Wednesday, January 31, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling the draft Parks and Outdoor Recreation Policy (1989).
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills?
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Draft Parks and Outdoor Recreation Policy
Hon. Mr. Webster: It is my pleasure to release today a draft Yukon Parks and Outdoor Recreation Policy.
Although the Yukon has had a Parks Act for some years and established the Herschel Island Territorial Park in 1987, policies to guide the selection and classification of additional areas for park protection have never been formally adopted.
This draft policy proposes a framework for the selection, categorization and management of Yukon parks and outdoor recreation areas.
Adoption of a final parks and outdoor recreation policy, shaped by the comments of the Yukon public, will be an important step to protect unique and important natural, cultural and recreational features of the Yukon.
The development of this policy is in part a response to the 1986 Select Committee Report on Renewable Resources, which I chaired. As the Member for Kluane will recall, the select committee recommended formulation of site selection criteria for parks designation and a range of protection measures appropriate for each. The report went on to say: ideally, a broad range of features, such as unique landscapes, historical and cultural sites, recreation opportunities, et cetera, should be included in this parks system. Similar measures were proposed by the 1984 Task Force on Northern Conservation.
The draft policy is also consistent with the Yukon Conservation Strategy and with the Yukon Economic Strategy, which specifically commits the Yukon Government to guard the Yukons natural historical and archaeological heritage.
The goal of this policy is to conserve and manage the Yukons natural, recreational and cultural heritage for our use and for the enjoyment of future generations.
To achieve that goal, the policy sets out guidelines for classifying four kinds of protected areas: parks, campgrounds, outdoor recreational corridors and sites, and heritage rivers. For each classification, specific purposes, objectives and selection criteria are spelled out.
The department has completed much of the research needed to identify areas in the Yukon that are particularly deserving of protection. A natural features inventory of the entire Yukon was completed in 1987. In 1988, work was completed on a Yukon-wide recreational features inventory. The heritage branch of the Department of Tourism is adding to three years of work on a heritage inventory, which identifies Yukon historic sites. With this wealth of data in hand, the department will be well equipped to identify and priorize potential areas for protection under the Parks Act once the policy is adopted.
The policy itself does not propose specific parks, but does lay out the criteria that will guide us in selecting potential sites or areas for protection under the Parks Act.
Having said that, I would like to emphasize that specific proposals for the establishment of protected areas under any of the classifications will be subject to public scrutiny and consultation.
The policy also recognizes that within larger parks and outdoor recreational areas, there may well be a mix of significant resources, such as a combination of natural features and perhaps historic sites or buildings or a campground. Consequently, the policy proposes a zoning system that would allow us to designate and manage various areas within a park for specific purposes.
The Yukon offers a wealth of natural features and recreational opportunities worthy of protection. The draft policy that I have introduced today is a tool that can help us establish a system of protected areas representative of the best that this territory has to offer.
Over the last several weeks, my department has been in contact with many groups that have made us aware of their special interests in parks and outdoor recreation sites.
I would now like to take this opportunity to invite all Yukoners to review this draft policy. I look forward to receiving their comments, as well as those of hon. Members, by March 16.
I am confident that a version of this policy, refined by public comment, will provide us with sound guidelines to help us protect special places in the Yukon.
Mr. Phelps: We are very pleased to see that the draft policy is finally coming forward. Of course, as many Yukoners know, there has been an act in place for some time, and we finally were able to establish the first territorial park at Herschel Island, partly as a result of negotiations during the land claims with COPE. I certainly support the principles that have been enunciated by the Minister, and we look forward to looking at the policy and perhaps providing some constructive criticism.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Decentralization
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Executive Council Office. I would like to welcome that Minister back. He is becoming very familiar with the route between Vancouver and Whitehorse.
This government has said that it is committed to the concept of decentralizing government from Whitehorse to the rural communities. The Minister appointed a task force under Jim Smith to investigate the concept and make recommendations to Cabinet. I understand that the report was delivered four or five months ago.
Can the Minister advise if the government has developed a policy regarding decentralization? If so, will it table its policy in the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would like to thank the Leader or the Official Opposition for his question and its preamble. I would like to express my appreciation to him for respecting the time honoured parliamentary tradition of pairing. I would like to explain to him that while I was in Whitehorse yesterday for one-half hour, it was at several thousand feet up and I was not permitted to actually get my feet on the local soil.
The Member is correct that we commissioned former Commissioner Jim Smith to lead a group of people who were representatives of a number of organizations to consider the challenge of decentralization and to attempt to reconcile the competing interests of the different and conflicting kinds of advice that we were getting on that subject. We received the report four or five months ago. Very recently, we had a formal presentation from the Chair of the committee and formal consideration of that report is now actively under review, and the intention is that there will be a government policy on decentralization. Once that policy is forged, we will be making a public announcement about it.
Mr. Phelps: Does the Minister intend to table the task force report in the Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have already taken notice on that question. There were a number of documents. It is, in a sense, a Cabinet document since it was prepared for a Cabinet committee; I will have to formally ask my colleagues. It is sufficiently public now, in terms of the interest groups that were involved in it. I do not have any great alarm about that, but I want to respect the formalities on this score. I would like to give an undertaking that if the Leader of the Official Opposition is interested, I will be happy to brief him or have him briefed on the contents. Not all of the private-sector participants in this report have endorsed its recommendations.
Mr. Phelps: Has the government made any tentative projections with regard to the impact of decentralization on government requirements for office space in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the Member has been told by the Minister of Government Services that the office space studies that have been done so far are about the office situation in Whitehorse and the kind of demands and pressures that exist here. The Leader of the Official Opposition should also know that the prime candidates for decentralization would be discreet units coming from the federal government that could be located in appropriate rural communities, without causing any interruption or diseconomies in service, which was provided for the general public of the whole territory.
Another possibility is that we have had suggestions from people that such a facility as a correctional institute could be built outside Whitehorse when the present one comes to be replaced. That would not necessarily have any implications directly on office space.
There are other recommendations that would see the wholesale removal of departments or branches of this government to rural communities that would have significant impact. I have to tell the Leader of the Official Opposition that that radical proposal, if you like, is not under active consideration at this time.
Question re: Decentralization, office space
Mr. Phelps: One concern that was raised yesterday in Question Period has to do with the current plans of government to take on an additional 40,000 square feet in Whitehorse, and the announcement that the Yukon Development Corporation is going to spend $6 million renovating the old Yukon College to provide about three-quarters of that projected need.
Can the Minister tell us why government would go ahead with the concept of having Yukon Development Corporation spend $6 million when right now there are no clear projections that take into account decentralization, since the decentralization policy has not been formally adopted by government?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There are several issues to which I have to respond.
First of all, the old Yukon College is already on a public property and is space within the precincts of the government as a whole. The reason it is being renovated is that it is cheaper than building new space of similar kind or scale.
The argument that we have not taken decentralization into account assumes that there will no be growth in this community and, therefore, no growth in the government without devolution. I do not think that is necessarily a well-founded notion. I think that many of the best prospects for decentralization may well involve programs that will be devolved; therefore, we are not necessarily talking about moving large offices or large units that are now inside this public service to rural communities.
I believe, as the Minister of Government Services also told the Opposition, there is sufficient flexibility in the plan to accommodate a range of decentralization decisions we have yet to make.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to be on record as questioning the $6 million figure for upgrading Yukon College to accommodate office space for the Department of Education. I have had experience with renovating old buildings, and these things can very quickly run over cost estimates.
I ask the Minister to consider having independent opinions given to him about the feasibility of upgrading old Yukon College. I am very concerned that we could have severe over runs, once they get started on that project.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The question is in the form of a representation. I will take note of it in that light. I hope the Leader of the Official Opposition would concede the third-party opinion, or the market test of the viability of the plan, is provided for by YDC going to the markets for the money to carry out the project. With an undertaking like that, it is quite normal there would be that critical perspective on the job. Without delaying it unnecessarily, I think there are times, in the case of a significant project, where you do want to get a second opinion. That may be well advised. I have not discussed that possibility with my colleagues.
Mr. Phelps: Surely the Minister would recognize that the ability of Yukon Development Corporation to borrow money will not be entirely contingent on the advisability or economics of the office building it is going to be leasing to the government. Yukon Development Corporation has a lot of assets and a lot of income from other sources. Surely the Minister recognizes that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I would concede immediately that the Leader of the Official Opposition has more experience in property development than I, but I would guess that anybody financing such a project would take an interest in exactly the question he previously asked.
As the Member knows, the projects that have been given by my colleague, the Minister of Government Services, are estimates, and his officials believe they are sound estimates. We will want to see those estimates tested and feel comfortable about them, of course, before we proceed.
Question re: Devolution, forestry
Mr. Phelps: I hope I am not placed in the position of saying I told you so a few years down the line. I really hope the project is one that is going to be economically viable.
The Minister has talked about the preference of this government to look at existing programs that are in the process of being devolved from the federal government to the Government of Yukon, and looking at establishing some of those programs in rural communities. I am particularly interested in forestry, which is under negotiation, as I understand it. It seems to us, on this side, that Watson Lake would be an appropriate place to consider establishing the head offices for the forestry program.
Is this government looking at that in an active way? Has it had discussions with the council in Watson Lake about such a move?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I believe the Leader of the Official Opposition may have noted in the past that a number of Ministers on this side have indicated publicly that we would look at the possibility of locating all or part of the forestry unit in Watson Lake. As I indicated earlier, the caveat applies that we would have to be satisfied that the forestry unit could serve the needs of the industry all over the territory from such a location.
There are a lot of arguments that modern technology and communication tools would enable them to do that. Of course, Watson Lake is the natural centre of the forestry industry. We have made some decisions that indicate our faith in that fact.
I want to be clear to the Leader of the Official Opposition that I hope he understands that the argument about locating discreet units in rural communities is a very powerful one. The notion that we could simply move existing people, to uproot them from their homes in Riverdale, Porter Creek or Hillcrest and ask them to move on short notice to many of the communities in rural Yukon, is not always popular, and I suspect it would not be a popular decision in every case.
The notion that we could simply move positions when they become vacant is also not likely to be, in every case, a good decision operationally. That leads us to look at discreet units and a unit such as the forestry operation is a natural candidate for that kind of devolution, for all the reasons we have talked about. That is not to say, and I want to be careful about this, that if the forestry unit were located in Watson Lake there would necessarily therefore be no people involved in forestry work located in Whitehorse. I think that is not feasible or practical. I do not want to make the decision and then have people from Watson Lake coming back to me and saying, You said all the people would be here, and they are not. We clearly have not made that decision, but that is the kind of candidate we would be actively looking at.
Mr. Phelps: The Minister is treading a very fine line here on the political level, I suppose, but there has been a certain degree of dissatisfaction expressed with the lack of progress of this government in establishing a policy with regard to decentralizing government. Of course, there has been an ongoing call for decentralization from the AYC and from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, so it seems that many, many segments of Yukon society would like to see more done. I would hope that the only consideration is not the wishes of people presently living in Whitehorse; I would hope the policy would take into account the very serious need to decentralize to some degree and lend stability to many of these outlying communities.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Leader of the Opposition is quite right. It is a very popular and frequently heard demand, and it has been made in this House. I would point out that there are a significant number of jobs that this government has decided to locate outside Whitehorse, but I would also immediately concede that it is not enough. We have to do more. I understand perfectly that the AYC is very interested in having more YTG jobs located in its towns, in the same way that CYI has an interest in seeing more of those kinds of positions in the communities they represent in the smaller villages. By the same score, the union has the apprehension in that they do not like to see their permanent employees moved without some kind of due process from their jobs now here in Whitehorse to those communities. They have a preference for seeing new jobs created in those communities.
There are other realities we have to operate. For many years, it has been the official policy of this government, for example, that decentralization should happen, but managerial economies or the imperatives of managing a system like highways, for example, have led them to concentrate more on the people in Whitehorse, rather the opposite of what was the official policy. Those were sound managerial decisions but not good political or economic decisions from the point of view perhaps of the Legislature or the Cabinet.
All I am saying is that it is a sufficiently complex issue that does warrant assembling a global policy; that is what we are moving to do and that is why we created the committee under Commissioner Smith, and it is why we have resolved to take some firm decisions in the matter.
Mr. Phelps: We have all paid lip service and recognize, too, the complexity. When can we expect to receive a policy?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: In 1990.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Yukon Development Corporation. There have been reports circulating around Watson Lake regarding the possible sale by Yukon Development Corporation of its current 15 percent interest in Yukon Pacific Forest Products. I have received a number of calls from constituents who are employees of the sawmill, seeking information. Can the Minister advise the House if YDC is still reserving its 15 percent interest in Yukon Pacific Forest Products for the employees of the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I indicated last week, there have been negotiations going on. We have tentative agreements that may take effect if certain conditions are met, in other words if certain monies are received. I hope later in this week to be in a position to make announcements about it, but I am not in a position to answer the Members question right now.
Mr. Devries: I realize the sensitive nature of these questions, but there is a timeliness now to ask these questions. A sense of commitment to sell the shares to the employees was made by the Government Leader when Yukon Pacific Forest Products was established. Can the Minister assure the employees of the mill that they will be consulted and have input into any decision regarding the future disposition of the 15 percent interest of the mill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have to take that question as notice for reasons I just gave in the previous answer.
Mr. Devries: Can the Minister advise the House if the employees have been consulted about the potential sale? If not, will they be consulted?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will have to take the question as notice. The employees in questions are employed by a private company. There are not only litigation proceedings, but also negotiations going on. I will have to reserve my response until the conclusion of the negotiations.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: Last week the Minister of Health and Human Resources gave a rough estimate of $40,000 for the repairs and improvements to the young offenders facility. Can the Minister tell us now if the work is complete and what the total cost was?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The work is complete and the young offenders are back in the facility. The approximate estimate I gave last week still stands until we get a final accounting. Neither the Department of Health and Human Resources nor the Department of Government Services has that figure yet.
Mr. Nordling: When the Minister provides that figure, will he provide a breakdown of the costs? I mean the cost of repairs versus the cost for the physical improvements to the security of the building.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not see any reason why that cannot be done.
Mr. Nordling: When the government redesigned and then retendered the construction of the facility to bring the costs down to the original estimate of $2.5 million, one of the areas of reduction was for plans to have the entire area surrounded by a chain-link fence. Those plans were dropped. This fence now, I understand, is going to be built after all. Does the Minister know what the fence is going to cost?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I already indicated the other night that I did not have a cost on that at the time we were discussing the estimates. I still do not because the work has not been tendered or commissioned. I cannot tell the Member what it will cost. I can provide a very rough estimate in a day or two. Until the work is actually tendered or near complete, I cannot be more accurate than that.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre
Mr. Nordling: I would have though the Minister would have that information at his finger tips. After all, it was part of the original design, and it must have been costed at that time. When the young offenders facility opened, the philosophy of this government in dealing with young offenders sentenced to secure custody was to give them trust and room to move about. Will there be a change in this approach?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The philosophy has not been changed. I hope that those residents of the facility who have earned the trust of the staff will be able to move about freely within the facility. I hope that no more of them will be moving freely outside the facility.
Mr. Nordling: Can the Minister tell what changes will be put in place or have been put into place to enhance the safety of the staff? I am talking about changes other than the physical changes that the Minister has described as improvements to the locks.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There has been an occupational health and safety review, as well as the third-party review by the experts from B.C. The orientation around the new physical improvements is designed to see that not only the residents are secure, but also that the staff there is protected as much as we can in such a facility.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to know if the Minister has had a chance to read the $55,000 report prepared by Audrey McLaughlin on young offenders program planning. Would he table that report?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have certainly not had a chance to read it since he first asked me about it in Question Period last week. My knowledge of the report probably goes back to the time it was received in Management Board some time ago. For that reason it would be impossible for me to precis it accurately on the floor of the House. Given the interest of the Member, I will take another look at it.
Question re: Young offenders program, McLaughlin report
Mr. Lang: I would like to pursue that report a little further. It does require some scrutiny on how we got into the situation with the young offenders facility - a secure facility with no locks.
Would the Minister undertake to table that report and any other reports relating to this facility so all Members have a full understanding of exactly what took place on the planning of the facility?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take the question as notice. I am absolutely certain Ms. McLaughlins report did not recommend the establishment of this facility without locks.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources regarding the health services transfer, and specifically the employees.
The process of developing a memorandum of understanding with the employees at the Whitehorse General Hospital is still ongoing. There has been some progress but there are still major outstanding issues such as housing, isolated post allowance, superannuation and travel benefits.
Can the Minister tell us what the departments target date is for completion of the classification process and the final signing of the memorandum of understanding?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We had originally hoped to complete a transfer by this coming summer. Substantial progress has been made on the issues identified by the Member. As the Member knows, a certain number of months are required from the point when we reach final agreement to when offers can be made to the employees and they have then a window of opportunity to decide whether they want to stay with the federal system or come to work for us. All of those situations are contingent upon a commitment from the federal government for the capital to produce a new facility. Whatever happens on the personnel side will still ultimately be contingent upon that decision by the federal government.
Mrs. Firth: I am asking specifically about the goals of this government. They are proceeding with negotiations. As I understand it, the incumbents all have to be interviewed and the representatives of the parties go back to the table to discuss the remainder of the issues.
Can the Minister answer the first question I asked about new target dates? Can he tell us when they will have the next meeting at the main negotiating table?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take the question about the next meeting at the negotiating table as notice.
The question on the target date is arbitrary, to an extent, and dependent upon other factors; it is only a target date. Obviously, if negotiations take longer than we had originally planned, then the target date for the transfer will slip.
It is certainly my hope that in the next few weeks we shall know with some certainty whether this transfer is going to take place or not. I believe that is absolutely essential, not only for this government and for this community, but also for the employees because they are working in a present condition of uncertainty and that is entirely unsatisfactory.
