at this point, as far as a timeline, all I can say is it is an area we are moving on and will to a determination as quickly as we can.
We do want to have the discussions with the Yukon Medical Association. There has been some concern expressed to me by their representatives, and we want to talk about those issues and determine what specifically those concerns are, if there are ways we can address them in moving forward and setting up a collaborative practice clinic, or if they have an alternate suggestion as far as how they would suggest we proceed instead if they are not comfortable with this mode.
We are open to suggestions; I am open to suggestions from the professionals within the field - any suggestions they make regarding how we can address the issues that are out there now. We always, of course, have budgetary limitations to consider, but we have identified significant money toward the health human resource strategy, for example. We intend to allocate money toward moving forward in these areas and we are prepared to look at any model that makes sense within value-to-a-taxpayer context and service delivery.
We will have these discussions and we will conclude them as soon as we can. This is an area of tremendous concern to me. There are people right now, right here today, who do not have access to a family doctor, and that is a situation that I am not prepared to live with any longer than we absolutely have to. That is why we have identified $12.7 million over five years for the health human resource strategy. That is why we are moving forward quickly, with the first area being the establishment of two programs to attract and retain family physicians - that being debt repayment in exchange for years of service in the Yukon offered to graduates of any Canadian medical institution and, secondly, bursaries provided to Yukon students to assist them in attending medical schools.
We are taking this matter very seriously. It is my desire to move on any improvements that are needed to ensure that all Yukoners have access to the care they need when they need it and from the appropriate health professionals.
I am firmly committed to dealing with this matter as quickly as we can. We want to have discussions with the health professionals on this and ensure we are making the right moves. Unfortunately, this is something that is taking longer than I wish it would. I would prefer that I could stand here today and make a bunch of announcements and have the problem solved by next week, but that is not the real world. We have to work with the people who deliver the service. We have put out the request - as soon as they can clear time in their schedules and make time available - for them to sit down with me and my officials and hammer out initiatives, including possibly a collaborative care clinic to address the issue of access to care and access to family physicians absolutely as quickly as we can.
Mr. Mitchell: I thank the minister for that answer. The answer he gave raises one more question. I received a number of e-mails before the minister made his announcement earlier this spring, and I've received more following the announcement. They were asking if I could provide some information on both the programs he has just mentioned - the tuition forgiveness or debt-repayment program for Canadian students in any medical school, as well as the bursary program specifically targeted at Yukon students.
I know there are some Yukon students currently attending medical schools, and I've been asked by a couple of their families whether I can provide information as to how soon there might be an actual application procedure in place. The minister has indicated there is some work to be done. Does the minister anticipate it might be possible for the fall semester for students who are currently medical students? If not, would it be for the second semester of next year for the bursary program? Also, what is the timing of the debt-forgiveness program? In other words, is it possible that we could be attracting doctors this coming fall who are finishing their final year of residency this spring?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: To move forward on this program, the structure developed for the health human resource strategy was dealt with at a very senior level within Health and Social Services. I appreciate the effort that was put into that by those officials. However, these are very busy people who have significant management responsibilities and simply do not have the time within a day to devote numerous additional hours to the implementation and structure of these programs and the details - including the discussion of the details - with the professional associations. This is an area that we had to resource through the territorial health access fund. Outside the health human resource strategy, one of the actions under the health access fund is to hire two term FTE positions to assist us in the development and the implementation of all of the policy matters under the health human resource strategy as well as to assist us in the other areas I have identified as far as ensuring consistency of practice and policies and procedures among other areas of health care delivery.
So those positions are out now for hiring. They have not been finalized yet. It's our hope that we can have these programs nailed down, and the two programs for medical students and medical graduates will be the first areas of action, and we are hoping to have those dealt with in early summer. Sometime in July is probably a realistic expectation to have those forms completed. We want to get it done, get the forms out there and have them available for application. We do want Yukon students to be able to access this program for medical school attendance in this coming semester, and we want to attract new doctors who are graduates of Canadian medical schools to the territory as quickly as possible.
Both these matters are considered top priority and, as soon as we have the staff resources in place and they're able to complete the work and discussions, they will be doing so. Again I stress that it's a matter of very high priority for us to get this done absolutely as quickly as we possibly can so we don't have to go a day longer than we need to with any single Yukoner not having access to a family doctor or to any element of primary care when they need that care.
Chair: Any further general debate? Hearing none, we'll proceed with line-by-line examination.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would like to identify in this area that highlights include an increase of one FTE and $88,000 for a new policy analyst position that will administer funding and projects under the territorial-federal ADM health working group operational secretariat funding agreement. That is the third area of money provided to the territorial government from the agreement made with the federal government in September 2004, comprising $29 million in total - $21.6 million of that over the five-year period is the territorial health access fund; $1.6 million per year is the medical travel fund; and the remaining amount is the operational secretariat funding arrangement among the three northern territories, for which the Yukon is the banker. One of its functions includes dealing with the federal government accountability requirement that all three territories have under the territorial health access fund arrangements.
On Deputy Minister's Office
Deputy Minister's Office in the amount of $1,270,000 agreed to
On Policy and Program Development
Chair: The policy and program development line clears.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it is my understanding that accepted procedure in here means that the Chair does not clear an item unless the opposition side indicates they wanted to clear it. I was waiting for the minister to stand up and give a breakdown and I didn't hear any member of the opposition parties say “Clear”.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, the standard is that if a member wishes to speak, he shall rise in his place. In fact at 5:00 p.m. on November 17, 2003, the Chair was directed by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that if members of the opposition did not rise on an item, that being a clause in a bill or a line item in a budget cited, the Chair should take it as a sign that the official opposition does not object to that item being declared carried. As that was the direction given from a member of the opposition, that has been the Chair's practice. If members wish to make a point or wish to debate the line, they should rise in their place and they will be recognized.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that, Mr. Chair. I would just comment that I suppose everybody has their own style. Since that date in November 2003, I have put on the record several times my preferred style, and that is the minister should rise and give a breakdown, unless we indicate it is cleared, and that is what we would like him to do.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I believe what we are hearing from the Member for Kluane is that there should be one set of Standing Orders applicable to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. The Standing Orders clearly indicate that if the member wishes to be recognized in debate, he or she should rise in his or her place. The line item currently under debate, as I understand the member did not wish to see it cleared, is Policy and Program Development in the amount of $555,000. Is there any debate on this line?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, as requested by the member opposite, there is an increase in this line of 21 percent, and that is due to an increase for one full-time equivalent, a new policy analyst to administer funding in projects, and to $11,000 due to increases provided under the collective agreement with Yukon government employees.
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $555,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Human Resources in the amount of $1,551,000 agreed to
On Finance, Systems and Administration
Mr. McRobb: Once again, the procedure I would prefer is for the minister to rise and give a breakdown, unless we indicate it is cleared. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The finance, systems and administration line has decreased by seven percent, versus 2005-06. The items in this line, which is a total of $1,666,000, include an increase of $35,000 for personnel due to the increase provided under the collective agreement with Yukon government employees and to reclassifications. Also, there is a decrease of $161,000 due to $156,000, which is a one-time supplementary approval occurring in the 2005-06 fiscal year to clean up the fuel spill at 305 Lambert Street.