Mrs. Firth: I understood the tentative timing of the next meeting at the negotiating table was in February. The Minister has given me a commitment to come back with an answer regarding that issue.
In the event the transfer does not take place, is the Minister saying all the negotiations regarding a memorandum of understanding will cease to be active?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I am not saying that. The point is that we may, and I am sure we will, reach a happy accommodation with the employees of the hospital and be able to reach agreements with them about the job classifications and kind of incomes and benefits package they could look forward to as employees of the Yukon government. Unless the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada can reach an agreement on the capital to transfer the hospital, and on the financing of the personnel package, the transfer will not take place. The formal discussions with employees are necessarily quite difficult, since they are not our employees, and also because their collective agreement is quite different from the one enjoyed by the government workers of the territorial government.
I do believe that where there is a will there is a way, and I am still hopeful these negotiations can be happily concluded.
Question re: Health services transfer
Mrs. Firth: The Minister has commented that, in the next few weeks, they will know whether the transfer is going to take place or not. Could the Government Leader share with us any new initiatives that either his government or the federal government has presented that has given him this positive outlook?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I do not want to over state my optimism. Last week, it was alleged that an official with the department was totally pessimistic. Neither is the case.
We are currently in discussions with senior officials in the federal government. As a result of those discussions that are now going on, I am hoping we can move closer to an agreement. If there is some flexibility indicated by the federal government on the basic question of the capital commitment, I believe we can get an agreement.
Mrs. Firth: That is exactly my concern. The employees are being seesawed back and forth. One person is saying there is reason to be optimistic, one person is saying they should not be optimistic. I understand officials are telling them the federal government could change their position tomorrow and the transfer could take place.
Has the federal government demonstrated to the Minister of Health some flexibility, as he just referred to, when it comes to their position on the new hospital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I cannot get into a blow-by-blow description of the negotiations that are going on, but I can tell you that we are talking and that both parties - the Yukon government and the federal government - are trying to resolve the difference between us. The federal position is that no capital will be forthcoming to build a new hospital until a complete transfer takes place. That includes the community health services, which can probably not be concluded outside of the self-government agreements with all the Yukon first nations. The position of the Yukon government, which has been articulated for many months, is that we should do the transfer in two phases, the first phase being the transfer of the hospital. The necessary completion of that phase is the commitment of capital from the federal government to build a new facility.
Those are the publicly-stated positions of the two governments. We are now trying to resolve that impasse with goodwill on both sides.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister of Health has, in the next few weeks as he has stated, some news about whether or not the transfer is going to proceed, will that information be relayed to the employees at the Whitehorse General Hospital immediately?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It will depend partly upon whether the House is sitting or not, since I think we have some obligations to the Legislature, but in essence my view is that, if we reach a certain point when it is clear we are not going to reach an agreement on the transfer, it would be better for all concerned, including the employees, to tell the employees that, tell the public that, and accept it as an unfortunate reality. My hope is that we will be able to make a different kind of announcement: that, in fact, we have been able to resolve the differences between us and that a transfer is going to proceed this year.
Question re: Fur boycott in Aspen, Colorado
Mr. Phillips: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Two days ago, I raised the fact that the city of Aspen, Colorado was holding a plebiscite respecting the selling of fur coats or fur products. In fact, the plebiscite is going to take place on February 13, and question 4 in the plebiscite reads as follows: Shall the city council adopt ordinance 70 series of 1989 which prohibits the commercial sale of furs and wild animals within the City of Aspen? For existing inventory, this ordinance will take effect one year from the date of its adoption. This ordinance does not prohibit the wearing of furs, nor does it prohibit either the sale or the wearing of furs from domestic animals.
This is the first U.S. city to consider such a drastic anti-trapping move; it is a sharp reminder that the anti movement has not gone away. This government has spent a lot of money in the past several years combatting the anti-fur lobby, and I would like to know when this government became aware of this tactic by the anti-trapping lobby and what they plan to do about it with respect to the vote in Aspen, Colorado on February 13?
Hon. Mr. Webster: This development was brought to my attention on Monday night during debates of the Renewable Resources estimates. At that time, I made it known to the Member opposite that we would contact the Fur Institute of Canada and Indigenous Survival International to find out if they were doing anything to combat or to make their presence known before this vote was taken, and to see if we could be of assistance to them in any way. Yesterday, we did contact both those agencies, and they informed us that their strategy is for this vote to proceed without any interference from them, so that it may actually encourage a winning vote for the anti-fur lobby. In their minds, their strategy is that this would lead to a more radical anti-fur, anti-trapping position, which the Fur Institute of Canada believes they could easily refute.
Mr. Phillips: That is what the Fur Institute of Canada is doing and the other group is doing, but I am wondering if the Government of Yukon agrees with that position, if it agrees that we should let, so to speak, the battle be won here by the antis in the hopes that we can win the war eventually. Is that the position of the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Webster: I think what is important is that we do have a unified front in combatting the long range problem we are facing. This is certainly just one small battle in the long war. So, in response to the Members question, I would have to support the position that is being taken by the Fur Institute of Canada and Indigenous Survival International.
Mr. Phillips: To be clear on what the Minister is saying, this government is going to do nothing at all about this particular move by the anti group in Aspen, Colorado, the first city in the United States to consider a ban on the sale of fur products? The government is going to take no position whatsoever on it other than the position of watching and waiting to see if this goes any further than Aspen, Colorado, and spreads to other U.S. cities?
Hon. Mr. Webster: Realistically, there is not a great deal that the Government of Yukon can do independently to have any kind of effect in this matter. That is why we are supporting a position by the Fur Institute of Canada.
Question re: School busing
Mr. Lang: The problem of overcrowding on buses in the Whitehorse area has arisen this year. My information is that the busing committee met on January 22, and the issue of overcrowding on buses was discussed. Could the Minister report the outcome of that meeting to the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not had a report from the busing committee as to their preliminary discussions about overcrowding on school buses. It is not the kind of issue that will be resolved in one meeting. The department and the school busing committee are taking the matter seriously. When we come to some preliminary conclusions, I will let the Member know.
Mr. Lang: Will the Minister provide the House with the recommendations that were brought forward as a result of that meeting?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the school busing committee has no objection to me transmitting their advice to the department, I would have no problem tabling that information.
Mr. Lang: We are dealing with a specific constituency issue. The Minister knows that I raised the question of some particular bus stops. One of those is at Clyde Wann and Basswood. Has that been resolved? It was supposed to have been discussed as well.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It was a very busy meeting. Not only was school bus crowding talked about, but the school bus incident with the Yukon Alaska truck was also discussed as well as other things. I do not have a report from the committee yet regarding the issue of getting school buses off Wann Road into other streets in Porter Creek. I will find out as soon as I can and let the Member know.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: On behalf of the House Leaders, I request unanimous consent to proceed directly to Motions other than Government Motions rather than calling Motions for the Production of Papers, and for the Motions to be called in the following order: Item No. 1, Motion No. 47; Item No. 5, Motion No. 67; Item No. 7, Motion No. 69; Item No. 2, Motion No. 25; Item No. 9, Motion No. 71.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Motions other than Government Motions.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 47 - adjourned debate
Clerk: Item No. 1, standing in the name of Ms. Kassi. Amendment moved by Mrs. Firth. Adjourned debate, Mr. Lang.
Speaker: The motion reads as follows
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the problem of excessive alcohol consumption in Yukon communities is serious;
THAT alcohol not only destroys individuals, it is also a threat to the survival of these communities;
THAT the Government of the Yukon through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources should investigate ways for communities to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their communities, if they so wish.
The amendment moved by the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South reads as follows:
THAT Motion No. 47 be amended by deleting the third paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT the Government of Yukon through the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources should evaluate existing programs and recommend alternatives for dealing with this important problem.
Mr. Lang: I welcome the opportunity to once again continue debate on a very serious issue that the people of the Yukon face that is also national and international in scope. In situations facing countries such as Russia, one of the major problems they are faced with is alcoholism and the abuse that comes with it - and subsequently, social problems. I want to assure all Members of the House that the Members on this side are taking this motion very seriously. I want to commend my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, for bringing forward a very well thought out amendment to a motion, to bring forward some ideas or alternatives of how alcohol abuse in the Yukon should be addressed.
In reviewing the budget put forward for 1990-91 it is important that we look at the statistical information provided. The government is recommending that strictly in alcohol and drug abuse alone the taxpayers of Yukon allocate over $1.4 million to combat this very real situation that exists in all our communities.
The interesting aspect of the statistics put forward is they are projecting 560 possible clients this year for detoxification, and 286 as outpatients. Those statistics are deceiving, to some degree, but are very high. When I say deceiving, I mean some of the individuals in those figures are repeat clientele. The point that has to be made is that these statistics have been almost constant over the past three years.
You can see there is a significant group of people over the Yukon who are obviously suffering from the disease called alcoholism. It is a reality. It is a challenge for all of us to compete with a disease that is obviously eating these people day in and day out. It cannot be fun for them. Nobody can tell me that anybody who is impaired to the point of drunkenness can say they are having fun day in and day out.
Statistics and information provided tell us that many of our programs are not working as well as they should. Society has said, through this House, we are provided to provide resources, we are prepared to provide people and we are prepared to develop the programs to combat this very real problem of alcoholism in Yukon. At the same time, day in and day out, year in and year out, we come back to this House and the number of individuals having to go to government for help stays constant; it never goes down.
As a legislator and taxpayer, I have to ask why. As I said earlier, we are providing the resources, the programs, good people to run these programs and, at the same time, we have to ask ourselves what effect we are having. Are we getting value for our dollar? Are we being successful in meeting the challenges that have been put forward because of the disease called alcoholism?
I submit that, at least in part, we are not. The amendment that has been placed before you by my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South, is asking that there be an evaluation done of the programs we have in effect. To further give substantiation to the amendment to the main motion, and the reasons for it, I want to refer to the Minister of Justices comments early in the debate when we last sat. I want to quote a number of statements made by her in the Hansard of December 13, 1989.
The hon. Mrs. Joe stated that the programs we have in existence now are not working to the full extent we had hoped. She goes on to say, It is probably getting worse. People continue to end up in the corrections centre, the detox centre. People are continually admitted because they have been unable to deal with an alcohol problem.
She goes on, I recommended that an evaluation be done at that time. I am not entirely sure how far along that has come. I think they have started. We recognize that what we offer is not entirely successful, and statistics prove that out.
I agree with the Minister who spoke. In many cases, these programs are not working. Then, we have a responsibility in this House, each and every one of us has the challenge, to ask why. Why are we not making any inroads in respect to battling this very real problem we face in Yukon? In many cases, I agree with the Member for Old Crow, that it is destroying people. In some cases, it is destroying families. It is not a fun thing to watch, as you see friends who have all of a sudden realized they have become addicted to alcohol, and you see the result of the family tragedies that take place.
We are saying there are other alternatives out there. We believe there to be other alternatives than what the Member for Old Crow says who, I believe in many ways, has simplified what she deems to be the solution to the problem, which is prohibition. I guess we would then just carry on with the programs as is, where is, and every year increase the budget.
I think there is a bigger responsibility out there for all of us in this House, and that is to say to ourselves: are these programs working?
I want to take this opportunity to refer to some excerpts from the task force that was carried out by the Members for Watson Lake and Porter Creek West in respect to the question of suicide in the Yukon. Throughout that report, and I refresh Members memories, in a number of instances they refer to the question of alcohol and drug abuse, with that being a major factor in causing a very high rate of suicide in Yukon. In fact, it is a startlingly high rate of suicide in Yukon. A number of glaring statements were made by people to that task force by people from the communities, and I think they bear repeating.
For example, in Carmacks one individual said drugs and alcohol are a main cause of suicide there. A very poignant point was also made, and I quote Government handouts have made some of us into rich drunks. Further to that, in Beaver Creek, on the question of unemployment, native depression is often due to unemployment. In Carmacks, once again, a quotation, There are graduates sitting around collecting welfare. Another observation made by another resident in Carmacks was this, and I hope the Member for Tatchun reads this, Several families have been on welfare for more than one generation. In other words, it has become a way of life. It is not a question of helping and assisting somebody for a year or two years while they further their education and move on and start contributing to society as a whole; it has become a way of life. You have to ask yourself, when you see that in our communities, are these people happy and is the government doing the right thing?
That leads me to the very basic question. In many respects, are we as government doing the right thing in a lot of these cases? We seem to think the way to respond to a problem is to throw money at it. That is one of the major observations we have made from this side - the question of employment in these communities and what we are doing to look at the long term as far as providing for these communities and the people within these communities a way of making a living, a way of making a living that they can be proud of as opposed to going to the government every two weeks for a welfare cheque.
It is fine for the government to stand up and say in this House, Oh, we are going to give a LEAP grant to fix the community hall. This is the same community hall that has had seven LEAP grants in the last seven years to provide winter employment. The government has never stood up and asked why there is chronic unemployment in that region, which has resulted in the question we are dealing with today: drug and alcohol abuse, primarily alcohol abuse. Maybe, instead of saying we are going to implement prohibition, we should be dividing the Yukon into regions and looking at each region to find what we could do to provide a necessary infrastructure to encourage business and government to look at future investments for jobs and further training for these individuals as opposed to, and I quote that comment again, Government handouts have made some of us into rich drunks.
The Member for Old Crow never mentioned once whether or not these programs were working. Indirectly, through her comments, I take it that they have not been working, so I think there is a common feeling among all Members in this House that, surely, we should take some time and have an objective evaluation done of the programs in place. We have to ask ourselves: is it societys responsibility if we are going to have continuous repeat offenders in this particular area? For an example, in the situation of accommodation such as Crossroads, where it is said that, in some cases, they go in there for a month, they dry out between there and Detox, then they go out for maybe a month, and then they go back in again. Maybe it is time for us to really assess these programs and ask where we are going with them and what are we doing with them and why are they not successful. I know it makes the Minister of Health feel real good to stand up and say, Oh, I have got an increase in my budget of $100,000 to fight against this very real problem in Yukon. Never once does the side opposite stand up and tell us why the programs are not working.
I honestly believe that we have to take a second look at what we are doing and start listening to reports such as the task force headed by my colleagues, the Member for Watson Lake and the Member for Porter Creek West.
A statement from that particular report says, While low self esteem and alcohol abuse are often seen as causes or contributing factors to suicide, many Yukoners express the view that both are directly related to unemployment. It is the feeling of the task force members that a review should be made into the delivery of the welfare system with a view of finding ways to develop higher self esteem and more meaningful jobs.
This goes back to my earlier comments on unemployment and looking at our communities for what the government could do to focus all its resources and attention to developing the economies in these areas. It saddens me to sit in this House and see the transfer of dollars that have been passed to the Government of Yukon over the past years.
Never in the history of Yukon have we been so fortunate in our access to investment dollars as this government has had.
We talk about investing. What have we invested in over the past five years? Look at Mayo, for example. What is the final outcome for Mayo, where they are looking for a diversification in their economy? I feel for the Member for Mayo because half of his constituency has left in the last 12 months. It cannot be a fun time for him to see friends and people he has known and represented for years, in a manner he can be proud of, leave the territory. What have we done to help diversify the economy in that area? Sure we can give a grant to the Silver Trails Tourism Association for $100,000 or $5,000, but what diversification has happened in that area? Not very much. I think the Member for Mayo would have to agree with me. I am sure he is very concerned about the future for Mayo.
The area has the potential for other mines. Maybe we should gamble and go ahead on road extensions. What would be wrong with a road being put in from MacTung to Mayo with the idea of opening that country up to the possibility of greater mining potential, so the community of Mayo, and Elsa - with that mill - could be used to service other mines?
We have not done that. No thought has been given to that. We are in a situation where we put money into rec centres. We spent over $1 million in a curling rink that the Member for Mayo will never have the opportunity to cut the ribbon on. If he does, he will probably be there by himself. That is not an investment. That is not long-term thinking. We have a situation in many of our communities where people cannot find employment other than during the six-week LEOP program or the federal grant that will get them enough weeks work so they can get UIC. What do they have to look forward to? The government has not taken on the responsibility of looking at the reasons we are afflicted with this very serious disease.
It is, in part, because of the low self-esteem that these people feel when they are given a pat on the head and a grant to cut some firewood. It sounds like they are not really that bright, but cutting firewood looks like a good job for them. How would any Member of the House feel if this patronizing attitude was taken toward them or their families? We would be affronted. Yet, the government does it on a continuing basis in some of the communities instead of looking at what we can do to provide an infrastructure through which these people could find other employment. The government will say that these comments are not relative because this report was done by the Conservatives. They are relevant, and they should be listened to in the context of government priorities and in issues such as this.
Both sides of the House have agreed that the programming that we have in place has not done the job that we thought it would do, so why would we intentionally turn our backs to it? The Member for Riverdale South is saying that we should seize this opportunity to review what kind of assistance we are providing to these individuals. We have to take a hard look at the philosophy of the programs that we are providing. We have to find out why they are not working. If they are not working, why are we spending over $1 million of taxpayers money? What are we accomplishing? What is the purpose?
I agree with the Minister of Finance. He has finally said that if we do anything, we will have to ask ourselves where the money is going to come from. I am sure that Members will say that they are not happy with how these programs have worked. I see this as a non-partisan issue and of major concern to all of us. Maybe we should look at these programs to see where we are going with them. I was a Member on the front bench when the first programs were introduced to deal with alcoholism. The intentions of that front bench were as good as those of the front bench today in meeting some very real problems out there.
When I assess what we have done in the past 15 years and what our success rate has been, I think we should all be very disappointed. The resources have been provided. The good intentions have been put forth. The political commitments have been made by all sides of this House. At the same time, we are here again today saying that we can solve the problem through prohibition. I do not believe that will work.
I do not believe that is the solution. I do not think we are going to completely overcome or win the battle against alcoholism, but I do think, with some resolve from the government and from the Legislature, that at least, in part, we can combat it and come up with some positive results.
As I said in my opening comments today, the statistics are startling. Those are not all.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member he has three minutes to conclude.
Mr. Lang: Those statistics do not cover all of the people who are affected by alcoholism. The number given of people affected is 560, but quite a number of those are repeaters, so we will cut it in half and say 300; it is something we all have to take a very serious look at. There are some new approaches being taken in this area, in good part through the native community. I hope they are going to be successful. I hope they are going to be able to cure some of the disease, at least in part, within that aspect of our population.
At the same time, we have to evaluate our programs. Maybe it would not be too far out of context to say that there should be a legislative task force formed to look at it and report back to the House. It is a real problem. In many cases, we have all had friends who have been destroyed by it. I, as a Member of this House who has read some history, want to say to the Member for Old Crow, that I do not believe prohibition is the way to go, but I do believe we should be evaluating what we are doing as a government. If we find the programs we have put into place are not adequate, then we should be revising them.
I want to conclude by commending the Member for Riverdale South for putting forward what we believe to be a very positive and non-partisan alternative. I would like to see the Members opposite see their way clear to look at the problem as a non-partisan issue and decide that an evaluation should be done to see what we can do to combat a very serious problem that many of our friends and acquaintances are presently going through or have been associated with in the past.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have now heard from the Members for Old Crow, Riverdale South, Whitehorse North Centre and Porter Creek East on the subject of the problems associated with alcohol abuse in our communities. I believe that, through the remarks they have made, they have identified very well the problem we face. It is not only a problem faced by many individuals but, also, that which is faced by government ambassadors in those communities who are charged with the responsibility of trying to reduce the effects of alcohol abuse.
The Member who just spoke, spoke very well on the subject of the problems in many communities, and also spoke well about the associated tragic problem of suicide in those communities. The cause and effects are heavily interrelated. The Members have all identified that the causes of alcoholism are multi-faceted. There are no simple solutions. There are no simple answers.
I would submit that it would follow that any reaction by this Legislature to meeting the problem of alcohol abuse head on would also be multi-faceted. One would not state that the problem is simply the result of a broken home, nor the loss of a job or a bad family situation, or any number of other reasons.
There are many things that cause alcohol abuse. It is a problem that is indeed a problem in many different families, many different social strata and many different communities. Clearly, our understanding of the problem has to be as sophisticated as any projected solutions we might want to provide, or suggest that the Legislature can enact, to reduce the effect of alcohol abuse. I support the Member for Porter Creek Easts point absolutely, that anything we do is not going to resolve the problem of alcohol abuse, as a result of over consumption of alcohol. We should not delude ourselves by stating that we can resolve a problem that has been inflicted upon the entire world and has been the subject of a great deal of study worldwide in the past without clear resolution.
In the history of even this young country, there have been many instances where alcohol abuse has debilitated communities, completely destroyed families and has even contributed toward the destruction of whole cultures and clans of original peoples on this continent. The problem is complicated, the solutions are not easy, and any pat answers cannot be supported as the panacea.
The Member for Porter Creek East did mention the one contributing cause of alcohol abuse and ultimate dependency. That was the loss of meaningful jobs, ongoing jobs, and about that he is absolutely right. Certainly, in the Mayo riding the loss of gainful employment through what they consider to be meaningful work in the mining industry has caused a great deal of upset and a great deal of concern.
It is not to say that alcohol abuse was not a problem prior to the closure of United Keno Hill Mines. The problem was well and truly entrenched in both Mayo and Elsa prior to the closure. In Mayo, the problem has beleaguered the community for some time and has, in many respects, knocked the vitality out of many families. In Elsa, where there was gainful employment, a good wage was being made and people felt confident, alcoholism was a very serious problem there, as well, and a problem that the entire community was wrestling with year-round. I remember many, many instances where many problems associated with heavy drinking and over indulgence in drinking boiled over into problems such as family abuse, which was unfortunately quite heavily practised in that community by some individuals and within some families. It also caused a great deal of unrest in other parts of the community as well.
Clearly, the problem does not have a simple explanation. The causes of the problem do not lend themselves easily to simple explanations; consequently, while I would certainly agree with the Member for Porter Creek Easts analysis that there are many different causes, and therefore many different solutions should be found, I would think that even the solution of providing gainful and long-term employment, even self-employment, would not provide the only answer to alcohol abuse and associated problems.
The Member for Porter Creek East, and other Members, have said that we do spend considerable amounts of this Legislatures available funds on combating alcoholism. I would not advocate the view that our efforts are useless because, if they were completely useless, none of us would advocate continuing them. However, I believe, and we do think, that they have some utility, even though they do not meet our expectations. The problem of alcohol abuse, I think it is recognized, cannot be resolved through simple public relations campaigns or extensive counselling in the communities. We all know - and many of us from rural communities, especially, know - the plight of the alcohol counsellors and their frustrations at not being able to handle the whole problem. If we insist that they are charged with resolving a problem, we are setting them up to fail.
The answer, as the Members have mentioned, cannot be resolved strictly through prohibition; that is likely quite true. However, the resolution of the problem through a reorganization of some of the programs we provide and the funding we provide to finance those programs, one would suspect, might not be the panacea either, but it must be a combination of things that may ultimately cause us - and I say that with some skepticism - to see some light for some communities that are obviously, as the Member for Porter Creek East said, dying or their vitality is waning.
I would like to indicate clearly that I do accept the argument by the Member for Riverdale South in putting forward the amendment to the motion, because I believe that the element of the problem she identified was not being met should be met, and that is that we have existing programs, we have financial resources directed to alcohol abuse, and they should be reviewed.
We would be remiss in not mentioning that in the context of this motion. At the same time there remains, however, a need in my view for communities, should they wish to take action of a more firm nature in order to jumpstart their batteries, so to speak, or to bring them out of the malaise in which they find themselves, to ban the use of alcohol within their boundaries. I think it would not be appropriate for us to simply ignore the potential for communities to define their own futures in this regard.
Clearly, some communities have entered such a malaise that they are unable, on an individual-by-individual basis, to banish the effects of alcohol abuse, and the efforts that the government has made in the past, and even more sophisticated efforts the government might make in the future, may not resolve the situation for those communities.
Consequently, it may be appropriate for those communities, after they get a consensus, and if they are in fact in crisis, to decide their own fate in using alcohol if the effects of alcohol are destroying their community and their sense of community.
Anything we do, whether we like it or not, must be consistent with the Charter of Rights. That goes without saying. A community should understand the consequences of anything it does and the consequences of its actions.
Somebody mentioned the potential for growth in ancillary crime associated with prohibition in a community. That would be a problem for anyone who considers this method. That, in itself, would not convince one that more firm action should not be taken.
The motion that the Member for Old Crow put forward intends that communities that suffer extreme difficulties should have an opportunity, upon consensus, decide for themselves if they wish to have community residents consume alcohol. In many respects, the issue is as much one of devolution and community rights as it is one involving alcohol abuse and deciding a response to alcohol abuse.
The motion has been interpreted as being one where there ought to be, with very little provocation, an opportunity for territory-wide prohibition. That is not what the originating Member had in mind. It is not what I had in mind when I first read the motion. However, it is a real concern. It should be explained perhaps through amendments to the motion. I do have an amendment that speaks to that issue. I was convinced of the Member for Riverdale Souths arguments before the Member for Porter Creek East spoke. That is not to say that I was not moved by what the Member for Porter Creek East had to say. I was deeply moved. It would be appropriate for the Members original motion to remain standing as a consideration for this Legislature, because I do believe that communities that are in crisis, that can achieve consensus, should have the opportunity to take firmer action if they believe that the problems of alcohol abuse are so debilitating and so destructive that the community, as an entity, cannot survive.
I would advocate an amendment to deal with that and any legislation we consider in the future has to take into account certain fundamental problems Members have identified in the debate, and maybe some we have not even considered yet, such as Charter of Rights implications. What constitutes a consensus in a community is perhaps the most significant consideration, and whether or not there will be exemptions for community prohibition as there are in similar Northwest Territorial legislation.
There are other associated issues that must be considered in legislation, but if we are talking about the principle, the principle of communities speaking for themselves is a theme I have advocated in this House time and time again. I would advocate it again for the sake of consistency, if nothing else, in this particular subject area.
Just so there is no mistake, I should get onto the record that I am personally not a person who believes, generally speaking, that prohibition is something that I would advocate - certainly not for myself, as I do enjoy a drink now and again.
However, if I lived in a community that was debilitated by alcohol abuse to the extent where the community itself was in crisis, and perhaps the spirit was dying, and I wanted to remain a member of that community, I would feel it appropriate for a general vote or consensus to take place to determine whether or not the community should continue to use alcohol. I do not find anything inconsistent with that if the life of the community is at stake.
As I have more or less said my piece on this matter, and left out my response to some perhaps well-meaning criticism of government programs, what I would like to do is get right to the subamendment. Momentarily, we will hear what the Members think about it.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT the amendment to Motion 47 be amended by the following:
a) deleting the word evaluate and replacing it with (1) continue evaluating;
b) placing (2) before the word recommend; and
c) adding at the end the following: and (3) identify ways for communities in crisis, where there is clear consensus, to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their boundaries.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education
THAT the amendment to Motion 47 be amended by the following:
a) deleting the word evaluate and replacing it with (1) continue evaluating;
b) placing (2) before the word recommend; and
c) adding at the end the following: and (3) identify ways for communities in crisis, where there is clear consensus, to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their boundaries.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I just explained the subamendment and my reasons for putting it forward. I now invite Members to comment.
Mr. Nordling: It seems there are no problems with the beginning of the motion made by the Member for Old Crow. We are all agreed that it is the opinion of this House that the problem of excessive alcohol consumption in Yukon communities is serious. Virtually every Member of this House has stood up, at one time or another, and acknowledged that fact.
The second line is that alcohol not only destroys individuals, it is also a threat to the survival of the communities. Again, we accept that. This government, and governments before it, have been wrestling with the problem of alcoholism. Something must be done and options must be investigated.
However, by introducting the subamendment, my impression is that what the Member for Mayo is doing on behalf of that side and on behalf of the government is, in essence, giving up before evaluations are complete and wants this Legislature to endorse what I would think is a fairly drastic step, which is recommending the prohibition of alcohol.
The government is recommending that prohibition be put into law. We have no problem with that being done by communities on a voluntary basis and, perhaps, it may have to be done in communities. I think the Member for Old Crow, with the last paragraph of her motion, and the Member for Mayo, with his subamendment, are being premature.
I would like to say a few words about alcoholism in the territory. As my colleague, the MLA for Watson Lake, and I travelled around the territory on the suicide task force, everywhere we went, without exception, alcohol was mentioned as a serious problem with respect to suicide, as well as with respect to child neglect, family violence and criminal offences. In fact, I have heard that figures as high as 90 percent of crime in the Yukon are as a result of alcohol abuse.
What has been said for the first time in the last couple of years is that the answer lies within the community and that people must help themselves. Back in 1988, in speaking to a motion supporting efforts to combat alcoholism in the territory, the Member for Old Crow said, It is time to look at solutions to this problem that lie within the people themselves.
We are just beginning to do that. At that time, two years ago, the Member for Old Crow said, In Old Crow, we had a lifeskills program not long ago. The whole community got behind it. As well, there was a lifeskills group that was happening at Fort McPherson, our relatives next door, who came over to support the group in Old Crow. Our elders, especially, got behind this group. The course involved just 11 people, but it sure made a lot of difference.
After eight weeks, there was a graduation and more than 140 people came out to congratulate them and attend the ceremony. To me, this is progress being made. The Member went on to say, This kind of thing our community can endorse wholeheartedly, because people see value in it. I want to publicly congratulate everyone involved in that program for doing such a good job. I am so proud of them. This was the first for our village, and I hope there will be many more.
At that time, the Member for Old Crow commended the Minister of Health and Human Resources for taking steps to coordinate all the efforts in the Yukon on these issues through the creation of the substance abuse committee. I hope that, by bringing forward this motion today, the Member for Old Crow is not saying these steps that have been taken in this direction, whereby communities and people are helping themselves, is not working.
Before we take such a drastic step as suggesting or supporting prohibition, I believe there should be an evaluation done of existing programs. The Member for Riverdale South has proposed an amendment that the Government of Yukon, through the Department of Justice and Health and Human Resources, should evaluate existing programs and recommend alternatives for dealing with this important problem. The Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Justice do have a role to play. They have a role to play in assisting communities in providing the impetus to develop programs and sustain them. In evaluating the programs and recommending alternatives, one of the alternatives that may be recommended is that some communities should look at prohibition.
We do not know that yet. We have to look at a whole range of options and not restrict ourselves to just one, that being prohibition. The Minister who spoke on this motion, the former Minister of Health and Human Resources, the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, said I speak against the amendment to the motion because an evaluation has already started.
That is all the more reason to accept the amendment and wait, with respect to prohibition. As a legislator, I would like to see the results before the Member for Old Crow asks us to take this step she has asked us to take, and the Minister of Education has asked us to take with his subamendment.
Speaking for myself, and most of the Members on this side, we see the subamendment as going back to stating the same thing the motion has. We do not believe that that step is necessary at this moment. It is a drastic measure, and I do not think we should be giving up until evaluations are in.
I would urge all Members of the House to reject the subamendment at this time and accept the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am rising to speak in favour of the subamendment. In indicating why I wish to speak in favour of the subamendment, I want to go back and make reference to the original motion, since the previous speaker did just now. The previous speaker indicates that, in some way, this subamendment reinforces the intent of the original motion, unlike the amendment moved by his Opposition colleague, which I suspect he argued as being out of order in some way in that it changed the principle of the motion.
I am sorry I am amusing the Member for Riverdale North.
Let us deal with the principle of the motion. The operative verb is that the Government of Yukon - and then it mentions a couple of departments - should investigate ways for communities to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their communities - if they so wish.
We are talking about a motion that talks about investigating ways for communities to go dry - if they so wish. As other Members have mentioned, as the situation is right now, we are dealing with territorial law the same way; in most cases, we are dealing with territorial or federal programs in the alcohol- and drug-addiction field. I want to come back to that.
Along with all Members in this House, as I suspect I am not alone, I have received a large number of letters on this subject. I do not know who has precipitated this mail, but I would appreciate the opportunity to respond to some of these letters. Many of them come from hotel owners, or people representing hotel owners, and I understand their interest in this matter.
The allegation is made by a number of the correspondents that the original motion before the House proposes prohibition for the territory. As I am sure all Members here know, that is not a statement of the proposition before the House. I am going to argue later in the conclusion of my remarks that the amendment moved by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, clarifies the intent of the motion and is consistent with the principle of the motion.
People who have written to me, as they have no doubt written to other Members, have argued that they recognize the serious nature of alcohol abuse, the abuse referred to by Members of this House, and recognize the impact on individuals. They applaud the efforts the government has made in addressing this problem.
Some of the letters then go on to argue that prohibition - and, again, I think the reference to prohibition is to the blanket prohibition in the whole territory, something that is not proposed by anyone in this House, as far as I know - and the sale of beverage alcohol by licensees is only giving rise to increased bootlegging, as witnessed by the consumption of alcohol in a community such as Old Crow, which does not have a licensed outlet. In other words, if there is not a licensed outlet, there will be a supply to meet the demand, whether or not there is a licensed outlet.
Of course, bootlegging is illegal. Where people do it, they are prosecuted for it. I understand, although I do not have any direct experience with this traffic, that bootlegging goes on even in communities where there are licensed outlets and that in this town, where there are a large number of licensed outlets, bootlegging occurs in this community from time to time. The evidence of that is found in the court docket, where there are people charged and convicted of this offence in this community. Therefore, it is not at all a convincing argument to argue that bootleggers exist where there are no licensed outlets, and that licensed outlets are somehow a cure to the problem of bootlegging.
It is argued that the government, as the largest distributor of beverage alcohol in the territory, has the responsibility and the resources to regulate alcohol consumption. Yes, we have that responsibility and we accept it but it is also argued that the municipalities do not. Well, that has not been the view that has always been held in this Legislature; in fact, this Legislature, before I ever entered it, when there was definitely a Conservative majority in the House - if a small c conservative majority - empowered the municipalities to make the decision about whether there would be public drinking or not within their boundaries. In other words, it delegated some of its authority in this field because it felt that in that respect it was a local option or a local decision, which was appropriate. A community voice was appropriate at this point. That precedent was created in this House, as was a precedent created during my time in this House, when a proposition was brought forward by the then Conservative government to allow for a vote in Old Crow on exactly the issue that we are now discussing. I do not know the reason for the decision made by the people of Old Crow of that time; some alleged that the wording of the motion was confusing, but the proposition was certainly put to the people of Old Crow by the Government of Yukon a few years ago, and the community decided at that time - or appeared to decide at that time - that prohibition was not what they wanted.
The critics in the industry have also alleged or argued that prohibition has not worked or does not work. I think that there are all sorts of cliches in politics. One of the biggest cliches, and it is one that has been repeated in this House, is that prohibition does not work. I know that there is evidence to the contrary and in fact I remember, as a young person, repeating the argument that prohibition does not work in the presence of my father and some of his professional colleagues who had done some medical research in this field, and they said that that was absolute bunk. There was all sorts of epidemiological evidence that prohibition did work. Looked at from the view of health statistics, prohibition was extraordinarily successful. That is not to say that prohibition did not create enormous law enforcement problems, that prohibition eventually was unpopular in the United States and in Canada where it has been in place, as a blanket rule, and the law got changed, and the more unpopular it got, the more violators there were of the law. I understand, in terms of the medical evidence, that it is just plain wrong to say that prohibition does not work, that any survey of the health status of the United States during the time that prohibition was in effect would show that the incidence of alcohol-related disease and death went down dramatically.