There is also a $5,000 miscellaneous decrease to supply and communications based on a lower projected demand in this fiscal year.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the finance, systems and administration line?
Finance, Systems and Administration in the amount of $1,666,000 agreed to
On Total Policy, Planning and Administration
Total Policy, Planning and Administration in the amount of $5,042,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
On Program Management
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, what do we have to do to get the procedure down pat? If I don't indicate “clear”, I want the minister to give a breakdown. Do I need to stand on every line item and request a breakdown, and if so, that's a huge departure from past practice and essentially is a waste of time. We've got about nine hours left to debate this budget, and I suggest we all work expeditiously to do the best we can. We're looking for breakdowns on all line items except for ones that we audibly indicate are cleared.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Would you please refresh my understanding of which line we're on?
Chair: We're currently debating Health and Social Services, family and children's services. The line item is program management for $4,191,000.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The family and children's services area has 192.25 full-time employees. There is an increase of $253,000 in this fiscal year for one new FTE and $65,000 for a support worker to work with children with disabilities and their families. There is also an increase of one FTE and a transfer of $73,000 for auxiliary staff to plan and facilitate the fetal alcohol spectrum summer camp.
There is also an increase of $381,000 due to implementing the Yukon government employees collective agreement and a decrease of $279,000, which was provided for the initial public consultation phase of the Children's Act review. That initial consultation phase is, of course, now complete and the work is being done by the Yukon government with the Department of Health and Social Services officials working with CYFN and First Nations in moving forward to the policy forum, which is expected to occur in June of this year, with the intent of having that legislation completed and ready for tabling in the fall of this year.
There is also a decrease of $22,000 due to completion of bridge funding provided under the Youth Criminal Justice Act funding arrangement and a transfer of four FTEs, and $252,000 has been provided for administrative support to units throughout family and children's services. This will better reflect the cost of providing individual services. There is also $71,000 under this line item to provide increased support to children with disabilities. There is a $52,000-increase in contracts with Autism Yukon to provide support to children with autism which, of course, was provided for the first time only recently.
Those are the highlights from that line item.
Program Management in the amount of $4,191,000 agreed to
On Family and Children's Services
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to follow up on one item, and that's the Children's Act. The minister indicated there was quite a significant reduction because of the completion of the first phase of the consultation. Now he indicates the legislation will be ready for a fall sitting of this Legislature.
I would like to know where the draft legislation is. In the previous consultation that was advertised on the Children's Act review Web site, I believe it indicated that, by August of last year, the draft legislation would be out for review by all the participants, and the legislation would be brought before the Legislature in the spring of 2006, which is the sitting we're in.
We know this review has gone off the rails. The point I'd like to make is, the release of the draft legislation was several months in advance of when it would be brought in for review in this Assembly, so we're in about the same scheduling situation now where the draft legislation should be out to stakeholders. I would like to ask the minister this: is the draft legislation available? If not, when will it be released to the stakeholders?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It's unfortunate that the member opposite has apparently so short a memory of the questions he asked previously in this House and the answers that were provided. Early on in this session, the member stood up and criticized me and the government and suggested that we had presented draft legislation to the working group on the Children's Act review and suggested that it was inappropriate to do so. As we outlined very clearly at that time, the commitment in our partnership with CYFN was that we would jointly work together to develop the policy elements related to act changes and that, subsequent to that, once the agreement was made at the policy forum, we would then proceed to jointly advise the legal drafters.
I remind the member opposite, as I have answered before in the House, that pursuant to our commitment with CYFN, we have not done legislative drafting for amendments to the Children's Act. We are doing the policy elements related to that. Legislative drafting will proceed following that and, of course, will be done as expeditiously as possible. The intent is to have the legislation ready for tabling in the fall of this year.
Chair: Order please. Before we continue, the Chair would just like to remind all members that both the Chair and the Speaker have made several comments to members about personalizing the debate. In order to preserve order and decorum and to facilitate the debate, I would ask that members refrain from doing so, follow the Standing Orders and enter into a healthy and appropriate debate on the subject without personalizing it.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that, Mr. Chair. I would like to know the answer to the question I posed. When does the minister envision the draft policy becoming available to the stakeholders? Can he give us a point in time when he envisions that would take place?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I will repeat once again for the member opposite that, right now, the Children's Act review is proceeding forward. The policy forum is scheduled for June of this year. Once that discussion takes place, once the policy is jointly developed and agreed upon, it will proceed to legislative drafting. Of course we'll make it public as soon as we're able to. I fail to understand what the member is getting at here, if he truly does have a question regarding this area.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I think the minister again is personalizing the debate.
My question stands on its own. I made it quite clear what it is I'm looking for.
Now, the minister indicates there is a June policy forum - fine. It takes quite a bit of time to draft legislation coming out of a policy forum. The original timelines for consultation set aside a period of months for stakeholders to review the draft legislation. The minister says he can't figure out what I'm getting at. Well, just look at the calendar, Mr. Chair. If there is a fall sitting where this government or the next one will bring in the Children's Act - how can you possibly do that? How can you possibly do that, when it probably takes until August to draft the legislation to have it out the door to the stakeholders? And if you give them another few months, as was in the original plan, to review and discuss and give their feedback on that legislation, you're already at the end of this government's mandate, never mind a fall sitting. So it doesn't add up.
I'm prepared to move on because the minister simply didn't give a point in time in which he envisions this is going to happen. We didn't hear him say June, July, August or September - any point on the calendar. He did not identify what he envisions would be a scheduling for the release of this very important draft legislation. That's fine; I'll live with it. It's another question he failed to answer.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The Member for Kluane, the Liberal Health and Social Services critic, needs to make up his mind about what his party's position is in this regard. The Liberal Party, the official opposition, needs to be clear about what it wishes the government to do. That is the job of opposition - to exercise a clear and coherent position with regard to matters of debate.
Members of the Liberal Party have stood here in Question Period and suggested that we should be changing the Children's Act immediately and criticized the government for not doing so. That, of course, as has been mentioned, would have broken the commitment that we made to the Council of Yukon First Nations and to Yukon First Nations. Our government keeps our commitments. We are very committed to working with First Nations in completing and finalizing the Children's Act review and in drafting, tabling and passing, hopefully - subject, always, to the decision of this Legislature - legislation to amend the Children's Act in the appropriate fashion.
Now it appears that the Liberal Party has changed its position once again and is suggesting that we should delay tabling changes to the Children's Act because the member is suggesting we add several months to this and go into a greater review of this. There has been significant discussion already. A public review and discussion phase occurred. The Children's Act was delayed from its original schedule. We are moving forward to complete it as quickly as we can because, although there were bumps in the road - which sometimes happens when you go down a new road in partnership, as we have done in this case - I remind members that jointly working together on policy from which legislation is drafted is a new process. The first time it was done was by the Yukon working with First Nations in the development of the Co-operation in Governance Act, which resulted in the creation of the Yukon forum and the establishment of that body. That was the first time it was done.