The consumption of alcohol went down dramatically. Not all people stopped drinking; there were, of course, speakeasies, bootleggers and gangsters and there were some gangsters, I understand, who died violent deaths. There were, in fact, some great Canadian fortunes made during that time of the prohibition in the United States; people who are now considered very respectable and prominent families took Canadian beer and Canadian liquor over the border into the United States and made themselves into multi-millionaires. They did very well by prohibition.
The fact of the matter is that the health status of the continent of the United States as a whole improved during prohibition. That is not an argument for prohibition by itself; as my colleague, the Minister of Finance, has said, I would not personally vote for blanket prohibition - in the United States, in Canada, or in the Yukon Territory, for that matter. It is plainly wrong to say that a ban on the prohibition of alcohol did not work; from the point of view, and I speak momentarily as the Minister of Health, of the health of the community, a dramatic and radical measure to reduce the consumption of alcohol produced enormous benefits in the public health of the community. That is a point to which I want to return, because it is fundamental to the issue before us.
The argument being made by some of the correspondents who have addressed me is that the sale of alcoholic beverages and the regulation of same should remain in the hands of the territorial government. Again, I believe that is not an argument with which we take great issue, but I do want to say that it misses the point. It misses the point because it does not understand what this motion is really about; hopefully, the amendment my colleague has put forward will clarify it. A number of people, including the British Columbia and Yukon Hotels Association, have offered to work with the government in helping to find solutions to this problem; I appreciate that offer and I think we will have to find a way to take it up.
The point has also been made by some writers on this issue that the profits the government receives from alcohol are very very valuable, and the government could not afford to miss these profits and that Yukoners as a whole would suffer if we did not have these liquor profits. The revenues of the Liquor Corporation are a very important part of the financial pictures of the Yukon Territory, but I personally believe it is an extremely unfortunate and dangerous delusion to think that, in the area of alcohol, we have any net profit. Even a cursory look at our estimates would have to persuade one that there is, in fact, no net profit to the people of the Yukon Territory from the sale of alcohol. It is appropriate, probably, that we sell it and regulate it, and that we draw some revenue from it, but we also have huge expenditures resulting from the sale of alcohol. It is not just the direct expenditures in the health budget, which we have spent some time debating in this session, but as I talk to the physicians, as I mentioned in a debate at some point with the Member for Riverdale South not too long ago, physicians in this territory will argue convincingly that alcohol is a primary or secondary or tertiary cause of death in a very large percentage of the deaths that occur in this territory.
The cost of the health care system is huge. I am certain that on the health budget alone alcohol-related costs are probably greater than the profits of the liquor corporation. That is before we get into the cost of absenteeism, the cost of car accidents, the cost of the justice system, and the cost of the social services budget in the territory. We are mistaken to think that if we had prohibition in a community like Old Crow, the profits of the Liquor Corporation would be severely hurt, but it is an even more-mistaken notion to argue that we should be defending our need for those profits if a community anywhere in the territory were in the situation to be crying out to us to cut off the sale of alcohol for the sake of their own survival.
That is a point on which I would like to elaborate. I have argued, in response to the people who communicate with me, that I share the view that the ways of dealing with alcohol and other substance abuse are before us. We are using some of the tools that are available to us. There is education, counselling and support programs for abusers. I am certain that, from the point of view of successfully addressing the problem of alcohol abuse in the territory, prohibition across the board would not be a successful instrument, that prohibition, in isolation, anywhere, would not solve substance abuse problems, and it should not be seen as the panacea.
I want to state my position very clearly. My position is that if a small community somewhere in the territory has clearly expressed the will, has clearly made a decision to prohibit alcohol within its boundaries, it should have the right to argue for the exercise of that political will. It should have the democratic right to be able to make that decision. If, in certain circumstances, the alcohol abuse has reached such crisis proportions in a community that the community is crying out for help, crying out for someone to do something, demanding a radical measure, who am I or who are we in this Legislature to say that this community that is crying out for this ban on alcohol should not have its wishes respected.
If we had a situation such as that described by the Member for Old Crow, if we had fetal alcohol syndrome cases in large numbers, if there is family violence where people are not just being hurt, abused, cut and shot but dying, if the community is dying of alcohol, if the community is suffering to the sense that the people are drinking themselves to death, families are falling apart, homes are being broken, the economy and the social structure of the community is in chaos, who would we be to say no, you can not have what they need, what they desperately want, which is a ban on the sale of alcohol in your community.
It should be pointed out again what the original motion talks about. It calls not for prohibition, but for the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Justice to investigate ways in which a community might effect prohibition.
I am sure if we come to examine the issue, as it has been suggested in the motion, that any investigation would consider the issue of individual choice to consume or sell alcohol, and the limit to which the legislation could infringe upon such choice. Without doubt, an investigation would also examine the question of enforcement of any prohibition, and the possible social ills that might result or may be exacerbated by such a move.
As a democrat, I would also question whether a decision to prohibit alcohol in a community that was decided by a vote of 50 percent of the people plus one with only a minority of people voting on the question would be a dubious decision. I know that everywhere in the world where referenda have been used to decide important questions, there has been some doubt about the outcome, especially if the question was not clear, or if only a portion of the population expressed their view on the question. We have talked about this in the House before. That is a problem.
I, personally, would not vote for a motion that called for prohibition of alcohol in all communities. If a community found some way of democratically expressing its will, or if we provided a way and they overwhelmingly decided they wanted to go dry, I think we would have to take that very seriously. If the people who are dealing with these problems, the people who have been living with these problems, if the people who have been frustrated by their inability to successfully address these problems, decide they want to take this decisive step to get hold of the problem and to try to rebuild the health of their community, to restore some sanity and sobriety to their community, we should be listening to them.
I appreciate the fact that alcohol distributors in the Yukon Territory, with very few exceptions, act responsibly. I want to say that by my support of the motion I do not mean to imply otherwise. I certainly hope our counselling and education programs will play a useful role, and with the assistance of the hospitality industry, we can address this problem.
Let us understand what we are talking about here. We are not talking about the social drinkers. We are not talking about the person who has a drink or two. We are not even talking about taking away the right of that person to drink everywhere in the territory. This motion speaks to the seriousness of excessive alcohol consumption in Yukon communities. As the motion says, we have to recognize that alcohol abuse destroys individuals and that it can be, in some cases, a threat to communities themselves.
It has been suggested by some people that the solution to the overwhelming problem of alcohol abuse lies not only with the individual, but with the community. As a community as a whole, yes it does. The territorial government takes all sorts of steps. There are very few powers or instruments available to a local community, to a first nation, to a municipality, to deal with this problem. This Legislature has not given the tools to these communities to take those kinds of steps.
The possibility of prohibition is only one tool. Even if we admit it is a blunt instrument, let us at least admit that it might be necessary at some times.
The alcohol and drug services branch, I think, was created during the time Mr. Clive Tanner was Minister. Mr. Tanner commissioned the Peat Marwick report some time between 1970 and 1974, and the ADS branch, I think, resulted from that report. I know that a number of the programs developed then. I know that we all recognize that excessive alcohol consumption is a problem in the Yukon communities, and we are supportive of community-based efforts, and that prohibition is a last resort, if you like, and could only come about in the community if it was initiated and supported by a community. If it were initiated by a community and widely supported by a community, I think it would be incumbent upon us to do what we can to help that community meet its demands. Of course, determining community will is a complex issue. As I mentioned before, referendum results can be inconclusive, and there is the question of the rights of minorities and of economic interests, and this motion talks about investigating ways to deal with those concerns.
This government is already financing a number of community-based projects, and our Department of Health and Human Resources has provided support to them. That includes the funding to the Yukon Indian Cultural Education Society for Alcoholism and Cultural Awareness. We have contributed to the Substance-Free Grad Committee. We have contributed to the addition workers conference, the sponsorship of youth representatives to attend the national youth leadership forum, the development of peer support programs in Yukon schools in conjunction with the Department of Education, and funding for community alcohol programs, in conjunction with the federal government. In Dawson City there is the Community Action Team; in Carcross, the Wilderness Treatment Centre; in Pelly Crossing, the Community Needs Assessment; in Ross River, the native carving workshop; in Whitehorse, a street-worker program through Skookum Jim and an Alanon club to support a substance-free social club; and the Watson Lake/Liard Basin Task Force on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
There are many community-based initiatives. Many of them are going to have positive results, but if the situation in the community has reached such an advanced state that the community is in danger of falling apart, we should not say to that community, No, never under any circumstances will we, the Yukon Legislature, permit you to say no, you will not have the right to ban alcohol within your community. As other people who have spoken to this motion have said, the alcohol and drug abuse problem exists everywhere in this hemisphere. There are no certain remedies to the problem. We have some good programs, the federal government has some good programs, some aboriginal people have some good programs. Most of us have seen movies about Alkali Lake or other communities that have taken initiatives, but there is no consistently effective approach that works for everyone everywhere. That does not mean that we must stop trying to find the answer to this problem; of course we must; but when the abuse in a small community reaches crisis proportions, when the number of violent deaths rises dramatically, when the number of cases of fetal alcohol syndrome starts to climb, when people, family members, are caught up in the justice system as the result of alcohol-related offences, when family members are being beaten, abused, physically violated during violent incidents, drinking parties, or as a result of alcohol abuse, when families are falling apart, when homes are being broken and kids are coming into care in such numbers that the community is crying out for help, then the community is saying to us, For Gods sake, stop. Enough. Who are we to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear and say, No, this cannot happen, ever. We will not let you make this decision. Who are we to make such a decision for a community? In this situation of crisis, the radical step that prohibition admittedly is may be warranted. If a village somewhere is determined to go dry, we should respect their wishes. When they have decisively demonstrated the will to go dry, if they have, by vote or by some public demonstration indicated the will, made the decision, we should be ready for that eventuality. I do not think we can turn away from such a cry for help, such a demand.
I have to say that there will always be some debate about whether the situation in any community has reached the point where prohibition is an appropriate instrument or whether it is a necessary tool. I expect there may be differences of opinion on this subject but, if the overwhelming majority of people in a community say to us, Things are so bad we have got to cut off the supply of booze; we have got to go dry; we have got to get our act together; we have got to have a time of healing; we have got to have a time of recovery for families; we have got to have a time to get ourselves back on our feet. Please, Government of the Yukon Territory, will you not do something to get the booze out of here, I think we should listen to such a plea.
I do not know, on this day, January 31, 1990, whether there is any community in the Yukon Territory ready to make such a decision. I do know there are people who believe there are communities that should make that decision and, if we pass this motion, I think it would be up to them to persuade their own communities that they should be ready. Meanwhile, I think we should be doing what is called upon here by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Resources to look at this matter.
I want to say to all Members of this House - earlier, Members have said this is not a non-partisan debate - I have been elsewhere in the world; I have been in places in Alaska; I have been in places in the Northwest Territories; I have been places in the Yukon where things are pretty bad. I have seen the people coming in with broken faces and bloody noses and kids in desperate need coming into our care, taken out of their families because the family is so destroyed by booze and alcohol that we are having to intervene and remove those kids from their families. That is a disaster. It is a situation where the relationship between a man and a woman in a marriage is resolved to the point where it has come down to an equation of physical abuse because of alcohol. We should recognize that that is a crisis; that is a disaster.
We have a community where people who were once physically able, intelligent, productive members of that community, are now spending their days drinking, finding the money for booze, partying or are wasting their lives in those ways. It does not just affect them. We can say they exercise their right to do that, but it affects their family members and the whole community.
If we have a community anywhere that reaches that state of crisis, and out of that community leaders come and say that they want the right to do something about it, and if they say they want to cut the community off from alcohol, if they want to go dry as some communities in the Northwest Territories have done, as some communities in Alaska have asked to do, my view is that we do not turn a blind eye. We do not turn a deaf ear. We do not say no, never. We should respect the democratic wish of that community to take these radical steps, respect them and find the means to do it.
We do not have to do it in such a way that we do damage to the legitimate rights of the social drinker in Riverdale or the occasional tippler in Hillcrest. We do not have to do that. We do not have to do it in a way that does any profound economic damage to the interests of bar owners or restaurant owners or hotel owners in the territory. Let us recognize only what this motion talks about, that sometimes we could be in a literal war zone in some of these communities because of what alcohol has done, because the people do not have control of the alcohol; it has control of them.
If they say that they want to get control of the situation by banning alcohol for a while, if they want to get this bad medicine out of their community so that they can have a time of repair and recovery, we should listen to them with respect. If that is the genuinely-expressed wish of the community, I for one say that we should respect it and do what it wishes.
Mr. Joe: We have all seen the damage done by alcohol abuse.
We all know that alcohol is not good for healthy family life. People spend their money on alcohol. They get drunk. Often the result is some kind of violence.
We have a problem with alcohol in the Yukon. You know it, Mr. Speaker. The Members opposite know it. And we know it. We must all work together to do something about the problem of alcohol abuse.
It is good news when someone can stop drinking. It is a difficult and courageous thing to do. When people show this courage and are strong enough to stay away from alcohol, they find they are faced with alcohol everywhere in their community.
I am not saying that a ban on alcohol is right for every community, but when the people living in a community know that it is time to take such a drastic step, who are we to sit here and tell them they cannot make that choice?
It is our responsibility as leaders to do whatever we can to help people in all Yukon communities do something about alcohol abuse. If a ban on alcohol is what they choose to do, it is our responsibility to make sure they have the legal means to make this happen.
The band in Carmacks has built a wilderness camp at Airport Lake. People need a place to go, to get away and make change. They need a place to regain their strength so that when they return to their community they will not drink.
This camp was the choice of the band. This is how they decided they could do something for their people.
Wilderness camps are one option - perhaps in other communities a ban on alcohol is another option.
We have family violence triggered by alcohol. We have traffic accidents caused by alcohol. We have other tragedies and tensions triggered by alcohol. Let us empower our communities to do something more about it.
I support this motion. We should all support this motion. The health of the Yukon is at stake.
Mrs. Firth: I rise to respond to the subamendment to the amendment that I brought forward with respect to this motion.
I think I will start my comments in response to the presentation made by the mover of the subamendment. In his presentation he listed three things that were of great concern to him when one had to determine whether or not prohibition was to be implemented. Those three things he mentioned were: constitutional rights, what constitutes consensus and exemptions.
In the subamendment I notice that he has only addressed one of those issues, the issue of consensus. He has referred to it as clear consensus in the subamendment. I do not know what clear consensus means. I think my interpretation of what it means is probably different than what the Minister of Educations interpretation is, and his colleague next to him, and perhaps his other colleagues, as well as the other Members on this side of the Legislative Assembly.
I know the Member is referring to the clear consensus being determined by the community, or I would hope it would be the community that would make that determination. I think he is going to find that is still going to be something that is open to question and not easily definable.
He also talked about the community being in a crisis, and we had a very impassioned presentation by the Minister of Health about that issue, and I will follow up on that later. I want to stick to the Minister of Educations comments.
If you take the principles the Minister of Education is espousing about communities and crises, and where there is a clear consensus to allow provisions for the prohibition of alcohol, I would like to go back to the message the Member for Old Crow brought to the Legislative Assembly when she brought this motion forward.
Let us look at the community of Old Crow. From what we understood from the Member for Old Crow and her comments, that community seemed to have the situation and the problems they had with alcoholism well in hand. She commented on how the members in the community were dealing with it themselves.
I see the Minister for Community and Transportation Services shaking his head, but those are the comments from the Member who represents that constituency.
She said the people in Old Crow were participating in lifeskills programs, that the community was providing support systems to help women who were pregnant and drinking. She talked about support systems that were provided from Whitehorse.
I would like to ask the Members opposite something. If we look specifically at the community of Old Crow, how are they going to make a decision as to whether that community is in crisis or not? From the comments I heard from the Member who represents that riding, as a person who does not live in Old Crow and does not get to visit there very often, I would interpret from her comments that community was not in what I would call a crisis situation, from the emotional demonstrations the Minister of Health has given us as to his interpretation of what a crisis is. I am looking for some clarification on what exactly a community in crisis is. I do not get the feeling from the Members comments that Old Crow would be considered a community in crisis.
Who is going to make that determination, and what is a clear consensus? My feeling is that if you ask the community of Old Crow whether it would be in favour of prohibition and a ban of alcohol into the community, what would the ratio be? There would be a certain portion of the community that would be in favour of it and a portion that would not. What is the ratio going to be? Is it going to be a 50-50 split, or 75-25? Who says, okay, this is a clear consensus?
I think there would be a lot of communities where you may be in the situation where only 50 percent of the community would be in favour of the ban, and the other 50 percent would not.
We are going to create crises in communities by forcing them to make those kinds of decisions. The proposal we have come forward with does not mean we are not listening to the communities, as has been alleged by some of the Members opposite, or that we do not have any recognition of the crisis situation in those communities, of the abuse and devastation of alcoholism.
We are saying that if, as Old Crow has done, those communities can address the problems and respond to those problems themselves, my feeling is the community will thrive and be far more successful in dealing with those problems than if they are put to the test of having to hold a referendum, make a determination if they are in crisis, deal with exemptions, and deal with the constitutional rights of individuals.
I am not a complicated person, but it seems more logical to me that we should be here serving those communities in more of a supportive capacity. There is only one Member who made reference to the question of the individual having to make a decision about whether or not they wanted to stop drinking. That was the Minister of Health. I feel very strongly about that particular issue, because we as legislators cannot make people stop drinking, no matter how long we talk in this House, no matter how impassioned our speeches are, no matter how many laws we make mandatory. We cannot make people stop drinking.
People who have problems with alcohol where it is interfering with their lives, and causing the devastation and destruction that other Members have spoken of, have to make the decision themselves that they are no longer going to drink. That is a personal decision. The first principle any organization that deals in supportive measures to alcoholics discusses - Alcoholics Anonymous, Alanon, Alateen - is the individual making the determination themselves to stop drinking. That plays a very important role in the whole debate we have been having over the last two government motion days.
The Minister of Education stood up in a very humble way, and I admire his ability to tell everyone that if he was in a dry community he would stop drinking. That is fine for the Minister of Education to say that, but not everyone is going to be able to do that. Not everyone is going to be able to stand up and say they would be able to conform to the high standards the Minister of Education has and espouses.
It leads you to the next question: What happens to the people in that community who cannot stop drinking? What do we do with those individuals? Do we ban them from the community? In the community of Teslin, you have a law that says there is a ban on the sale of alcohol. No one in the community is allowed to drink, and it is a dry community. What do you do with constituents of yours - your neighbours and your friends - who are not going to comply with that? Is there going to be some strange council formed that will ban these people to some other place because they refuse to comply? Not everyone will. It is not a perfect world out there. We have all agreed to that. That raises another question the government has failed to address.
Our amendment made a recommendation that alternatives could be examined. I take issue with the Minister of Healths assertion that our amendment changes the intent of the main motion, or that it does not conform to the intent of the motion, because it does. Although we are not making a specific recommendation of prohibition, we are asking the department to evaluate, examine and recommend alternatives for dealing with this important problem.
After that evaluation and determination process, one of the alternatives recommended could very well be that we have to implement prohibition. I think that is rather a far-fetched conclusion, but we have not ruled it out as an alternative. That alternative could possibly come forward from certain elements in the overall evaluation as to how the present support systems are working. To come into this House as legislators and say we are going to make a law, we are going to implement the law of prohibition to deal with this problem before we have evaluated how the present systems are working and the reasons why they are not working if they are not, is extreme, and, to use the word of the Minister of Health, it is a radical step. It is a radical, radical step. That is what our argument was and what our concern was - that this motion was pushing things to the extreme, no matter how the government side tries to present the argument that it does not encompass the whole territory. It does. It encompasses all of the communities in the Yukon Territory.
Our position is that prohibition should be the last alternative. Should that alternative need to be pursued, it should come after there has been a thorough and adequate examination of what is presently in place to support people in communities in these kinds of situations. That has not been done.
The support services presently provided are in a position of competitiveness for government funds. I do not see that as a very positive focus for those kinds of services to have to contend with when they should be looking at the service that is being provided and whether or not the service is effective. It is the responsibility of the government to coordinate that kind of effort. It is the responsibility of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health and Human Resources to coordinate that examination and that effort so that these groups feel they can focus their attention on helping the people they are supposed to be there to help. That is what we are asking for.
I am becoming very concerned about the attitude of the Minister of Health lately. I recognize he has some tremendous responsibilities in his department. He has some tremendously difficult decisions to make about health care costs in the Yukon, but I am becoming very concerned because he continues to use the argument of health statistics and how peoples health is better if we, as legislators, take certain actions to control those people. According to the Minister of Health, we are going to ban everything: we are going to be banning alcohol; we are going to be banning cigarettes; we are going to be banning food, next, I suppose - it is unhealthy. I do not push it to the ridiculous; I simply try to make a point. The Minister of Health cannot stand up here and tell us that everything people do that is not good for them can, in some way, be controlled by legislators.
By law, it cannot. I appreciate his point that the health costs probably did drop when there was a ban on alcohol, but I think the argument is a short-lived one. If we really examine the statistics, we would find that the effect of it was short-lived, as well. I do not think that kind of radical step is going to be acceptable to the majority of the public. In years to come, it may be. How do we know?
You cannot just come in here and say, we are going to make a law, and it will solve all our problems, and defend it by saying the health care costs are going to go down and everything will be better. It is not a strong argument to present.
The Minister of Health has to know where to draw the line. I agree with him. This is not drawing the line at a logical or a common sense level. It is a radical step to ask for prohibition, particularly in light of the fact that we do not have the information to substantiate that there is nothing else we can do to address the problem, except move toward prohibition.
We have not had any other suggestions made by the government benches as to other measures we could look at before we have to take this drastic step. That is what we have done. We have brought in an alternative measure. We have asked for an evaluation, and we have asked for some recommendations. That is the first step in dealing with this problem.
I agree 100 percent with the Member for Tatchun, who said that we have responsibilities as leaders, and that we have responsibilities to address issues within our community. We also have a responsibility to address those issues and concerns in a reasonable way. The option we have put forward is a reasonable way. It may be too moderate for the government, but it is reasonable.
I listened very closely to the Minister of Health talking about fetal alcohol syndrome. It made me very angry. It is probably a good thing the Member for Tatchun spoke when he did, because it gave me an opportunity to collect my thoughts and to become more rational.
The Minister of Health stood up here and gave this very demonstrative, compassionate speech about fetal alcohol syndrome. For five years, I have been asking this government to hire a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. You know what? We still do not have one. I was not doing that for some specific political reason. I was doing it because I had personal experience with fetal alcohol syndrome. The Minister is shaking his head and saying a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator is not going to solve that problem. It is a first step.
What has the government done in its first step? They want prohibition. Anyone in the fetal alcohol effects field or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome field has told me what the first step to getting this problem under control is, which is our problem here in the Yukon. This is our problem. It is no one elses problem. No one in the United States is going to solve it for us; nor anyone in B.C. or Manitoba. It is a Yukon problem. Anyone in the fetal alcohol syndrome field has said that the first step is to hire a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. That is why I brought this motion forward.
I really take exception to the Minister of Health telling us about all the tragedies he has seen. Fetal alcohol syndrome is one of the worst tragedies. I have seen this. I do not know if the Minister of Health has or not. Picture, if you will, a small human being in an incubator, in convulsions because its mother was an alcoholic. I have seen that. That is why I have come in here for five years and asked for a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator. I have got nothing but emotional, compassionate speeches from the Minister of Health.
A small, tiny infant, whose whole hand is no bigger than your thumbnail, and this person sitting here as Minister of Health is going to stand up in this House and tell us of all the tragedies he has seen. I am fed up with it. He can either produce and get something done in his department, or stop talking about it.
For him to make the allegation that we are not listening to communities, that we are not sensitive about what communities want because we do not want to agree with the principle of prohibition is wrong. It is absolutely wrong.
The communities need some evaluation done within their own community as to the kinds of services they have. The community has to determine whether it has a crisis or not. The individuals in those communities have to play a part in determining whether or not they want to stop drinking. We have to play a role as legislators, and as government, to provide support systems to help those people make those decisions. One of those support systems, right off the bat, is not prohibition. The right way is to go in there and help those people address those issues, just as the suicide task force did.
We have heard back from communities that there was a tremendous amount of benefit to the community because interested people came to the community and participated in discussion about the issue. It is a self-awareness that the communities participate in. They realize things about themselves, they recognize things and, in the discussions they come up with solutions to the problems because they start identifying the problem. They have to make those identifications, not us.
We do not go in and tell them what to do. As legislators, we do not come into the House and say, this law is going to stop drinking in all the communities, this law is going to reduce the costs of health care, this law is going to solve all the problems with alcoholism. That is not true. It is not going to happen that way.
I am sure the Members on the government benches have concluded by now that I am not going to be supporting the subamendment. I would like to again emphasize my particular concerns. Perhaps some of the individuals who are going to get up and speak will address those issues. I want to state again that I want some clarification of what a community in crisis is, with some specifics that I can grasp, and that the communities can grasp, but not some emotional presentation.
I want something we can make a decision on. What about constitutional rights? What about exemptions? Are some communities going to be allowed to be exempt from this? I want to know what constitutes a consensus. I go back again to the community of Old Crow. What the Member said about Old Crow would lead me to believe that it is not in a crisis situation. What would the consensus be in a community like Old Crow? Is it 50-50 or 75-25? Is the consensus going to be different for different communities? It is very nice to say this, but you have to back it up to sell your argument. I have not seen anything from the government Members that substantiates that argument.
We can all work together in conjunction with our community leaders and the people who are already working in those support systems to support people with alcohol and drug problems. We can all work together to come forward with some reasonable approaches and with some first steps that we can examine, so we can do the evaluation before we do the radical surgery.
I hope the government can see the sincerity of my argument, take the criticisms I have presented in a constructive way, and instead of having a combative argument about whether or not we should have a law, we legislators should all make a decision to work together so we can help communities address this very serious problem.
Mr. Devries: I would like to speak to the subamendment.
I cannot support this and would like to cover some of the reasoning. In the first place, within the parameters of the land claims settlement, once they are settled, the Natives would have the option through self government to declare their communities dry.
As most Members are aware, I am a member of the Liard Basin Alcohol and Drug Task Force. My understanding is that, just recently, the community of Lower Post declared itself a dry community. Possibly it is different in B.C. because they have reserves there and they have that option. They are not necessarily enforcing prohibition but the community has just come to a consensus that the majority of people are not drinking. They are basically saying they are a dry community.
If anyone should be supporting prohibition it should be me. I was in the unfortunate circumstance of having someone I loved very dearly violently raped by a drunk person. I do not feel that prohibition would have prevented this from happening.
In the newspaper last year there was a report of a party in the Northwest Territories, I believe, where they took methyl-hydrate and mixed it with Lysol and other substances. I am not certain if this was a dry community or not but eight people died. We do not want things like that happening.
Does taking a substance away from someone and cutting off the supply help strengthen ones pride?
I only have to look around the room. I believe I have discussed this subject with you, Mr. Speaker, and I believe the comments were that, with the help of God and with the help of your friends, you managed to overcome your drinking problem. You now can sit up proudly with your people. Once you overcame this problem, that is when you started to realize the importance of your heritage and various other things. I would say to every Yukon Indian, You, too, can be a Norma Kassi; you, too, can be a Danny Joe; you, too, can be a Margaret Joe; you, too, can be a Sam Johnston. We cannot legislate you to become one of them. The decision is yours to make, and it is yours for the taking. Do not look at the wrongs of the past. Forgive and look ahead. This is a great country. There are opportunities, but you have to make the move. You cannot expect the government to make it for you.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I stand in support of the subamendment as presented by the Minister of Education. I think it strengthens the amendment suggested by the Member for Riverdale South. I have listened to some of the comments with regard to what it is we are trying to do. Continually, from the side opposite, we hear that we are attempting to impose a total ban or prohibition across the territory. I do not want the people of the Yukon to get that idea, that that is what we were trying to do, because it is not. I hear conflicting views from the other side with regard to how we are going to do this. Some people are saying it is up to each and every individual to do what they want to do in order to deal with their alcohol abuse problems. I think some of the ideas that have come forward in this debate are quite good, but what we are really trying to do in these circumstances is to follow the wishes of the communities who choose to have a dry community. It has been mentioned that, in a crisis situation, this could occur. We have talked about what a crisis really is. Are we going to do it because we have a certain number of fetal alcohol syndrome children in that community, or are we going to do it because we have a certain amount of family violence and physical abuse? Are we going to do it in certain circumstances? What we have said in this amendment and in the motion as presented by the Member for Old Crow is that it is going to be up to the community to make the decision. An amendment has been proposed by the Minister of Education that that would be on the clear consensus of that community.
I would like to make it very clear that, when a situation gets so bad in a community and that community decides that they want to prohibit alcohol, then we have to listen to them. It has been suggested on the other side that this motion is telling the public that we will go into a community to tell them to do that; that is not the case. If a community feels that that is the action they want to take, after everything else has failed, after every single program available to them fails, then it is their choice to have an alcohol-free community.
The Member did not want to get up to speak before I did, but he continues to open his mouth. Mr. Speaker, I do have the floor and I would like to be able to get through my presentation.
If a community decides to go through a process of eliminating alcohol from that community, then we certainly have to listen, and we have to have provision for that. The Member for Riverdale South has talked about asking for a fetal alcohol syndrome coordinator here in the Yukon for five years. There is more to the problem than finding a coordinator for the fetal alcohol syndrome problem.
There is much more to that. We have many programs available to people who want to take advantage of them. We have continued to provide more all the time to try and solve the problem.
The Member on the side opposite has said we should evaluate and recommend. Our amendment to that amendment says that we should continue to evaluate. That is what always has to be done. You have to continue to evaluate every program that you have. Some of those might be working, and they are the kind of programs you have to continue with. If some of them are not working, you have to choose an alternative.
Some communities may have decided that each program and resource that has been available was not working. Then, the last resort would be prohibition. If that is what that community chooses, then we should be prepared to make some kind of provision for that in this government. We have to listen. We cannot ignore the problems that are there. Time and time again, we have spoken about all the problems we have in the Yukon that result from alcohol abuse. The Member for Watson Lake talked about a tragedy in his own family. I have lost three nephews and a niece as a result of alcohol abuse. I know the effect that it does have.
There are a number of people who have been able to overcome a problem. It is not necessary to use us as examples. As the Member for Watson Lake has said, look at so-and-so, they have done well in their life. It is not only the native people in the Yukon who have alcohol problems. All kinds of people have alcohol problems. From the many people who come before the courts, who end up in our jails, who come into our care, whether they are young, adults or babies, we recognize there is a devastating problem out there. In most cases, the problem is because of alcohol.
It is very important that we let Yukoners know that we are not going to go out to communities and say, do not drink in your communities anymore, that we are not going to allow any alcohol here. We do have to listen to those people. We have a very good record for listening to people, and I would like us to be able to continue to do that.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to say a few words on the subamendment. I have some comments on some of the things that have been said by other Members who have risen in the House to speak to this today.
It is a very serious matter that is before us today. I am a little surprised at the approach the side opposite has taken. I am surprised to see Minister after Minister stand up on that side and clearly admit that all the programs they have in place now are not doing the job. That is a surprise, because I feel that some of the programs are working fairly well. They are never as successful as we want them to be, but there are some very good programs out there.
I initially looked at this motion when it was brought forward by the Member for Old Crow. The Member brought it forward with very good intentions. We are dealing with a motion that came from the Member for Old Crow. It is one she feels very strongly about. It is a motion that deals more with a specific problem related to the Members own riding that she wants to address as soon as possible. I can respect those intentions.
However, it is a blanket motion that is going all over the Yukon Territory.
It is covering every area of the Yukon. Alcohol abuse is a problem throughout the Yukon Territory. I think the Member for Old Crow is more concerned right now about having some kind of regulation in place in Old Crow to give the people more tools to deal with an alcohol problem.
The problem I have with that is that nowhere today have we heard any Member tell us that the people of Old Crow have requested this. We have heard statements from the Member for Old Crow about the good things they are doing in the community, the seminars and the efforts that have been made to correct the problem of alcoholism in Old Crow. Nowhere have we heard from the people in Old Crow - in a referendum, or even a petition. The band council has not even written a letter to the Legislature or to the Member for Old Crow. If they had, perhaps the Member for Old Crow should have tabled that letter requesting us to do such a thing.
We appear to have the cart miles ahead of the horse. That is my concern. We heard the Government Leader tell us we have a community in crisis, a community screaming out. I have not heard the community scream out. Maybe I am listening to different people. I know quite a few people in Old Crow, and I know most of the people in Old Crow believe there is an alcohol problem there. I have not heard them say that all the other things we do to deal with alcoholism are not working. I have not heard them tell us that the programs we have in place are failing.
They have an isolated problem in Old Crow. The only way you can get into Old Crow is by air. Making it a dry community is not going to solve the whole problem. There is a strong community will in the village to correct this problem. I am not convinced that it is strong enough, just yet, so that prohibition could work in that community. Again, I stress that we have not heard any community in the territory crying out for this type of legislation.
The Minister of Justice said what we should do with this issue is pass this motion so when the community decides it wants to bring prohibition into the community it will have the right to do so. There are probably a million other bills we could pass to allow a community to decide to do something sometime. When the Minister of Justice told us that communities should have the ability to do so when they want to do so, she did not produce any evidence that any community had asked her to stand up on their behalf, or even if she knew of any evidence that the community was crying for this need.
The Government Leader, as well, talked about the community of Old Crow crying out. Although it was a very impassioned speech, it would have had a much better effect on me if he had produced evidence that the community was crying out. The community needs all the help we can give them in this issue, but I think the approach put forward by the motion - and even the subamendment changes the intent of the initial motion very little - is probably the most extreme, radical approach one could take. I would have to ask the Members on the other side if they have given up on the hundreds of thousands of dollars they have spent on programs to combat alcoholism? It appears as though they have given up, from what I have heard them say here today.
I do not think prohibition is the answer. I think a very strong community will, led by the elders and the community leaders like the Member for Old Crow, is the way to deal with this problem. The Member for Old Crow eloquently described how her people had put together a seminar in Old Crow and how the people came out after the seminar and supported the graduates. I have been to Old Crow on several occasions myself and I know that there is a strong will in that community to solve the problem. Old Crow is, in my view, unique among native communities in this territory. I think Old Crows most valuable resource is its people. They are genuinely warm and friendly, and it is absolutely shocking and amazing to see what kind of transformation takes place when alcohol enters that community.
Interestingly enough, the day after or two days after an influx of alcohol has entered the community, everyone else in the community, including the people who were partaking in some of the parties, feel as badly about what happened as some of the things we are describing here today.
I have to agree with what some of the other Members have said earlier today: the individuals themselves have to identify that they have a problem. We cannot continue to legislate people to death. We have to do everything we can to make them aware that they have a problem, to assist them in the problem, and the only way to do that, the only way it is going to work in Old Crow or any other community in the territory, is to have the support of all the individuals in that community.
I do not believe, according to the people I have talked to in Old Crow, that there is unanimous support for prohibition in that community.