The second time such a process was implemented was with regard to the Children's Act review. There is a tremendous amount of passion and concern and importance relating to any matters affecting children and the safety of children and, of course, of government involvement - whether that be through monitoring or assistance or apprehension of children. There is a tremendous amount of concern.
We did experience some delays in this procedure. We have worked together, despite the fact that the process seemed, at one point, to have gone off the rails. We and the CYFN leadership exercised the political will to resolve the obstacles that had occurred and came to an agreement to move forward and complete this project to ensure that amendments to the Children's Act are tabled as they are made and that they are done with the full involvement of the Yukon government, as representatives of the Yukon public as a whole, and First Nation governments representing their citizens, in recognition of the fact that there's a disproportionately high number of children involved in this case who are of First Nation ancestry. We respect their concerns and wish to work fully in partnership with them, and that's exactly what we're doing.
The member opposite - the Health and Social Services critic for the Liberal Party - has suggested we should delay amendments to the Children's Act. We are not prepared to do so. We are moving forward with CYFN and with First Nations to develop the policy changes and legislation based on those changes, which can be done in a period of months. The intent is to have the legislation ready for passing in the fall session of the Legislature.
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $3,059,000 agreed to
On Child Placement Services
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I wish the minister would show a little bit of cooperation. The method requested by the official opposition is that the minister would oblige us by standing and giving a breakdown - and be as brief as possible - of each line item unless we indicate we are prepared to clear the line. If he wants me to stand each time and make a request, then I would submit that is a grossly unnecessary and time-consuming approach that we simply don't have time to do in the interest of responsible government and a responsible Assembly. This approach I am requesting is one that has been standard in the past. As official opposition critic, it is one that I have been part of for about six years, and prior to that when I was in government - sitting in your position, Mr. Chair - I observed it all the time. What I am seeing now from the minister is a departure from that practice. I have put my preference on the record about three or four times now. If he wants me to stand and make a request each time, then it will probably mean that, come 5:00 next Wednesday, this Assembly will have to do without the review of one of the other departments before the time expires - such as the Department of Environment or the Department of Education.
Now, those important departments might not be important to this minister, but they're important to us. So is the Department of Health and Social Services. So we're requesting a bit of cooperation so we can get the line breakdown on the record and move on.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Certainly, I would be happy to answer any questions the member has, if he would ask them rather than simply making rude gestures with his finger at me.
Mr. Chair, the -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, the minister stated I was making rude gestures with my finger, and there is one obvious conclusion a listener would make, and it is completely wrong to draw that conclusion. The minister put into those terms a gesture I did make, which did not reflect the obvious conclusion and I want to get that on the record, but he's laughing and giggling away over there. Let's get on with some constructive debate in here and end the games.
Chair: There is no point of order here. There's obviously a dispute between members, but the Chair must note that, in the member's point of order, he did just point out the actions of a member across the way.
Debate would be best served, again, if members did not personalize debate, if members did not comment on the actions of others and if members focused on the matter at hand.
The current line under debate is Child Placement Services. Is there any further debate on this line?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Funding for placement and support services has increased by $60,000 due to an increase for one FTE, which is an administrative assistant position.
Mr. McRobb: We got a partial answer. Again, we are requesting the minister to give a breakdown of the total.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thought the member was requesting information on the changes within this area and the changes were what I outlined.
Child placement services include activity management, adoption services, services to children in care, and foster homes.
Mr. McRobb: I am requesting the financial breakdown of the totals that add up to the total line item. Is the minister prepared to give that or not?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: For personnel, $1,256,665; other, $3,344,152; transfer, $315,000. That is for a total of $4,915,817, for 15.5 full-time equivalent employee positions.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, when the breakdown was provided last year, the former minister indicated that the healthy family initiative was contained in this line item. I didn't hear that as part of the breakdown. If I am mistaken, the minister can indicate that.
On the health family initiative, I indicated that I have an interest in finding out whether or not CHIP is funded. I would like an answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The healthy family project is funded under a different line item, which is early childhood and prevention services.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the child placement services line item?
Child Placement Services in the amount of $4,916,000 agreed to
On Early Childhood and Prevention Services
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The line item for early childhood and prevention services is $6,944,000. That is for 19.8 full-time equivalent positions, including childcare services, childcare subsidy program, direct operating grants and the healthy family program.
There is a $105,000 increase in funding for this line item from 2005-06 due to an increase for personnel of $60,000. This is due to the collective agreement with government employees. There is a decrease of $35,000 related to funding the childcare regulations review. There is a carry-forward into 2006-07, but not as large as for 2005-06, as it is anticipated to be completed earlier in the year.
In transfers, there is an increase of $80,000, including $120,000 due to a five-percent increase in contributions to childcare operators and family day homes. This is offset by a decrease in childcare subsidies due to an unusually high demand in 2005-06 that is not anticipated to occur in this fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: I did ask about the CHIP program funding. I didn't hear the minister respond to that. I would suggest that in the debate last year, the healthy family initiative was debated - I can confirm that now - as part of the previous line item.
Back to the CHIP, we need an answer to that question.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The CHIP project the member is referring to is not part of this line item.
Early Childhood and Prevention Services in the amount of $6,944,000 agreed to
On Youth Justice
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The youth justice line is for $3,959,000. There are 41.3 FTEs who work in this area. The areas covered under youth justice include activity management, probation services, open custody and secure custody, the Youth Achievement Centre, the youth high-risk treatment program, and diversion and alternative measures, pursuant to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Young Persons Offences Act.
There is, under this line item, a $24,000 decrease, or one percent, from the revised 2005-06 budget. The decrease results in the following: an increase of personnel comprising $47,000 due to increases paid under the collective agreement with government employees, a decrease of $71,000, which is comprised of a $9,000 decrease due to a higher than normal acceptance of recoverable programs under the youth justice renewal fund, which occurred in the 2005-06 fiscal year and is not projected to continue, $22,000 due to completion of bridge-funding received under the Youth Criminal Justice Act funding, and a $40,000 decrease in the budget for caregiver homes. Based on past experience, a smaller budget is what is necessary and anticipated to accommodate the average demands. An abnormally high amount occurred within the 2005-06 fiscal year.