I do not know where one would draw the line to decide if there was enough support to bring in prohibition or enough support not to bring it in. The Government Leader spoke a little about that. What about the people in Old Crow or in any other community where we bring in prohibition? What about the rights of the individuals who do not have a drinking problem? They might like to have the odd drink. They like to have friends over and are totally in control of themselves when they do so. What about their rights? Has the Member for Old Crow considered the rights of those people in her village and in other areas of the Yukon when she brought this motion forward?
We can bring in a motion like this. It could pass. Prohibition could come to play in the village of Old Crow or anywhere else. The person who would not break the law is the person who is not the problem - the person who can have a casual drink and can control himself. It would be the person who did not have the alcohol problem. We would not solve the problem.
The Government Leader talked about this side giving the authority to the communities to ban drinking in the streets of the various communities in the territory.
I thank the Government Leader for bringing that forward, because, quite frankly, I did not agree with that at that time. I was not here at the time, but I did not agree with it, and I do not agree with it today. It is a glaring example of how prohibition does not work. We do not have those people who drank on the streets of Whitehorse any longer. We did a great move. We do not have them on the streets of Whitehorse any longer. They moved to Rotary Park.
We decided that banning them from the streets of Whitehorse was not enough; we had to ban them from Rotary Park. We prohibited drinking in Rotary Park. It was prohibition of a kind. We solved the problem. Right? No, we did not even touch the tip of the iceberg of that problem. We did not touch it with banning it off the street. We did not touch it by banning it in the park. Now they are sitting along the river bank drinking. These are the same people who were alleged to be the problem on downtown streets and in Rotary Park.
When are we going to wake up as politicians? When are we going to realize that just putting it out of sight does not solve the problem? We have to deal with the problems that the individuals have. We have to convince the individuals that they have a problem. The individual has to make his or her own decision that he or she has a problem and has to stop.
Some of the programs that we have in place are doing that. The problem is that they are not doing the best job. That is why our amendment to the motion addresses that very issue. It addresses the issue of evaluating the programs that we have now. To bring in this drastic measure is an admittance that these programs are not working. I support the intentions of the Member for Old Crow 100 percent. I support the majority of the people in Old Crow 100 percent who realize that they have a problem. However, we are not doing the people of Old Crow and the people of the rest of the Yukon any favours by bringing in a law that just puts the problem out of sight.
Ms. Kassi: I would like to speak in support of the subamendment.
I would like to thank each and every Member who spoke so far on this motion. They shared a lot of opinions and ideas as to how we could combat the devastating effects of alcohol that has affected many people in this country. I thank them because it is a very serious issue. I thank the Members who are in opposition to the motion because, of course, we know where they stand, we know the level of their concern, and we know the level of their support.
Particularly, I would like to thank the Members on my side of the House, and the Premier, for the support they portrayed on this issue. I appreciate the idea of re-evaluating programs or extending programs into communities that do not have programs for alcohol abuse.
I want to thank the Member for Watson Lake for his information about Liard. I have worked with the leaders of Liard in the past and know where they stand. That community took the initiative to ban alcohol in their village. The Member opposite supports that decision even if it is in British Columbia.
That is what I ask for here. I ask for support for communities to declare themselves dry if they wish to. In spite of his claim that he will not support our amendment, I point out that he has just restated our claim that communities must have the right to make their own choice.
We are not telling Yukon people we want to prohibit alcohol all over the Yukon. We are not telling anybody that. We are asking government to put legislation in place so when we are good and ready we will prohibit alcohol and we do have that right to do so.
This motion is not the first step, as some Members on the other side say. It is a long, hard, drawn-out battle that the community of Old Crow and the aboriginal people of this country have worked to achieve to get to a point of achieving and exercising our rights on our lands, to be able to prohibit alcohol - the number one killer - on our land if we wish to do so.
We are not asking that for the whole Yukon. We are asking that if the people of the communities and the leaders decide to do that - if they wish to prohibit alcohol in their community - they should be allowed to do so.
No matter what, our community is going to pull together. We are going to take measures and steps toward the health and the betterment of our village and our future. We are going to develop constitutions of self-government and exercise the guidelines set out in our self-government structures at the community level. The Member for Watson Lake made a point of that. We are working toward the settlement of claims. This motion is a supporting step toward that. I want to thank this New Democratic government for the commitment they have made to support the aboriginal people in the Yukon Territory in establishing self-government on their lands where they live, where they want to be healthy.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Brewster: I am not going to say much on the subamendment. In the first place, I would like to make it very plain that I sympathize with both the Member for Old Crow and the Minister of Justice. I have lived with alcohol problems all my life; however, I do not think you can get your personal vengeance or your personal thoughts in on something that affects everybody. The Government Leader made a statement that it was not the hotels, it was not the restaurants. Then he goes on about how peoples lives would be saved, medically. Why would hotels not be a little spooked up when that comes? Most people do not trust government and do not trust politicians. This is a fact that is out on the street. Once they get their foot in, they move. The cigarettes are one case; you cannot even smoke in this building at 50 below; the people are outside smoking. They have some rights, but they were trodden upon, because of the other people who had different beliefs. People do not really accept what governments are saying.
The Government Leader also made a very very funny statement and, if he listens to my speech later on the full motion, he will understand what I am telling him. He stated that prohibition could be for a short period and I suspect, Mr. Speaker, you know this: once you have put prohibition in, it stays, because the minute you let up, you are right back where you started. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic, and you cannot stop until you own up to it.
Some time ago when I was having problems with my family, I flew out to Vancouver to talk to a person who was an expert on it. He was a person who rolled around in skid row in Vancouver; he was very blunt in what he said. When I told him the problem, he said simply this: There are two things that happen to an alcoholic. He can either wake up some day in a ditch, roll around in the mud, find he has lost his wife, find he has lost his family, and he either straightens up, or he dies within a short time; he kills himself. That is very, very true and I have seen it.
When I was a little boy, the Stoney Indians had prohibition on their reservation. They could not drink on the reservation, but 30 miles down the road they could drink; so they would go down there and drink, then they got picked up by the police because they were driving down the road to get back to the Stoney reservation. They would have a case of beer in their vehicle so they would be picked up for having beer. They are trying to bring it home. That prohibition did not work; they just went somewhere else for it. You talked about destroying communities: Old Crow would probably be a really good example. If you do this, a lot of the people who will not quit drinking will leave, and your community will fall just as fast that way as the other way.
I am not saying liquor is a good thing, but I am saying we had better face facts and not make emotional speeches; we must look at this thing seriously and face the facts. Just as that man said to me, They will either die or they will come out of it. That is a fact the people had better face.
I am a little sick and tired of evaluations. I have heard them and heard them. I can go back to when Ken McKinnon was in here and we argued the same thing. We are spending millions of dollars, yet we do not get anywhere. I do not know when we are going to grow up, here or anywhere else. Society and government have to change their attitude on this. Until they do, we are not going anywhere at all.
I am sick and tired of the people they put out in the communities. When someone who at 4:00 a.m. is seeing snakes and banging his head on the wall phones for help but gets no answer, it is because it is an 8:00 to 5:00 job for those people.
I have one very good example where an individual phoned me. He did not like me at all. He had a little respect for me because of the fact that I had taken his kid and used him in hockey for three years, and changed him from being a bad little boy until he was fairly respectable. He got on a drunk and he phoned and tried to get the police. He could not get the police. He tried to get the nurse; he could not get the nurse. I guess he thought I was the last one to phone. He phoned me at 3:00 a.m. He had a gun laying on the table, he said, and he was going to shoot himself if someone did not come and talk to him.
I am not a hero or anything, and I was damned scared, but I also did not believe this guy had gone this far. I said, I will be right over. My wife was not very happy about this, so I said I would phone within a half hour if everything is all right. If I do not phone in a half hour, you had better get the police or somebody, because somebody is in trouble.
He came to the door, crying. He had banged his head, knuckles and a few other things. The gun was laying there. He had never touched it. It was not even loaded. He wanted someone to talk to. Within one-half of an hour, we were having breakfast early in the morning. He cooked pretty good bacon and eggs, so we had two or three meals of it.
I did not cure him. There is no way I cured the man, and there is no way anybody who works from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. can cure him. You need these people when help is needed. If they want to come out of this, the only way they are going to come out of this is to decide it in their own minds and go from there. Governments can put all the money they want into it. They can put in all the experts, but if you do not put it in your mind that you are going to come out of this and stand on your own feet, it is not going to help. As much as I regret it, I am going to have to vote against this motion.
Mr. Lang: I have some other comments I am going to reserve for when we vote on the main motion. I would like to make a couple of comments on the record. I would like to address the Member for Old Crow.
I want to point out that the legislation in this House is not just for native people, and not just for non-native people. It is for all of Yukoners. I, for one, am getting sick and tired of the Member for Old Crow standing up and saying it is strictly native people in a situation of this kind. I agree with the Minister of Justice who, in her presentation, said it well. As far as alcoholism is concerned, and any other problems, it is faced by Yukoners, native and non-native. You had better recognize what your responsibility in this House is. When you come into this House and put a motion on the floor of this House, it applies to all Yukoners, not just one, not just two, but all Yukoners. The laws are for everybody.
I want to make a point here. We have had the question of prohibition raised a number of times by the party opposite. I recall that on the two occasions it was raised, the Government Leader never stood in his place on this side to state to the House and the public at large that prohibition was good and would be good for the Yukon, as he did earlier today.
I want to refer to December 13, 1989, and what my remarks were then. I refer back to Hansard, 1982, when Mr. Kimmerly stated the NDPs policy on prohibition. I am not a prohibitionist, and I do not support prohibition.
If you had the courage of your convictions, why did the side opposite not put it on the ballot when we were going for an election?
Not even a year later, we have the Government Leader making the presentation he made in this House today. Why did he not make it during the 30 days while the people of the Yukon were making a choice as to who would be our government? Was it because he did not have the guts? He did not know if it would sell. That is why. Get it all on the table. He stands up and talks about war zones in his big, impassioned presentation. The Government Leaders speech would at least have some substance if he read a resolution or petition from a band or a community asking for this kind of legislation. No, we do not have that, we are going to put it in place just for the sake of having it in place.
Surely the side opposite could come to this House more prepared than they are. They are the government and have the access and tools to give them all the information they need to discuss any issue in this House. This case has been a sorry example of some individual bringing their own personal, vindictive feelings on the issue to the floor without any real substance. Here we are, dealing with an issue and saying, Now, you come to us and tell us you have a problem, and we are going to solve it. The side opposite should be ashamed, because they have not brought forward the background nor substance to justify the motion they brought forward.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the subamendment?
Are you agreed?
Some Members: Agree.
Some Members: Disagree.
Speaker: I think the yeas have it.
Some Members: Disagree.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Members: Disagree.
Some Members: Agree.
Speaker: I think the yeas have it.
Mrs. Firth: Division, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Mr. Clerk, will you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Webster: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Joe: Agree.
Mr. Joe: Agree.
Ms. Kassi: Agree.
Ms. Hayden: Agree.
Mr. Phelps: Disagree.
Mr. Brewster: Disagree.
Mr. Phillips: Disagree.
Mr. Lang: Disagree.
Mr. Devries: Disagree.
Mrs. Firth: Disagree.
Mr. Nordling: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea and seven nay.
Subamendment to Motion No. 47 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Is there any further debate on the amendment as amended?
Mr. Nordling: I have to say a few worst before the government pushes this through with its majority. Most of the issues have been covered. I am referring to the main motion, the amendment and the subamendment. My position is that the government is pushing this through by using its majority. It goes against what they themselves have said. Apparently, under the new ministry of Health and Human Resources, we are doing an evaluation of the programs in that department. The Minister of Education with his subamendment is advocating that we carry on those evaluations. At the same time, the government is going to allow the Member for Old Crow to pass a motion that will affect the whole of the territory.
From her speech and from other speeches we are talking virtually about the village of Old Crow. If that was meant to be, then the Member for Old Crow should have asked for ways for the community of Old Crow to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol, not for the whole territory.
If these evaluations that are ongoing are working, then prohibition may not be required. If the evaluations say that the programs are not working, we should look at a whole range of options of changing the programs. If all the options have been tried, we should come back to this House and ask for prohibition.
The Government Leader, the Minister of Health and Human Resources, made a strong, emotional, self-righteous speech. He said that in the last five years the government programs to combat alcoholism in the territory have been a failure. I would like to know where the Government Leader has been for the last five years. He defended the former Minister of Health and Human Resources, saying that she was caring and concerned. Being caring and concerned is not enough. We have heard that steadily for the last five years. That is what we heard from the other side today.
They said they were caring and concerned, but there was no substance. There was no evidence that this measure is necessary. There has been no political will. There has been no political direction to the Ministry of Health and Human Resources for the last five years. No one rolled up their sleeves and attacked this problem.
All of a sudden, we are faced with a motion. We are being asked to support prohibition. The basis that we are asked to support this motion for prohibition on is ifs: if violent deaths increase dramatically, if the problem reaches crisis proportions, if there is a community crying out and demanding the radical measures, if a community is dying, if the community is drinking itself to death, if the community has reached such advanced stages that it is falling apart. Those are a lot of ifs. We have not seen any evidence of that today.
If that was happening, not one of us in the House would have any problem looking at this radical measure and investigating the possibility of legislation to help out. At that stage, obviously, everything that can be tried and could have been tried would have been tried.
What the Member for Old Crow said in her speech was, I am also very proud and very pleased to say that, as the result of all the efforts of many people in the community, the majority of the people in my village are abstaining from alcohol abuse at this time.
That sounds fairly optimistic to me. The Government Leader has taken over as Minister of Health and Human Resources, and he has been very optimistic. He stood up and made ministerial statements announcing his policies, talking about analysis of programs, travelling to other jurisdictions. There is nothing but optimism; then, we are given two days notice to come into this House and debate this motion. It was adjourned over the Christmas break, and they have not brought anything back, as other Members have asked for. We do not have any band resolutions.
The Minister of Health and Human Resources can stand up and talk about people being battered, beaten and destroyed by alcoholism, but he has not given any evidence that prohibition is going to solve this problem in the communities. He has not given any evidence that it has been asked for. The Member for Old Crow described this motion as a motion of strength, pride, unity and self-determination. That is not true at all.
I see it as a motion of fear. It is fear that people in the communities cannot handle the problem of alcoholism themselves, that despite millions of dollars being spent and the efforts of dozens of people in the Departments of Health and Human Resources and Justice, community leaders, elders - despite all those people wanting to wrestle the problem of alcoholism down, it is not possible. It is fear that the problem cannot be dealt with, fear that the programs are not working and will not work. I do not believe that is the case.
I believe that substantial progress can and is being made. As has been stated, it has only been in the last couple of years that people have accepted the fact that they are responsible for overcoming their own problems, that the communities can do it working together. To say that legislation is going to solve the problem is not facing reality.
The Minister of Health and Human Resources stands up in his usual self-righteous manner and describes in graphic detail the results of alcoholism, and makes it sound as if the Members of this House who do not support this motion advocating prohibition are condoning family violence and child abuse. It is nonsense.
The Minister got up and spoke absolute rubbish. It is up to him to lead the way. He has been the leader for five years. We want to see some concrete actions from this government, as well as some results and figures. As Minister of Health and Human Resources, the Government Leader is playing the same game in this House that the Workers Compensation Board did. He strongly objected, as did the Minister of Education, to the way the Compensation Board came in here with their facts and figures and the worst case scenarios.
Standing up here, ranting and raving, and talking about the terrible things, instilling fear and bullying this House, is not going to solve the problem of alcoholism.
It is not going to solve it in Old Crow and it is not going to solve it in Whitehorse. If the Government Leader believes that a total prohibition is going to lower the health care costs, which have reached a crisis, then why does he not stand up and say that is what he is trying to do. Over and over again, in this House, we have talked about those costs and the Minister has done everything to get them under control. He has talked to the jurisdictions in Ontario, he has talked to Quebec, he has talked to Alberta, but none of that applies. Oh, yes, we talked to them in Ontario; we studied all the details, but none of that is applicable here. Well, it does not hold water. He is the Government Leader; he should be giving some instructions to his Members. When they bring motions in the House, they apply to the whole House. They apply to everyone in the territory. To stand up and advocate that we make laws that no one says are necessary, which may not be needed here, is absolutely ridiculous.
The former Minister of Justice talked about the successful programs she was initiating during her time as Minister. Where are they now? Where are these programs that were going to be so successful: Proudly announcing the millions of dollars that would go to combatting alcoholism, the investigations that were going to take place - the Member for Old Crow described dozens of them in detail for her community: wilderness camps, lifestyle programs, life skills groups.
I think we were starting to get on the right track, despite the lack of political will and direction exhibited by the Minister of Health and Human Resources and the lack of political will and direction given by the former Minister. Now that the Minister of Health and Human Resources has turned his department over to the deputy minister, we may be seeing some progress. Maybe he will do some proper evaluations; maybe we will hear about the programs that have been put in place; maybe there will be some coordination between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Resources. We have hundreds of people working in both departments and thousands of Yukoners concerned about alcoholism and the best this Minister and the Member for Old Crow can do is to come in here and say, let us vote for prohibition. Is that going to solve the problem?
It just will not. To hear the Government Leader stand there and make his impassioned speech - to give the impression that this motion, as amended twice, is going to solve the problem - it is not even one small step. If the people in Old Crow do not want alcohol in their village, then they should discuss that. There should be a band resolution; there should be something done at the community level. If the Member for Old Crow thinks that having the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Justice identify ways to enact provisions for the prohibition of alcohol within their boundaries is going to solve the problems of her people, then she is wrong.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m. the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: 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 Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call the Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue line-by-line with Yukon Housing Corporation.