Youth Justice in the amount of $3,959,000 agreed to
On Children's Assessment and Treatment Services
Hon. Mr. Cathers: This includes an increase of $421,000 for one full-time equivalent transferred to this area, one full-time equivalent and $40,000 for contracts for auxiliary staff to facilitate the FAS summer camp, and $288,000 in net increases resulting from collective agreement impacts, merit increase and changes in staff.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that's quite a bit briefer than the breakdown we received last year. I'll give the minister a bit of the information we received last year so he can find the relevant page: Liard residential services, $514,000; Mountain Ridge residential services, $605,000; and so on. Further, there was a breakdown on the group homes: 5th Avenue operation, $405,000; RYTS, $400,000; and so on; and the Wilson home amounts. So those are the items we would like again for this coming year.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: This line item is for $8,188,000 and 73.4 FTEs, including the children's receiving home, residential youth treatment services, and child abuse treatment services. The information that the member has requested, due to specific transfers for specific homes, I do not have at my fingertips. It is information - if the member is really set on it, we could get that, but I would suggest that it's probably a waste of officials' time. The amounts have not changed in any significant form from that which was provided during the last fiscal year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, what comes to mind is the group home that was in last year's budget that was never built. I'm not willing to take that at face value, Mr. Chair. I would like the breakdown. If he doesn't have it, I can understand and will accept a return in the coming weeks to provide that information; that's fine.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. McRobb: I am looking for confirmation from the minister to what I just said.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Since the member has made this request, I am happy to comply. We will look into that matter and get back to the member opposite. As I indicated, it has not changed significantly. The member appears to be confused with regard to the construction of a group home. That is a capital project. It is not under this line item. I would make him aware of that and note that we have money identified in this fiscal year - under capital, of course - for moving forward in that area.
Children's Assessment and Treatment Services in the amount of $8,188,000 agreed to
Family and Children's Services in the amount of $31,257,000 agreed to
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The Chair heard “disagree”. Taking a recess requires unanimous consent.
We will continue on with Social Services.
On Social Services
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Program management has an increase of $10,000 for personnel due to increases provided in the collective bargaining agreement. There is a decrease of $102,000, including $12,000 for miscellaneous decreases to contracts and supplies and $90,000 related to lease costs that occurred in 2005-06, which are not carried forward into 2006-07.
Mr. McRobb: Last year the minister indicated, in the breakdown we received, that the NGO contributions were part of this line item. Can the minister indicate if that is still the case? I understand the NGO contributions have increased and I would like to know the total for those.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It's a pleasure to see the member giving us credit for the increases we have provided to NGOs. We recognize the value of the work that volunteers and people involved with these organizations put in and we appreciate the efforts they provide and are committed to working with them.
Most of the funding is provided under this area. For example, funding commitments to NGOs that we have on a long-term basis include funding to the Anti-Poverty Coalition, which was not provided by previous governments and is provided in the amount of $15,000 per year; Blood Ties Four Directions has been increased to a level of $167,000; Challenge has been increased to a level of $503,000; Child Development Centre has been increased to a level of $1,448,000; CNIB has been provided funding, again not previously provided, in the amount of $20,000.
Money is provided under this area to the Dawson women's shelter, which has also been increased to a level of $198,000. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon has been increased to funding of $162,000 for Yukon government ongoing funding and $200,000 temporarily for this year to provide bridge funding in the area vacated by the federal Liberal government, which backed away from its responsibility in this area.
Again, as mentioned to the members opposite on several occasions, we are continuing to go after the new federal government and hope that they will change the decision made by their predecessors in what we consider to be a very ill-advised and unfortunate choice to not recognize responsibility related to this area.
Funding is provided for the first time to the Haines Junction Development Society for their community greenhouse project in the amount of $50,000. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations are a partner in this funding. The funding we have provided was, in part, due to the request made to me by the Chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations that we partner with them. I appreciate the time they have invested in this and their support - both political and financial - for this initiative, and I am pleased that we have been able to provide funding in this area.
Money is also provided for the food for learning program - $42,000, an increase to that level. We are continuing funding for the Foster Parent Association in the amount of $10,000. The Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake has had their funding increased to a level of $198,000. Hospice Yukon has been increased to a level of $194,000. Kwanlin Dun First Nation child welfare - we continue to provide $64,000. We have increased the funding to the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon from a previous level of $50,000 to a new level of $122,000, representing, of course, a $72,000 increase. Options for Independence Society, a residential program for adults with FASD - $180,000 new in 2005-06, carried forward into 2006-07. There is also an increase to Recreation and Parks Association of Yukon, to a level of $15,000.
Funding continues for the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake at $40,000, and the new funding for the St. Elias Seniors that was new in 2005-06 will continue in the amount of $25,000; Second Opinion Society, $93,000; the Sport Yukon kids recreation fund, representing an increase of $140,000 to a new level of $200,000, which occurred when the change was made late last year and that was transferred from Community Services into the Health and Social Services budget, and we are very pleased that we are able to assist in that area; Kaushee's Place, at their new level of funding representing, of course, an increase of $770,000; Yukon Association for Community Living, again, an increase from previous years to $60,000; Yukon Council on Disability funding was not previously provided and was instituted in the 2005-06 fiscal year and is being provided in the amount of $25,000; and Yukon Family Services Association, at a newly increased level, $899,000.
Those are just some of the very important NGOs for which we provide funding, and I thank the member for his question.
Program Management in the amount of $2,041,000 agreed to
On Alcohol and Drug Services
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Alcohol and drug services will increase by $46,000 due to a $44,000 increase in personnel pursuant to the collective agreement with government employees, miscellaneous price changes and merit increases and, secondly, an increase of $2,000 due to higher facility management costs.
Mr. McRobb: Last year we received a breakdown from the previous minister that included detoxification, live-in and outpatient treatments, prevention, training and activity management. Can the minister provide that same information?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The member is right. Those activities are all covered in there. I was trying to figure out what the balance was and how long the member wished me to talk in providing information, and how brief he wished me to be. He is correct. The alcohol and drug services area is $3,395,000 for 39.95 full-time equivalents. Services include detoxification, treatment - both live-in and outpatient - prevention and training.
Mr. McRobb: I am requesting the amounts for each of those items, which I will list again: detoxification - what is the amount? Live-in and outpatient treatments - what are the amounts? Prevention - what is the amount? Training - what is the amount? Activity management - what is the amount?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Activity management, $474,701; outpatient, $1,230,161; detoxification, $1,095,003; alcohol and drug services, $490,451; Outreach, $105,172.
Mr. McRobb: That is a different alignment, Mr. Chair. I didn't hear the breakdown for prevention or training, so I would like the totals for those if they are still called the same. If they are not, can the minister explain the difference?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: That is what I was referring to as being included in alcohol and drug services. That is prevention and training.
I would also remind the member opposite of the new investments we are making under the territorial health access fund - $2.16 million allocated over the next five years to invest in and focus on healthy living and healthy eating programs and programs to assist Yukoners in breaking addiction from tobacco and to focus on healthy eating in areas such as helping Yukoners avoid obesity and, of course, a focus on exercise.
Mr. McRobb: For the third time, can we get a breakdown for prevention and another one for training on this line item?
In the interest of time, if the minister doesn't have any of the information at hand, we are more than willing to accept written information in the coming weeks, as long as it's a reasonable period of time. That's a customary method of providing information that we will accept. I would like to send that signal to the minister.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Under the area of promotion and education there is $10,000. There is $95,500 for items including contract services, rental expense, advertising, education and prevention, program materials for education and prevention, prevention unit communications, training and printing contracts. Also, this area includes for personnel an allotment of $384,951.
Alcohol and Drug Services in the amount of $3,395,000 agreed to
On Adult Services Unit
Hon. Mr. Cathers: $16,101,000 is for 34.25 FTEs. Services include the following: financial services, including income maintenance; financial support for basic needs, such as shelter, food, clothing, utilities; special needs including drugs, daycare, laundry and transportation, according to the three-zone rates, pursuant to the Social Assistance Act regulations and policies; information on complementary resources, et cetera; other health and social services agencies, community support groups, opportunities, employment and training, services, benefits, family allowance, UIC, victims of crime; and counselling on things such as career, parenting, budgeting, life skills, et cetera; utilizing one-time support groups; collaboration with other resource people involved with a client; supportive outreach services, including visitations, basic living assistance, coordination of maintenance proceedings in cooperation with the Department of Justice; employment and learning access, financial assistance to enable participation in formal occupational training or adult educational programs, referral to Headstart and rehabilitation services, including Challenge; community resource development, including provisionary information, planning and advocacy within other public and private community organizations and interests to establish or improve services and opportunities for social assistance recipients; employment and training, counselling and referral of employable social assistance recipients.
Under the area of seniors services and adult protection, there is: information to seniors concerning programs and services they may be eligible for; referral and possible case management; community development work with seniors groups; adult protection investigations and case management; financial services, including assistance with obtaining federal pensions and services such as the pioneer utility grant, which is an annual grant to partially offset the cost of utilities associated with owned or rented residences for seniors aged 65 or over or the surviving spouse who meets the eligibility requirements of the Pioneer Utility Grant Act.
I would remind the member opposite that we have significantly increased the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent and indexed it against inflation.
With regard to the Yukon seniors' income supplement, there is an income supplement to a maximum of $100 per month for low-income seniors who are in receipt of federal old age security and guaranteed income supplement or for spouses aged 60 to 65 years of age who are in receipt of the spouse's allowance or the widowed spouses' allowance, pursuant to the Yukon Seniors Income Supplement Act.
There are services to persons with disabilities, counselling and assessment for clients requiring guidance to prepare for employment and/or the adjustment to community and independent living. Assessments are used to determine clients' eligibility for vocational rehabilitation or support for independent living services, identifying programming needs and to develop a rehabilitation plan. Assessment services may be provided or purchased from physicians, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health centres, private agencies and others. That concludes the adult services unit line.
Mr. McRobb: Once again the minister provided the various components of the line item without the amounts appropriated to each of the components. Once again, I have to ask for the breakdown of that financial information. I don't know why he failed to provide it the first time. This is going to take several more minutes now to have it put on the record. We are willing to accept it by way of written information, if that is possible, to expedite the debate.
Furthermore, I have another question. Last year, there was some concern about whether or not this branch had sufficient resources to fully implement the new legislation - the Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act. I would just like to ask the minister about that.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the member's repeated concern about not having the information available immediately, we do have the information in binders here but I do have an official who is working hard to come up with the information in as timely a manner as possible. I have stood up and provided that information to the member as soon as we compiled it. We are happy to provide the information but I don't have that on a sheet right in front of me. It requires flipping through a book and finding the information, which is being done. I would urge the member to be patient and give us the time to provide him with the information; we are very happy to do so.
Under this area, for activity management, there is $899,160. For social assistance, there is $10,132,837. For seniors services, there is $1,435,186. For people with disabilities, there is $490,348. For adult residential, there is $3,142,946.
Mr. McRobb: What about the piece of legislation I asked about, Mr. Chair? I didn't hear the minister respond to that.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: We have increased the resources under this department by three percent over the 2005-06 fiscal year to address needs and demands within this area.
Adult Services Unit in the amount of $16,101,000 agreed to
On Continuing Care
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Continuing care, $22,265,000, 248.61 FTEs - the continuing care budget has increased by $744,000, or three percent, from the 2005-06 forecast. An increase of $751,000 is in personnel, including 5.1 FTEs, due to opening seven additional beds at Macaulay Lodge and increases due to the collective bargaining agreement.
Branch support services include assessment and intake, social work, First Nations liaison, quality assurance, infection and control, professional development. McDonald Lodge includes residential care services, personal and intermediate care, respite care services, home care and home support and Meals on Wheels. Macaulay Lodge services include intermediate-level residential care, respite care services, community day program, and Meals on Wheels service.
Copper Ridge Place clients are frail, elderly, disabled adults and children with chronic and complex health care needs, including those with terminal illness and advanced dementia. It currently provides therapy services, extended care programs for adults, children and seniors, both permanent and respite, special care services, including dementia care, permanent respite and assessment, and stabilization.
Home and community care includes assessment and treatment, including nursing, occupational therapy and physiotherapy; personal support, including personal care, housekeeping, laundry, meal planning and preparation and errands; social support, including assessing client functioning and family needs, counselling, social contract to ensure safety and well-being, respite services, including relief for family members caring for individuals in their home; palliative care, including counselling, treatment and support for terminally clients and their families.
Branch support services, as a breakdown, $1,334,780; Macaulay Lodge, $815,000; Copper Ridge, $11,592,000; and home care, $4,052,000.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if the minister mentioned the total for continuing care. He mentioned the increase. Can we get the total? As well, last year under activities management, we got the breakdown for various facilities. I didn't hear him identify all of those facilities. McDonald Lodge, Macaulay Lodge, Copper Ridge Place and community home care and activities management - I heard a couple of them, but not all five of those. Can he get on record the ones, if any, that were missed?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The amount for Macaulay Lodge, which I had inadvertently missed earlier, was $4,471,000. The total line item for continuing care - I'm sorry I didn't read that for the member opposite, he might wish to consult the budget book, where it is also listed - is $22,265,000 for 248.61 FTEs.
Continuing Care in the amount of $22,265,000 agreed to
Social Services in the amount of $43,802,000 agreed to
Chair: Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: We do not have unanimous consent for a recess. We will continue with Health and Social Services, Health Services.
On Health Services
On Program Management
Mr. McRobb: I understand the minister has to attend to something here for a minute, and that is quite all right. We will expect a breakdown on program management very soon. I'll just put on record what was discussed last year with respect to a breakdown and it was, in comparable terms, $361,000 this year; last year it was quite a bit more. The forecast was $1,291,000.
Last year, there was a forecast of $1.9 million, so there was quite a drop between the forecast one year ago and then the review of the forecast at this time. I hope the minister - his assistant is listening to this - can respond to why there was such a significant difference. In addition, there were seven FTEs last year, and the remaining amount was available in the final year of the primary health care transition fund. That was discussed the day before yesterday - trying to get a breakdown on the primary health care transition fund. I see this line item is related to that. Of course, that was a federal government transfer and program.
The management dollars identified in last year's breakdown were $487,000, and the primary health care transition fund was $1,432,000. So, program management at $1.91 million is significantly higher than only $361,000 this year. That's only about 12 percent of the total of last year's.