Bill No. 13 - Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90 - continued
Yukon Housing Corporation - continued
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yesterday when we adjourned, we were in general debate on housing policy. The Member for Porter Creek East raised several questions relating to the pattern of occupancy of people in housing. I would like to respond to a couple of the points that he raised. He asked a question about the history of people in Yukon housing units, the history of people in social housing.
That material will take a little longer to research. I was able to do some quick calculations of tenancy in Whitehorse. A snapshot was taken of occupancy on a day in November, which showed that of the social housing units in Whitehorse, we had 102 seniors and 137 non seniors in social housing.
Of the 137 non seniors, 76 percent had been employed in some capacity during the previous year. That would translate into 24 percent who would not have had any formal employment during the year. That means that they would have been on social assistance, and they would fit the categories of people who would not have any normal source of income.
The other interesting break-out from that snapshot is that 85 percent of the non senior employed people - 85 percent of that 76 percent group - worked at some point primarily for the tourism industry. Records indicate that the primary source of employment for the people in social housing who had employment was in tourism.
On top of which, the average income of that 76 percent group of people who were in social housing in Whitehorse was just over $20,000. That is a rather fascinating statistic because, as Members recognize, $20,000 does not provide the income base to essentially own a home without some help. The Member raised the issue that we ought to be moving toward providing more and better opportunities for people to own their homes, and that is a measure we support; I believe we have shown that support in a number of ways. We have, as I indicated in my opening remarks, a fairly effective home ownership program that provides an opportunity for a number of people to actually own their homes, whether it is the owner-builder program or whether it is the lease-purchase program or even the extended mortgage program that we have introduced. These are initiatives that Yukon Housing has undertaken to encourage people to eventually own their own homes. At the same time, for those people who do own their own homes and are finding it difficult to maintain those homes, we have a number of home improvement programs, and the Members are familiar with those. Our home improvement programs do help people to retain their homes.
We have a number of upgrading programs, job training programs, at Yukon College to provide for people to become better skilled and better able to enter the income brackets that can make homes affordable. At the same time, the Member is quite aware that, certainly in my capacity as Minister of Government Services, we have been working at some length on a business incentive policy to encourage local contractors to successfully get as many contracts from the government as possible. Over the past year, we have done a considerable revamp to that policy, and shortly I will be announcing the details of that revamped policy that has been done in conjunction with the construction and contracting community. At the same time, we are looking at a number of other avenues to encourage people to become more self-sufficient and in a position to be able to afford homes.
I think particularly the Member for Porter Creek East, who is a realtor and knows some of the details surrounding home ownership and what it costs to be a home owner, knows that it takes certain income levels to be able to afford a conventional mortgage and to be able to own a home. The Member can confirm, I am sure, that the average rent in Whitehorse today is in the order of $550.
To be able to afford that kind of a rent and still meet regular living costs and expenses and maintain that rental unit would require that you earn at least $26,000. So when we go back to that average income figure that shows up in 76 percent of our social housing units, those people are not, on an average basis, making the basic wage required to meet normal market rent today. If you extend that into home ownership - again the Member is quite familiar - and if you take a home that is worth, we will say, $70,000 or $80,000, you are going to have to be in the $35,000 bracket to be able TO afford the mortgage payment on that. Home ownership is a costly exercise, and I believe that our efforts are fairly impressive in terms of trying to encourage and permit more and more people to own their own homes.
I am trying to remember what else the Member raised in his comments yesterday, but I think that the Member was trying to point out that Yukon Housing should evaluate what its social housing program is doing for home ownership. I think, on the face of some of the material that I have just disclosed in terms of income levels and working habits, we are doing fairly well. We are encouraging more and more people to own homes through our home ownership programs, through our lease-purchase and owner-build programs.
Yesterday, I think the Members raised the question of contracts. I will circulate to Members the list of the 101 contracts that have been issued in the course of the past year to date. Perhaps I could just offer a comment or two while Members are reviewing those contracts.
As Members may or may not be familiar with the contracting bylaw that was passed by the board, a couple of basic rules are applied in the award of contracts. I will try to summarize them: for contracts up to $750, the capability is to ask one invitational bid for that job to be done; for the contracts between $750 and $4,000, the requirement is to procure three invitational bids, and that can be done by telephone; for between $4,000 and $25,000, the requirement is to procure no less than three written quotes; and for over $25,000, it has to be publicly tendered.
The list of contracts are broken out in that fashion: invitational and public tendering and maintenance contracts. Maintenance contracts, again, are all publicly tendered.
The Yukon Housing maintenance contracts in communities are publicly tendered and awarded; then that maintenance contractor has a limit to which he can go. That is just a comment on the contracts.
I believe the Member also asked for a copy of the contract between Yukon Housing and Quiniscoe Custom Homes. I will put that into circulation as well.
That is what I recollect from what Members raised yesterday. I will be pleased to entertain any further discussion or questions.
Mr. Lang: First of all I want to correct the record on a misinterpretation of the questions asked the other day.
I wanted to know how many of the individuals had been ongoing clients of social housing. I understand there are senior citizens, but I am not concerned about that aspect. My concern is with people who make social housing a way of life, and I want to know how many of these people are steady tenants. That was the purpose of the question. I appreciate the work done in outlining the average salary requirements here.
Just to reiterate what was said the other day, we see social housing as stop-gap housing, not housing to be provided on an ongoing basis. If we have an individual or coupLE in there, the idea is to use our other government programs to upgrade their education to give them more trade skills or other things with the idea they will be able to go into the workforce and earn a comfortable living and be able to contribute to the general gross national product of the country. That was the purpose of my question.
To some degree, we, in government, have higher aspirations for people than what we perhaps should have. The Minister went to great length to talk about $60,000 and $70,000 homes. Many of us in this room started out in mobile homes. They are not $60,000 or $70,000 homes. A young couple can purchase a comfortable mobile home in the area of $18,000 to $25,000 in order to get started. I do not understand why we do not have a home ownership program available for those people who have lower expectations and want some way to get into a private home. I realize there may be problems in getting a conventional mortgage because you need 25 percent down. Maybe that is an area where there could be help. An individual making $20,000 can conceivably make the payments on an $18,000 or $20,000 purchase, depending upon the amortization of the loan. It is amazing how much equity can be built up over a short period of time to put these individuals into a situation where enough money can be earned in equity so, when they sell it, they can upgrade their standard of housing.
I do not understand where anybody got the idea that as soon as you are 21 you are supposed to walk into a $70,000 or $80,000 or $100,000 home. It would seem to me that we should have programs that encourage people into private home ownership. This is an area that can be looked at and assistance could be made available.
For what it is worth, I recognize the ideas that come from this side of the floor are not worth much, but it is on the record.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: By way of a brief response, the Member is quite accurate in suggesting that sometimes expectations are high. The fiscal reality is such that the options are clearly limited in the normal marketplace. The Member talks about a $20,000 income not able to generate the adequate financing for a mortgage. In fact, a $20,000 income will generate a $30,000 mortgage, at best, and that is not going to provide a home.
Even the mobile home issue is a problem one, as well. Many banks will not provide a mortgage on a mobile home. At the same time, a mobile home has to meet strict requirements if the banks will mortgage it. The fact is, a mobile home is not necessarily the best available accommodation.
The Member may have lived in a mobile home. I certainly did for a number of years, and I know a number of mobile home dwellers throughout the Yukon. They are not the kind of homes I would want to put my stamp of approval on encouraging. Mobile homes are not a type of accommodation that, in many instances, are either safe, efficient or energy efficient. There are so many reasons why mobile homes are not to be encouraged.
That is not to say that mobile homes are not, or cannot be, adequate accommodation. Acquiring financing for them is more difficult than for conventional housing. Our programs do speak to the low-income person who is not able to afford the down payment for a home. In fact, I believe our lease-purchase program will apply to mobile homes. We are taking those steps to find that measure of support to the person who is not able to meet down payment requirements or conventional mortgage financing, because we have put in place several programs to assist that.
The other point I want to make with the Member is that even though home ownership may be the objective and goal of many people, the fact is that it is not attainable by many people. So, you fall back on second best, which is rental. Even conventional renting today requires a substantial income to meet the basic low-scale rent.
The long and the short of it is that it does boil down to the ability to afford the home, and our programs are trying to meet that affordability question.
The closing point I would make is that our policy in social housing does have a 25 percent geared-to-income rental structure, so that when people do achieve an income level that makes them able to afford public rental rates, they will move out of the social housing. So the 25 percent rent-geared-to-income is a factor that provides for people to move out of social housing when they reach higher income levels.
Mr. Lang: I do not think we can go any further on this because there is obviously a difference of opinion, both practically and philosophically. My only point is that my constituents, and I am sure constituents throughout Whitehorse and many other areas, are going to be very interested to hear that the Minister of Housing does not really give his own stamp of approval to those people living in mobile homes. In my particular area, approximately a third of the people I represent happen to live in mobile homes. They are in the process of paying for them and are in the process of working and paying taxes so that the Members across the way can make wise and judicious decisions about their tax dollars. They are going to be very pleased to find out what the Minister of Housings position is as far as the way they have their own financing arranged so that they can afford a home, which happens to be a mobile home. I am really amazed that the Minister would have said anything like that.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I think the Member is misrepresenting the comments I made. Mobile homes, as adequate, new structures, are fine. I have lived in them, the Member has probably lived in them, and many people do, and our programs even support the acquisition of mobile homes. What I would not be prepared to put my stamp of approval on are the numerous mobile homes that we have in the territory of a dilapidated nature, of an unsafe nature, that are not adequately retrofitted and that pose some measure of risk to the tenants. That is what I said, to clarify the record.
Certainly, as mobile homes go, our programs do provide for their acquisition, our programs do provide for their upgrading, and they are a type of housing stock. I have witnessed considerable numbers of mobile homes that I would not want to live in and I would not want to encourage others to do so either, and that is what I said.
Mr. Devries: I just feel that possibly one of the points the Minister is missing, and possibly the Member for Porter Creek was trying to bring out, is that, by human nature, you always tend to want to better yourself. My way of thinking is that, if I was on a low income and they stuck me in a fancy, new $80,000 or $100,000 house, regardless of what I was paying in rent, there is not too much incentive for me to try and better myself, because the moment I get my salary up to $25,000 or $30,000, I really cannot afford to stay there any more, so I might as well just bum around and get the odd job in the summer time. I am not saying this is what a lot of people do, but I do know that some people take advantage of a situation of that nature. I think that is the argument there. If they were put in a trailer - which the Minister says he would really not want to put a person in - there is a little more incentive there to try and get out of it and improve your lifestyle.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I appreciate what the Member is saying. I want to be able to encourage the construction of an affordable and adequate home that even I would want to live in. I would not want to encourage our putting social-housing clients, whether they be senior citizens or low-income people, into substandard housing. I hope that is not what the Member for Watson Lake is suggesting - low income people should be encouraged to better themselves, increase their income and to move out of social housing because they are living in a poor-quality unit. That is not where this government is coming from. Our position, our desire, our philosophy and our goals are to provide adequate and affordable housing for Yukon people. To that end, we will continue to strive.
Mr. Devries: We discussed this at some length last year. There is no easy answer to it. Even if there is no older building or trailer available, we do not want to build something that is inadequate, that is true.
As the Minister may be aware, this evenings paper had a story about a suit being launched against Tagish Kwan. The article did insinuate that they were having some financial problems. Would this have any affect on the Centennial Avenue project? Is there any way that YHCs interest would be protected in this venture if something goes wrong?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I did not see the article in the newspaper. The lawsuit does not affect any of the units under construction for us. There is no direct consequence to us. If one of our units had been under construction, our contract with the builder would immediately kick in the clauses that would allow us to ultimately take over the project. There would still not be any loss, even if one of our units was involved.
Mr. Devries: I was quite aware that it did not involve any of the existing projects. My concern is with the principal who seems to be having some financial problems. How would that affect us? Has anyone approached YHC from the Mount Hundare project in Watson Lake concerning potential housing projects there?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: YHC is quite aware of the Mount Hundere project in Watson Lake to the extent that, on their invitation, CMHC has visited Watson Lake to investigate the options that may be required to provide housing in that community; that would be particularly related to mortgage financing.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Yukon Housing also sits on an interdepartmental committee, in conjunction with Economic Development: Mines and Small Business, in regard to the Mount Hundere project. As the Member is aware, Economic Development: Mines and Small Business is the lead agent in all dealings relating to Mount Hundere. At a department level, Yukon Housing is involved and CHMC has been in communication and close touch. The whole question of housing requirements for the potential mine there is well in hand. They know, and are fully aware of, what is expected.
Mr. Lang: I would like to go back to the question of the project on Centennial Avenue, if I could. Is the construction of that facility halted at present?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am not totally familiar with the legal complexities of the matter. I am advised that there was a period last week when work on the project stopped temporarily for some financing rearrangements to be completed, but the project is proceeding at this point and if it has not, it should be. That is the long and the short of it.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us exactly what our interest in that project is? Do we actually own it or have we made the commitment that once it is constructed we will rent various units for a certain period of time?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is partially correct. Our commitment in a turn-key project is, in the first instance, to seek a proposal and then award a successful contract. We commit, through that arrangement, to buy the project upon conclusion. So I guess our contractual arrangement is to purchase, upon completion. Our interest is to that extent. I do not believe we put up any money during the period of construction so we would not have any direct financial interest in the project, other than a commitment to purchase upon completion.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister tell us the purpose of the 24-suite apartment that we called for? How many proposals were forwarded to the Housing Corporation prior to making a selection?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Working from memory, we believe there were six responses to the original proposal call. The turn-key projects are a two-stage process. First, they were short listed to five and the selection was made from that. In the original proposal there were six, in the design stage call there were five and then of course, the selection of one.
I am sorry. That was a selection of two on that.
Mr. Lang: I want to know how the decision making was entered into on this. Is the final decision made by the board? If that is correct, I would like to see what the response is.
Secondly, is the Minister involved in that decision as well?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: A selection committee has been established to review the proposals. The selection committee consists of four people: the president of the corporation, a representative from the Whitehorse Housing Authority, the director of construction and maintenance of the corporation, and the director of operations. Those four people make a recommendation, which is taken to the board. The board makes the final decision and an award is made. I am not involved at all.
Going back to my earlier answer about the process by which the turn-key proposals are made, I said there were two proposals selected. One was the Centennial project, and the other was the Granger project. They were done in block.
Mr. Lang: Were the final proposals accepted by the government the lowest prices submitted, in comparison to other proposals?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I can undertake to provide to the Member the detailed selection criteria used in those two awards. I am sure that would satisfy his questions as to how the selection was determined, what evaluation process was used on the bids to determine the per unit cost and the recommended contractor selection.
I have some preliminary information. I do not have the detail here, but I can provide it. The Granger turn-key project of 17 units was at $1,311,300, which broke out to $77,135 per unit. The Centennial project of 24 units came in at $1,790,000, or $74,583 per unit.
I can provide all the results of the tabulations that were used in awarding the contract to the Member, based on the proposals submitted. It is available, but I do not have it here.
Mr. Lang: We can wait until the main estimates. I would like a comparison to the other proposals submitted to see what we got per unit.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is what I have undertaken to provide. It will show the break-out and analysis of all the proposals and how the proposal that was awarded stacks up against them.
Mr. Devries: The Minister mentioned 17 units in the Quiniscoe project. I was up there recently and only saw five houses. Is it an ongoing project?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The 17 units in Granger are a turn-key project. The 24 units in Porter Creek are a turn-key project. The five units by Quiniscoe in the contract that I just tabled are completely separate from that. That is an additional five units in Granger. The way the contract is struck, I believe it is up to five units; they may not necessarily construct five units.
Mr. Lang: Was the Housing Corporation involved directly or indirectly in the acquisition of the property on Centennial that was purchased for the construction?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Under the turn-key approach to construction, land acquisition is the responsibility of the developer, so it would not have involved Yukon Housing.
Mr. Lang: Just for the record, the position of the government is that it was not directly or indirectly involved in the acquisition of that land.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To clarify, the Yukon Housing Corporation was not involved in the acquisition of the land prior to and during construction. We acquire the land as part of the arrangement in our commitment to purchase following construction. In that respect, we will be involved in land acquisition - after construction and as part of title.
Mrs. Firth: The Housing Corporation has its own contracting regulations and tendering procedures. Is the principle of value-added concept applied when determining the awarding of the contracts within the Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe I tabled the contracting bylaw in the spring. No, it does not apply value-added. The principal reason is that most of the contracts are under the value-added ceiling that we adopted last summer. They are under the $500,000 mark. We had some difficulty applying the value-added policy, because a number of the costs are cost shared with CMHC who will not apply a business incentive factor.
Mrs. Firth: What is the value-added ceiling? I have had contractors tell me they have lost bids under that $500,000 limit. Is that a new policy? The Minister is saying he announced it last summer.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: What I am referring to is the ceiling - perhaps ceiling is a misnomer - I am referring to the introduction or the change that was enacted last summer for government construction contracts under $500,000. There is no application of the business incentives policy on construction contracts under $500,000; it is only over $500,000 that it applies. That was done last summer in conjunction with the Contractors Association, with full communication and agreement from the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and it was in recognition that contracts under $500,000 did not need to have the business incentive policy applied to ensure competitive bidding against outside contractors. What I am talking about are the government contracts. I am not talking about Yukon Housing - Yukon Housing just does not have a business incentive policy in their contracting bylaw. What I am referring to is Yukon Government contracts for construction.