So, perhaps the stand-in minister can respond to this. I know he has been briefed by the official, and maybe we can get this information on the record.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, he answered his own question, really. It was due to the completion of the funding received under the primary health care transition fund, which was a federal fund.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe the minister can just complete that response. I'm looking for an explanation of the difference between last year's $1.91 million and this year's $361,000. Can we get a bit more of an explanation of why there is such a large difference?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The member just heard that answer. It was due to the completion of the primary health care transition funding agreement transfers from Canada received under that agreement. That funding is now ending, although we've been allowed to continue expenditures under the program to finish the completion of projects that have been initiated but not fully completed in the 2005-06 fiscal year post the previously announced deadline of March 31, 2006. We have been allowed to carry forward the projects and submit the receipts following that point. The Government of Canada will still allow us to do that within the accountability requirements under this funding; however, there is no funding provided to us during the 2006-07 fiscal year, as that primary health care transition fund agreement has become time-expired and has not been renewed.
Program Management in the amount of $361,000 agreed to
On Insured Health and Hearing Services
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Insured health and hearing services - $42,414,000, 21 FTEs. The Yukon health insurance plan provides coverage for medically required hospital and physician services for all eligible residents of the Yukon on uniform terms and conditions. No premiums are paid. No geographic restrictions are imposed on residents for receipt of insured services, but financial limitations on the plan's responsibilities are in effect when such services are received outside of Canada .
Insured physician services are those services rendered by a medical practitioner, which are medically required and insured through the plan. This includes visits in the office, hospital, home or scene of an accident; care and treatment before, during and after operations, including anaesthesia; and complete maternity care.
A variety of services are not insured, including services provided under other legislation, such as workers' compensation and the RCMP.
Drugs, except for those eligible for benefits under pharmacare, chronic disease and children's drug and optical programs, and cosmetic surgery, except if that surgery is medically required. Exclusions are outlined in the regulations.
Insured hospital services are those in-patient and outpatient services rendered at an approved hospital. This includes accommodation and meals at the standard or public ward level, necessary nursing services, laboratory, radiological and other diagnostics, drugs, biologicals, use of operating room and case room and anaesthetic facilities, use of radiotherapy facilities, et cetera.
Other insured services are provided to all eligible Yukon residents, including the medical travel program. Pursuant to the Travel for Medical Treatment Act, this program provides the costs of travel and subsidies to eligible persons for medically necessary transportation, as certified by a Yukon medical practitioner and approved by the medical advisor to the program in advance of the trip being taken.
Travel for medical treatment is provided for medical services insured under the health care insurance plan and hospital insurance plan, and for non-insured services, such as travel to Whitehorse for services to the Yukon government hearing services, mental health services and Child Development Centre.
Escort expenses may be covered if the referring medical practitioner certifies an escort is necessary or if that patient is under 19 years of age. If a medical or nursing escort for a patient is approved, additional expenses for non-medical or family escort will only be paid for critically ill children who are being transferred to an facility Outside. In these cases, the escort expenses for one parent will be covered. If a non-medical escort is requested by the medical practitioner is approved, payment for the travel expenses of only one escort may be made unless the patient is a critically ill child, in which case escort expenses for both parents of the patient may be covered.
Subsidies are paid to outpatients receiving treatment or awaiting the birth of their babies away from home. Transportation costs from a facility in Canada or Alaska to a facility within the Yukon may also be paid.
Chronic disease and disability - this program provides financial assistance for drugs, medical/surgical supplies and other medically necessary items for persons whose benefits are not covered by other legislation or private insurance and who are suffering from a severe disability or from one of the chronic diseases included on the Chronic Disease and
Disability Regulations Schedule A. A deductible of $250 per person or $500 per family is required. However, this deductible may be waived based on income. A formulary is in effect restricting coverage to lower cost alternative drugs only. I would also point out for the benefit of members opposite that this is one of the highest rates of coverage, if not the highest rate of coverage, of any program within Canada.
Pharmacare covers drugs for persons 65 years of age and over and their spouses 60 years of age and over whose benefits are not covered by other legislation or by private insurance. There is no deductible.
The extended health care benefits program provides a range of services, including medical supplies and equipment, dental care, optical goods and services, to persons 65 years of age and over and their spouses 60 years of age and over whose benefits are not covered by other legislation or by private insurance. There is no deductible.
The children's drug and optical program provides assistance with the cost of prescription drugs, eyeglasses and eye examinations for children of low-income families whose benefits are not covered by other legislation or private insurance.
The hearing services clinic provides services designed to help people of all ages with a variety of hearing disorders through the provision of basic hearing aid and diagnostic hearing evaluations, both in-house and at annual hearing clinics in the communities. Diagnostic hearing testing results help family physicians and ear, nose and throat specialists determine site of lesion for pathologies. Hearing services branch is also responsible for screening all children entering kindergarten and tracking hard-of-hearing children through the school system to ensure the best possible acoustic environment for the student.
Other services include counselling for hard-of-hearing clients and their families, instruction in the use and care of hearing aids, in-services for doctors, nurses, teachers, speech-language pathologists, students and parents. Client consultations are provided to parents, the Department of Education, the Child Development Centre and staff of the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge.
Mr. Chair, the breakdown of the areas include activity management for $586,811, insurance registration for $11,000, medical claims for $19,163,870, hospital claims for $9.1 million, extended health benefits for $1,335,930 and medical travel for $5,293,360.
Under the chronic disease program, there is $2,786,000. Pharmacare has $3,185,290. For children's drug and optical there is $30,000. For hearing services there is $571,739.
That is the breakdown for insured health and hearing services. I will repeat for the member that the total line item is $42,414,000 and that covers 21 FTEs.
Mr. McRobb: I am glad the minister finally got around to identifying what the budgeted amounts were in the last part of that lengthy speech. I see that there is a large portion of this for medical claims. There is a piece of information I'd like to know and other people have asked me about. That is, what is the average cost of a heart bypass surgery? Can the minister indicate for us what that is?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I don't have the level of detail for each type of procedure here. If the member wishes, we could get into a discussion of the fee schedule for each and every procedure covered under the agreement with the Yukon Medical Association. If the member wishes to do that, I will have to get a copy of the agreement sent in. I would be happy to read it out to him, as well as the fee schedule.
Mr. McRobb: Again, I'm not going to rise to the bait of that type of answer. I'm not asking for a breakdown on all types of procedures. I asked for the average cost of one type of procedure, and it's a fairly common one. If the minister doesn't have it, I am quite willing to accept that information at a later date, if he would just undertake to do so.
Can I get the information? If he doesn't have it now, can I get it later?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The answer to the member's question depends on a few things, including how long somebody has to stay in the hospital, what jurisdiction they are in where that is provided, how the procedure went, what follow-up care is necessary, what pre-procedure care is necessary. There are a lot of elements involved in this to give a full costing of this, and we do not have the information here at our fingertips. I would suggest that this may not be necessary to debate. If the member is suggesting that we pay too much for this type of procedure, then I would remind him this is established by inter-jurisdictional agreements which are not really within the control of the minister beyond deciding whether to approve the funding or not. They are negotiated by officials, and this involves cross-jurisdictional collaboration, discussion, negotiation and, ultimately, when we seek these services at hospitals out of our jurisdiction - which we must, to a large extent - we either pay the bill or we don't pay the bill. We are fully committed to paying the bill, and I certainly hope the member is not suggesting that we stop paying for Yukoners to have heart bypasses.