Mrs. Firth: What the Minister is saying, then, is that the two projects - the one in Granger and the one on Centennial, the two turn-key projects, which were in excess of $1 million, had no value added benefit applied to them?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is right.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister if the Yukon Housing Corporation is going to adopt this principle in their contract regulations as it would seem inconsistent that Government Services would require it, yet the Housing Corporation would not. I know the Minister has made some comments that the whole value-added principle is being reviewed, and I would like to know if the Housing Corporation is going to continue in the interim to not apply it. Perhaps I could make a suggestion to the Minister that he get rid of it altogether. It has been changed several times - I am speaking with reference to the value-added principle - and it seems to keep getting changed and watered down and ceilings put on it, and I think the original value-added principle has been changed considerably since it was first brought to this Legislative Assembly.
I would like to ask the Minister what the direction is going to be: is the Housing Corporation going to have to conform as does Department of Government Services and all other departments within the government, or is he going to look at getting rid of the policy altogether so the Housing Corporation will then be the leader and the others will be consistent with it?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I have indicated to Members in the House - and I guess I am speaking as the Minister responsible for Government Services now and I am sure the Chair will allow that latitude in the housing vote debate - we have been working at some length on a revised business incentive policy over the past year. The Member is correct that there have been a number of revisions to the original policy introduced a number of years ago. Our current policy, which we are in the final stages of adopting, will provide a different approach to the encouragement of the use of local employment, local materials, local contracting support, than has been done in the past. I am in communication with the contracting community, with the Contractors Association, with the labour organizations and with the business community, and we have pretty well got consensus on the approach to take. It is premature to announce it because it is not finalized, but it will be announced shortly.
As to the second part of the Members question relating to how Yukon Housing will be consistent with this, I can only say at this time that Yukon Housing will await the government-wide business incentive policy introduction; at that point, I expect to approach the board of the Housing Corporation and request it to consider the inclusion of a business incentive policy.
I have already indicated that there may be some problems in some aspects of contractual awards because of the CMHC portion of financing for these projects. There may be some detail and revision from our policy that YHC may be able to adopt. Once we come forward with our revised policy, I will be approaching YHC to adopt some form of it as their policy. I will wait, at that point, for some indication from the board.
Mrs. Firth: How has the Housing Corporation been able to avoid implementing the value-added concept all this time?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: They function under provisions of their bylaws and their policies. Their policies and bylaws did not adopt a business incentive policy as a component. The Member will probably follow up and ask why we did not force them to do so. With the state of flux of the business incentive policy, that was not done. It is my intention, once we come forward with our revised policy, to request some form of adoption.
Mrs. Firth: I am sure it is not the Ministers intention to put words into my mouth. I would prefer to see it the other way around. I would not expect the government to force Yukon Housing to adopt the value-added principle. I would prefer to see the Department of Government Services get rid of it. It is not necessary, and the Contractors Association or the Chamber of Commerce do not feel that it is really necessary. It seems to be one of those things that this government has a thing about. My preference is that we do not have that value-added principle established for the corporation or for the Department of Government Services.
The opinion of the Chamber of Commerce and of the Contractors Association has been that they can compete and that work is staying here. If contracts were broken up small enough, they could compete on equal footing. That is a principle that this Member has spoken about in the Legislature before. That was for clarification.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I would not want to waste the time of the House on a debate surrounding business incentive policies. I am not sure that the Member is accurate when she suggests that the contracting community or the business community do not desire some form of encouragement for local contractors and local employment. That is the approach we have taken.
We have taken the approach that it is useful and valuable to encourage the awarding of contracts to local people. Local employment should be encouraged. The use of local materials should be encouraged. These are all valuable economic tools that have spin-off benefits for the territory. I am an advocate of a business incentive policy that encourages the local economy and regenerates dollars into that economy.
The business community supports that view, I believe. I have been in positions where the business community felt aggrieved when outside contractors dominated the construction scene. It is our philosophy and position that we encourage, to the greatest extent possible, the support of Yukon business, Yukon employment and Yukon materials. That is the route we have taken. That is the route we will be continuing on. I am pleased with the general support and encouragement from the business community and contracting and labour community toward the governments approach. When I do come forward with the policy, Members will agree that it is has value. It pays off when we can ensure that those dollars that often go to outside firms stay here and and are recycled.
Mr. Phelps: I have another line of questioning. Do you want a break now, Madam Chair?
Chair: Yes, we will take a short break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Phelps: I had a few questions about this kind of project. What was the real objective of entering into this kind of agreement? Was it to try to get some houses built in Granger subdivision to break the ice?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is partially correct. The whole philosophy and intent behind joint ventures is to encourage housing construction and the development of housing projects. It is a short-term investment by the corporation. It is recoverable and, in the process, more housing is erected for the private market.
Mr. Phelps: Then did somebody, either in government or Yukon Housing, make the decision that there was not enough housing stock on the market at a given time?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Again, in very general terms, the Member is correct. We have a low vacancy rate. We have some considerable demand and pressure in the marketplace for housing construction. This encourages the private sector to build those houses. They could just as easily go to the bank and finance housing construction. This is an incentive program, a short-term investment by the corporation.
Mr. Phelps: Who would make the decision there is a necessity to build these units in Granger? Would that be Yukon Housing or the government?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: In the first instance, the budget allocations are done here in the House, where the money is identified in the joint-venture program to be used for the purpose. With respect to Granger, or any location for that matter, the developer makes that decision. They approached the Housing Corporation for investment involvement in their housing venture. The government does not make a conscious decision to have houses constructed in a certain area or location. That is a developers task. If nobody came forward to the corporation for joint-venture funding, that pot would remain stable and, essentially, dormant.
To specifically answer the question of the Member, the developer would have made the decision to locate housing in Granger on this particular project.
Mr. Phelps: The program was simply available then and just the one developer came forward to take advantage of it. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I do not know the detail at this time, but I can procure it. I know there are two other joint-venture proposals before the corporation that are being analyzed and negotiated. I believe there was an earlier proposal that came forward, but died. This appears to be the only one this year that has continued through to an actual agreement and construction.
Mr. Phelps: Yukon Housing put up between $9,000 and $10,000 per unit and stood to make a maximum profit of its money back plus $500. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct. The investment of the corporation was some $9,579. The maximum that the corporation would get back was that amount plus $500. The $500 would be dependent upon the profitability of the sale. It is a complicated formula that kicks in to determine the extent of the profit of the project that would generate to a maximum of $500 to the corporation.
Mr. Phelps: In the event there was a large profit, the developer would get all the rest of the profit over and above the equity money being returned and the extra $500 going to the Yukon Development Corporation.
On the other hand, if there is a loss, then the loss is split equally no matter how great it may be.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I believe the Member is correct.
Mr. Phelps: I am a little curious about the encumbrance for the construction financing. How does Yukon Housing determine whether or not the construction financing, which is the lien against the house, is a reasonable amount?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The developer, the corporation and the bank enter into a three-way discussion to determine those values appropriate for financing, which ultimately would determine the amount the corporation would kick into the project. The other rule that applies in the program is that the corporation will not invest, as a dollar value, any amount greater than the equity of the developer. So with respect to this particular agreement, the developer would also have had to put up $9,579. Further financing would probably be third-party bank financing.
Mr. Phelps: What I do not see in the agreement is whether there is any way of ensuring that the developer does not have an inherent profit in the construction financing encumbrance against the property. In other words, if I am the developer and put up my $9,500, and the Yukon Housing Corporation puts up its $9,500, and the construction costs are $80,000, how do we know there has not been a profit accruing to the developer in that figure. The encumbrance is the base. I could put in $10,000, Yukon Housing Corporation could put in $10,000 and what is to prevent me from making a large profit by building a house and incorporating that profit into the construction financing?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The best answer I can provide to the Member is that the procedure used is a very normal banking and real estate procedure where there is an appraisal done of the project once the plans are in and the location is established. The bank chooses an appraiser to establish the value of that particular unit. The bank then determines its financing level of that project and the outstanding between what the bank finances and what is required to complete the project is divided by two. That would be the $10,000 the Member used in his example. By way of example, if a house value is established at $100,000 through normal appraisal procedures by the banks choice of appraiser, the bank assumes - for the sake of the example - that it will finance $75,000 of that project. That is the extent to which they will put their money on the line. Then the remaining $25,000 would essentially be split between the developer and the corporation, and that would provide for the $100,000 required. I suppose what the Member is driving at is: what if that house sells for $110,000? If that is his question, then I will refine my answer, but I have tried to give the basic example of the construction, appraised value, sale, bank financing, split by two between the Housing Corporation and the developer.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to know, just as a general rule, whether or not it is possible for the contractor to have a profit built into the construction-financing encumbrance against the builder until the building is completed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Perhaps over coffee sometime the Member and I can go into further detail, but the Member has to recognize that this is not a deal struck in isolation between the developer and the Corporation. The banks are involved in appraising and financing, so the bank, in establishing the value of the final construction and the extent to which they are going to finance, has an interest to ensure that what is constructed and eventually sold is going to be at a market rate. Their interest and the Corporations interest are essentially the same: to keep that value accurate and to ensure that there is no windfall in an eventual sale. Using the example from earlier, if a sale value of a house is established at $100,000 and the bank will only to go the financing level of $75,000 toward that construction, the bank is fairly assured that the remaining $25,000 is going to have to be found elsewhere and the sale is going to ensure that it is in the order of $100,000, to prevent the potential of a windfall. Now, I suppose the appraiser could err, the market could change, and the house could flip at $107,000 and the developer could have an extra $7,000 to pocket.
Those chances are fairly remote because of the strict nature of the appraisal, analysis and negotiations that determine this deal.
Mr. Phelps: It might break down at the appraisal. Surely, it is based on the market value of the house and lot. That is different from the actual costs of materials and all the components that go into building a building. There is a situation where, if the appraisal is sufficiently high in a good market, a contractor can make his normal profit for building a house and be assured that that would be paid prior to the equity being paid back. The party that would really lose would be Yukon Housing.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The only assurance that I can provide the Member is that in the value that is established for the unit, the corporation, after sale, is one of the first to get its investment back. If that house sells for $103,000, the corporation gets its $95,000 back. If the unit sells for $97,000, the corporation gets its money back based on the formula of the shared loss.
The Member was suggesting that the corporation runs a greater risk in this investment than anyone else. That is not the case. The developer runs an equal or greater risk, because he is going to be the last one to get paid unless he has full coverage for his investment built into that appraised value. The Member is driving at that appraised value not being accurate, or building into it a comfortable profit margin prior to the equity portion. The bank and the corporation work with the developer in establishing that value and assuring that those costs identified in the eventual sale value are real costs of construction, materials, contracting fees, et cetera.
I am getting the assurance that there is no opportunity for the developer to build himself a windfall into the appraised value. It is also in the interest of the bank to ensure that this is not happening. They are not prepared to finance something that is not going to return and protect their investment. There is a common interest on the part of the bank and the corporation.
Mr. Phelps: There is a difference between market value and construction costs. I do not want to prolong it. We are being told that this is a policy of the Yukon Housing Corporation that is available to any developer each year. The developer comes to the Yukon Housing Corporation, and there is no preferential treatment given. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is correct. Clearly there are some qualifiers that would eventually kick in. Yes, the available funding of $1 million is available each year under our current budgeting program to any developer who approaches the corporation to secure some joint-venture funding for construction purposes. The developers ability to provide an equal equity portion will determine whether they are successful in negotiations. It is available to anyone in the private sector for housing development for a third-party sale.
Mr. Lang: I do have contractors in my riding and I am sure other Members do as well who are not aware of the obviously advantageous terms and conditions that this type of agreement would provide for a builder.
He threw in some qualifiers at the last minute. Can the Minister tell us what those qualifiers would be with respect to a bona fide builder applying for this money? Can he provide it to me in written form if he does not have it with him? I would like to send a copy out, along with the Hansard, to a number of builders I represent. I think you will see a fair amount of interest in view of the amount of risk the government is prepared to take on behalf of the taxpayers in projects of this kind.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am a little disappointed the Member feels he is not aware of the program. The previous Minister introduced it a couple of years ago and to my knowledge there has been fairly substantial advertising about the joint-venturing program and the availability of the funds. I recall helping to publish brochures on it when we developed the program a couple of years ago. I am disappointed the Member feels there is not enough information out on it.
Yes, I can provide the guidelines relating to the program to the Member. The only qualifier is whether the party has the security to match Yukon Housing or vice versa. Yukon Housing will not exceed the equity contribution by the developer. It is a matching contribution by the developer and the corporation. The balance has to be either third-party financing, or financing by the developer, which is unlikely.
There are no major disqualifiers, as the Member implied. It is available to anyone who approaches the corporation. The corporation receives the application, reviews and analyses it and provides it to the board. The board will provide the direction for an award or otherwise.
Mr. Lang: To my knowledge, the joint-venture program was not advertised with the terms and conditions that are contained in this document. When builders find out the government is prepared to split the losses and see what the profit calculation formula is, I would say it would be very advantageous for a builder to have a look at this if they are serious about building homes.
I want on the record that obviously it has not been that well advertised because the Minister has said they only had one proposal that has taken off, two in process and one that has fallen by the wayside. Obviously there are not a lot of takers for the program. That might be in part because the information contained here has not been that readily available to builders. At least they are not aware of it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake to provide the Member with the corporation guidelines package that has been produced. The Member is correct. There have not been as many takers as we anticipated. There had been many inquiries. As I indicated earlier, some have gone to the application stage, and they are currently being reviewed.
There is one element I have not mentioned and, as the Member was speaking, it was pointed out to me. Under this program, we provide a $10,000 maximum. In other words, we will not exceed a $10,000 maximum per unit toward the construction. In other words, if you are constructing 10 units at $100,000 apiece, that is a $1 million project. Our contribution, if matched by the developer, would not exceed $100,000.
I will undertake to provide further details to the Member, and I will undertake to talk to the corporation about the prospect of advertising it more, if the Member is telling me it is not well known.
Mr. Lang: It is obviously not well known, because you have only had one builder successfully go ahead with a project. When you look at the terms and conditions here, if a person is in that kind of a business, it would be pretty advantageous to sign an agreement with the Yukon Housing Corporation. In fact, a person is very unwise if he or she does not.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The point is well taken.
Mr. Devries: I have a couple of further questions. Are all the staff positions now filled in Yukon Housing?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I did not anticipate that in the supplementary. I have the organizational chart, the vacancy list, the acting list and all the positions in my main estimates debate material. It is current, as opposed to this budget period. If the Member would accept it, I could provide that separately or for the mains. It is available; it is just not with me.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister confirm that there has been an almost total turnover of staff within the Yukon Housing Corporation in the past 12 months?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am having some difficulty, because I do not have my notes on the staffing detail. The Member may or may not know that the Public Accounts Committee raised the question of turnover with the corporation recently. I believe the Public Service Commission is doing an analysis of that question. My recollection of the notes I reviewed in preparation for the mains is that the corporation clearly did not have a 100 percent turnover, and that the turnover was not that extraordinary. It was fairly stable in terms of positions for periods of time. There has been some turnover. Unfortunately, I am not in a position now to cite the statistics I have prepared, which I can provide the Member with separately.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister provide us a list of the positions that have changed in the last 12 months?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has my undertaking. I intended to provide that information during general debate in the main estimates.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister also provide us with the number of dismissals over the last 12 to 18 months where compensations packages had to be paid? Could he also tell us exactly how much was paid out in those compensation packages?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That question is going to be easy to answer. There have been no dismissals in the past year. Should anything to the contrary exist, I will provide the information in the analysis that I give the House.
Mr. Lang: I was asking about the last 12 to 18 months, not just the last 12 months. I will not use the word dismissal, I will call them mutual disagreements between two parties, where one leaves the employ of the government and is paid a cash settlement of an amount so the government feels that no one is rocking the boat. Have people been paid for not working?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will take this question as notice and provide further detail in the main estimates.
Mr. Devries: Are the employees of the Whitehorse Housing Authority hired by the board of directors at Yukon Housing Corporation or is the manager of the Whitehorse Housing Authority hired by Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The employees of Whitehorse Housing Authority are employees of the corporation. There was a dismissal from the Whitehorse Housing Authority in the last while.
Mr. Lang: I am curious about the line of authority. Would the manager of the Whitehorse Housing Authority not be accountable to the Whitehorse Housing Authority and report to that board? I do not understand how the Yukon Housing Corporation would have the authority to hire or dismiss an individual if he or she was reporting to the Whitehorse Housing Authority, which is another board.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The understanding I have is that the administrative business dealt with by the Whitehorse Housing Authority is subject to Yukon Housing Corporation review. There is a consultation process that takes place with the board of the Whitehorse Housing Authority and there is currently a plan to streamline, through legislation, the reporting authority of the Whitehorse Housing Authority to the Yukon Housing Corporation. The Member raises the question: would not any dismissal or action on employees of the Whitehorse Housing Authority go through the Whitehorse Housing board? The Member is correct. The board is fully consulted on these administrative matters, but the authority is from the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Lang: I understand how the legislation is laid out, but I was always under the impression - maybe it has changed in the last number of years - that those individuals in the Whitehorse Housing Authority reported to the Whitehorse Housing Authority and were basically their responsibility, not the direct responsibility of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
When did that change? Perhaps my impression is wrong, but that is the way I thought it worked.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member has a fairly accurate recollection of things. The Whitehorse Housing Authority is responsible for the day-to-day administration and the reporting relationship. The Yukon Housing Corporation is responsible territory-wide but also, in the case of Whitehorse Housing Authority, it is responsible for the wages, the benefits, the hiring and for the firing. In the administrative sense, Yukon Housing Corporation is the principal authority; on day-to-day administrative policy and activity, the board is responsible. That, I have to tell the Member, is an area that has caused some consternation, some confusion, and it is an area where we intend to streamline the legislation and the reporting relationships. It is part of the administrative restructuring we are undertaking.
Given the hour, I move that the Chair report progress on Bill No. 13.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 13, Second Appropriation Act, 1989-90, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled January 31, 1990:
Draft Parks and Outdoor Recreation Policy, 1989 (Webster)