Mr. McRobb: Once again, I don't wish to engage in what some would deem to be obstreperous debate. I'm just looking for an average answer to a very legitimate question. If the minister doesn't have it, I am hoping he would undertake to provide that at some point in the near future.
I know he is standing up and the Premier is back there muttering suggestions on what he should say. I suggest to the minister to listen to us on this side and simply respond to the questions.
This is an important question I have been asked by several constituents and others in the Whitehorse area: what is the average cost of heart procedures? They need to know, and this relates a lot to the cost of health care in the territory, Mr. Chair. We spend a lot of money on prevention. Well, we need to know what the average cost is of one of the major diseases that result from a number of the scourges in our society, about which the minister can stand up and provide details for 20 minutes at a chunk, and he has done that several times in the past three days.
But he is unable to provide us with a little snippet of information that he can get from his officials at the Hospital Corporation or the one sitting beside him. It's on somebody's books somewhere. I'm just looking for the average cost of heart bypass surgery; if he can provide that, we'll get on with debate.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I answered the question to the member. I told him we didn't have that level of detail. I told him about the need to consider the full treatment cost related to that procedure - to simply focus on the cost paid for the performance of that procedure alone does not in any way, shape or form accurately reflect the cost.
I would also point out that the member is reflecting inaccurate information on the record here in suggesting that the Hospital Corporation is part of the Department of Health and Social Services. It is not part of the department. They are not my officials, as he referred to them. He needs to recognize we have an agency relationship with the Hospital Corporation. It is created by the Hospital Act, and they provide services in accordance with the yearly funding arrangement with the Hospital Corporation. They are run by a board that is appointed in accordance with the Hospital Act.
If the member wishes, I suppose we could stand here and discuss the Hospital Act at length, but I would suggest that a lot of the member's questions here are not of real pertinence to the matter and that debate might be better served if the member gave other members of this Assembly a chance to ask for information. I told the member we don't have that information at our fingertips, and that is the answer to that question.
Ms. Duncan: If I could just ask the minister, in follow-up to my colleague's question - my understanding is that what he was looking for is an average cost of a specific procedure, and I have actually been asked that question myself by a constituent who has recently had to travel. For years, we've heard about the high cost of health care, and I've had a variety of constituents who have had to travel out for different procedures. When you meet them in the airport or on the plane, their question is: “Well, what does this cost? We're so grateful for our Yukon health care.”
If the minister would just commit - I understand there are a whole variety of parameters. I'm not looking for specifics, and I don't want the complete fee schedule. Could we have, by letter - after the House rises is fine, if we could just have it, say, before the end of May - an average cost of heart bypass surgery? Just an average cost - like the fee schedule. I've been listening to the debate. I understand we pay for services from British Columbia and Alberta, and I note that nobody has asked if we still have a balance of the use of both, or if one is increasing over the other. I didn't hear that in the debate.
So, if I could just have the minister send over that information to our caucus, I'd appreciate it - an average cost of heart surgery. We could have asked for knee, but most often I have been asked about heart - so, say, a bypass surgery, understanding there are different parameters. But just an average cost - if the minister could send a letter before the end of May, I'd appreciate the information.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I can't commit to sending a letter by the end of May. I will check into this matter, but one thing I would like to make the member aware of is that one of the problems being faced by every health care system in the country is that it has largely been paper-based. In some cases, there are forms in triplicate for things such as pharmaceuticals and costs. The forms are submitted. It is still largely a paper-based system in our electronic world.
The implementation of an electronic health record remains one of the high priorities of all health ministers - certainly all the provincial and territorial health ministers. The federal minister was urged at our last meeting to continue federal support for the project, which was ending, and to provide an increase to fulfill the completion of the electronic health registry from coast to coast, with the intention that the systems can be integrated and the information shared.
I would clarify to members that the intent is not to have one national database, but to have files that are in similar computer software so there is the ability to transfer the programs. Then someone can transfer the file to Alberta if someone moves there, or transfer a file to the Yukon if someone moves here from Ontario . If someone leaves the territory, we would be able to transfer the file to another jurisdiction. If different software is used, and there isn't the ability for transfer, the fact that the system is so paper-based means that, in many cases, the connection of what services are provided to what patients is not information that is easily or readily available at our fingertips. I am not certain that the information is not available in terms of heart bypass and we will look into that.
I am also not certain that it is available, because there are significant issues that arise due to the paper nature of our system. If someone goes to their doctor 20 times or 30 times, for example, related to preparation for the surgery and other issues related to their health just prior to a bypass, it may not show up and be tracked in the same area as the bypass information.
Members may suggest that the earlier treatments are not directly related to their question. Some of the earlier ones may not be, but certainly the ones directly before the procedure are connected to that. There is also follow-up, post-op, drug costs and other areas. One of the very critical reasons and demands for having the electronic health system is to be able to track this data. Right now, every jurisdiction in the country is not satisfied with the extent to which we can determine the costs provided for various procedures addressing various health issues that may not even be related to surgery, but may be related to resolving a problem that someone is facing.
I will undertake to look into this matter for the member opposite but I'm not going to make a commitment to provide information that I'm not sure we have. If we have the information, I will provide it. I will request it from the department but I will not commit to having it to them by the end of May because I'm not certain that is a reasonable time frame. We will look into it and, if the information exists, we will provide it. If it doesn't exist, I will provide the members with a note explaining to them that it does not exist at this time.
Ms. Duncan: The electronic health records and that particular initiative is something I am quite familiar with. I appreciate the minister's update on that particular project. I would just like to point out to the minister that the Department of Health and Social Services can tell us the average cost of an insured service. We have done it. In our health report card that Yukon was the first jurisdiction to issue, they sent me a statement and told me exactly what the average cost was of having a baby, or of another fairly common procedure, process or event.
The cost of bypass surgery is also fairly common. We're not looking for the information to wave it at the minister and demand other programs. We're looking for an answer to the question from the constituent who stops me in the airport and says, “Gee, I wonder what this costs.” I'm quite confident that professionals in the Department of Health and Social Services' insured services could tell me if I just picked up the phone and asked them. I'm sure they have that information. I appreciate that the minister is going to send it over.
He wandered into the issue of electronic health records, which is a very, very important project for the Yukon, for Canadians, in terms of our health records. We are making significant progress, and I believe the Yukon system is going to go live, hopefully. We're one of the jurisdictions.
Could the minister give me two pieces of information when he responds? Number one, when is our go-live date for our electronic health records system? The second question is about pharmaceuticals, which is another issue entirely. It's being dealt with, as I understand, separately from this idea of our electronic health records. It is nonetheless being worked on. Could we have an update on how that system is progressing, please?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the Member for Porter Creek South, the replacement of our insured health system is underway and is anticipated to be completed this summer. I don't have the exact date to provide at this time, but I would point out that does not give us an electronic health record. That is a component system; it replaces what we have in existence.
That is a pretty significant cost and has been underway for years - to get that up and to get that live. That will be the basis - the building block - to enable us to do two things: implement the electronic health record and track the pharmaceutical prescriptions, including the issue of electronic prescribing.
As the member may be aware, one concern, although not the only concern with regard to electronic health records and the desire to move to this, is the issue of the infamy of doctors' handwriting. There is a percentage - I can't recall the exact number off the top of my head; I can get that number if the member wishes, but there is a percentage and a far too high number of cases that occur nationally where people are prescribed the wrong medication - sometimes fatally - because the pharmacist can't read the doctor's handwriting.
An electronic pharmaceutical system and the integration of that would allow electronic prescriptions and ensure that there are no issues with the wrong prescription being given due to the handwriting being misread; secondly, it does provide an ability to tackle the problem of double-doctoring, as it is so-called, due to our paper-based system. It is possible, as members know, and it is an issue where people who are misusing certain prescriptions, such as Tylenol 3 and Ativan, may go to different doctors and different pharmacies for the same prescription.
A lack of an integrated system prevents us from being able to track that.
Ms. Duncan: I am reminded that I asked the minister a question and I didn't hear it asked in debate. We use British Columbia or Alberta, depending on doctor preferences, when we send patients Outside. Slowly, over the years, with the advantage of having Air North's direct service to Alberta cities, we have gradually increased the use of Alberta doctors. I would just like to know if we are on par. Is it about even? What is the breakdown? A written response is fine, if the minister would prefer.
Could I also have an estimate of the medical travel costs to the Government of Yukon? With the additional funding, we will now have in-territory travel costs and out-of-territory travel costs. Could I have a breakdown of those and the estimates? If the minister wishes to give me a written response, again, that's fine.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the question about the usage of hospitals and comparing Alberta with British Columbia , it does depend to a significant extent, as the member is aware, on what the doctor arranges. With regard to medical travel costs, I gave those numbers already, but I will repeat them. Medical travel is $5,293,360.
Ms. Duncan: That's the estimated cost. Is there a split between in-territory and out-of-territory in that, or is it just a ballpark estimate based on past use? Is it just a budget estimate, or do we break it down?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: It is a budget estimate. I don't have a breakdown beyond that. Yes, that's all we have at this time. If the member wishes, we can look into what was spent beyond that on in-territory versus out-of territory. But I'd also remind the member that we are providing an increase in this area. If memory serves, our medevac costs, for example, as a portion of the cost - we pay about $3.3 million a year for those services. And I can't recall off the top of my head the amount that we typically spend on Air North and Air Canada for sending people out on those services.
Insured Health and Hearing Services in the amount of $42,414,000 agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could we have a breakdown on that expenditure? And if there are any significant highlights, such as a personnel increase or an increase in equipment, I'd appreciate a further breakdown.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Yukon hospital services branch identifies the amount provided under a contribution agreement to Whitehorse General Hospital. The hospital, of course, has block funding, as we've discussed with the members opposite. We have provided an additional $415,000 in capital and $663,000 for the First Nations health program. The total contribution outside of those two amounts is $25,165,000. I would note for the members opposite that the contribution in 2002-03 was just in excess of $20 million per year. We've increased that by over $5 million a year, to the current level of $25,828,00. I would also identify that over that time, we provided an additional $10 million in capital contributions to Whitehorse General Hospital.
I believe that should answer the questions of the members. That's the information I have at hand.
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $25,828,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $76,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Mr. McRobb: I don't know what the minister is doing, Mr. Chair, but we're expecting a breakdown of this line item.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I would urge the Member for Kluane to give us the time to grab the information he asks for.
Community health programs total $6,117,000 and there are 42.7 FTEs. There are five major components under community health programs, as follows. The health promotion unit provides or supports evidence-based targeted health promotion and illness prevention programs and activities to increase health knowledge, encourage healthy decision-making and behaviour, promote professional development and collaboration among allied health professionals and create supportive environments. Funding is provided to community groups that play a vital role in health promotion and illness prevention in relation to HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other chronic conditions.
Dental health: Yukon children's dental program is a school-based public dental program that provides diagnostic, preventive and restorative dental services to children from preschool-age to grade 8 in Whitehorse and Dawson City and preschool to grade 12 in all other rural communities. Dentists in private practice are contracted to provide some consultative and clinical services.
Environmental health services promote care for the environment in the interests of protecting human health. Working with the medical health officer, environmental health services provides consultation and educational services to individuals, business and government. They operate a water laboratory for bacterial analysis of drinking and recreational water. They engage in inspections, surveillance, audits and enforcement activities in support of the regulatory program, as mandated by the Public Health and Safety Act and regulations.
Yukon communicable disease control, in consultation with the medical health officer, is responsible for prevention, monitoring and control of all infectious diseases throughout the Yukon. Activities include direct client services, including screening, testing, treatment, monitoring, patient education and support, policy and program development, epidemiological and statistical analysis and consultation with other health care providers, agencies and government bodies.
Mental health services provides out-patient assessment, individual and group treatment, consultation and referral services to individuals with a range of mental health problems, including adults diagnosed with serious and persistent mental illnesses, adults with other more episodic mental health problems, and children and youth.
A multi-disciplinary team also engages in or supports public education, training, policy and program development in allied departments and community organizations and community development.
Psychiatric services are provided by one resident psychiatrist and two itinerant consulting psychiatrists.
Under this area, there is an increase of personnel in the amount of $148,000, for .2 FTEs and $11,000 for conversion of secretary psychiatric services from part- to full-time; .3 FTEs and $17,000 to create a full-time lab technician in environmental health; $46,000 for reclassification of dental therapist; and a $74,000 increase due to increases under the collective bargaining agreement with government employees.
There is also a decrease due to funding for supportive environmental health program supplies that was provided as one-time funding and is recoverable now from Health Canada , and a decrease due to a one-time cost relating to the implementation of the adult protection legislation and that being in the amount of $67,000.
Breakdown under community health programs: activity management, $370,089; mental health, $2,152,051; dental health, $1,084,348; environmental health, $783,577; health promotion, $622,988; communicable diseases, $1,130,947.
With regard to health promotion, I would again remind members opposite of the investment outside this budget area that we will be making under the territorial health access fund of some $2.16 million outlined over the next five years to spend in areas related to health living, healthy eating, health promotion and assisting Yukoners in breaking addiction to tobacco as well as education programs aimed at encouraging young people never to start with such an addiction.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 20.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that we report progress on Bill No. 20, First Appropriation Act, 2006-07.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Deputy Speaker: Order please. I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Deputy Chair's report
Mr. Hassard: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 20, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2006-07, and directed me to report progress on it.
Deputy Speaker: You have heard the report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Deputy Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Deputy Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 23, 2006.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.
The following document was filed May 18, 2006 :
Big Game Outfitting Land Application Policy, documents dated April 1, 2006 and October 6, 2005 (Fairclough)