Wednesday, February 21, 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.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Webster: I have for tabling a legislature return.
Speaker: Reports of Committees.
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Statements by Ministers.
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation about the Watson Lake sawmill. We understand that the receiver is having difficulty in getting the financial records from T.F. Properties. Could the Minister tell us whether all the records have been handed over to the receiver?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no knowledge of the assertion of the Member opposite. I am sure that any information that is in our possession has been made available to the receiver. I do not know what other information he may still be in search of but I know that our officials have done everything that they could to make sure that the information that was at their disposal was made available to the receiver upon his appointment.
Mr. Phelps: The Yukon Development Corporation was not really actively managing the operation in the last few months; T.F. Properties from Vancouver was in their place. Can the Minister tell us if Ted Myrah has resigned from T.F. Properties and the Yukon Pacific Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I have no knowledge of that. I can take the question as notice. I fail to see how it is something that is public business or within the competence of this government to answer. I will accept the Members inquiry and make a representation on his behalf.
Mr. Phelps: We are just trying to ensure that the assets, the millions and millions of dollars, of Yukon taxpayers are properly protected. Can the Minister tell us if they have started logging to replenish the depleted inventory of logs at the sawmill?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: When the Member asks have they started logging, I assume that he is referring to the receiver/manager. If the Member is asking if the receiver/manager has issued any contracts of that kind, I do not have certain knowledge of that beyond the fact that I know that the receiver/manager has had some discussions about that subject.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: We understand that there are not sufficient assets at the sawmill to enable the receiver to borrow $1 million for operating capital. Can the Minister verify this?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No, I cannot.
Mr. Phelps: Can the Minister tell us if YDC has had discussions with the receiver regarding guaranteeing a loan of $1 million for operating capital?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The receiver/manager has had discussions with the Development Corporation. I am not at liberty to disclose the nature of those discussions.
Mr. Phelps: Regarding the 35 percent of the shares in Yukon Pacific that were sold by Yukon Development Corporation to the Indian consortium, can the Minister tell us if that consortium will have to pay the Development Corporation for their shares in Yukon Pacific even if Yukon Pacific goes bankrupt?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is asking me for something that may resemble a legal opinion, which is not proper in the House. I have always contemplated that the sale of those shares would be followed by payment for them.
Question re: Yukon Pacific Forest Products
Mr. Phelps: It does not seem like a very equitable deal to a lot of us. What security does the Indian consortium have for their investment in these shares from Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Once again, we are being asked for what is essentially a legal opinion. The Member knows enough about the arrangements for the sale transaction and the current shareholding structure to form his own opinion about that.
I would want to take precise legal advice before I put myself on the public record as to the nature of the obligations of everybody in the hypothetical scenario put forward by the Member.
Mr. Phelps: These questions would not be necessary if the good Minister had decided to make the documents concerning all these transactions public by tabling them in the House, as he should have done. Does the Minister realize that?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I think this is probably the forty-third time we have had this round. At the Leader of the Official Oppositions request, we sought the consent of the private investors to table the documents. They do not consent, nor do the aboriginal investors consent, to having those documents made public.
Mr. Phelps: We are being told everyone who got drawn into this boondoggle, investors and creditors alike, is going to lose their money. Is that right?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That is not a question. That is a bit of political argumentation by the Member. Notwithstanding the fact that he voted some time ago to commend the government for its initiative in Watson Lake, his real position ever since we got involved has been to criticize.
Mr. Phelps: Point of Order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the hon. Mr. Phelps.
Mr. Phelps: Perhaps the Minister could check the record to see how the voting went before he makes an assertion of fact like that.
Chair: Order please. I find there is no Point of Order, just a dispute between two Members.
Question re: Yukon College gymnasium
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Government Services. Yesterday, the Minister of Education told the House there was very little holding up the turning over of the gym at Yukon College. Would the Minister of Government Services advise the House what the problems are and what remains to be done before the gym is officially completed?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To my knowledge, there is no holding up of the opening of the gym. There are some minor seasonal deficiencies. I believe they relate to installation of the bleachers, and this work will be completed, but it will not in any way affect the gymnasium being used, and the building is ready for operation.
Mr. Devries: Has the building been turned over to the board of governors at this point or to the Department of Education, whichever way it goes?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: As I indicated to the Member, the building is completed; it is ready for use. I repeat: some deficiencies are being listed and checked by the client department and Government Services. The contractor has agreed to complete these minor deficiencies, and they will not affect the opening of the building for use. As soon as acceptance of the list of deficiencies has taken place between my department and the client department, the commissioning will proceed.
Mr. Devries: Is this a regulation-size gym with the bleachers installed for the spectators, or is it smaller-than-regulation size when the bleachers are set up?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I have to take notice on that technical aspect of the gymnasium. It is my understanding that it is a standard-size gym with the installation of the bleachers. I stand to be corrected and will procure that information for the Member.
Question re: Yukon College gymnasium
Mr. Lang: It seems to me we have not got a straight answer yet on the gym at Yukon College. Even today, when we asked whether or not it would be turned over, we were told it still had deficiencies but was ready to be opened. They cannot have it both ways.
The Minister of Education said you can have it both ways. Can the Minister confirm that one of the reasons the gym has not been turned over to the college is because the Government of Yukon never provided any money to pay for the heat, lights and janitorial services to keep the gym open?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to thank the Member very much for allowing me to answer that question because I cannot think of a more ridiculous question, given the building is currently heated, you can turn the lights on, and everything is hooked up.
There is funding available for the maintenance of the gym; it is in the Government Services budget.
With respect to opening and commissioning buildings with seasonal deficiencies, I would like to remind the Member that the Robert Service School has seasonal deficiencies. There is still work to be done. I can assure the Member that children have been using the school for some considerable time now. We must wait for warm weather for those seasonal deficiencies to be corrected. Certainly it is possible to have minor deficiencies and still allow for the building to be opened and used. That is fairly common.
With this particular facility, the building itself is complete and is ready for use. It is unlike the Faro School, which was commissioned and really never ready for use when the previous Conservative government was managing this project. This is a rather standard situation.
Mr. Lang: I have to apologize to the Minister; perhaps I phrased my question wrong and maybe I can put it in another way. Can the Minister confirm that the reason the board of the college has not accepted the transfer of the gymnasium to the board of governors is because there is no money in their budget for the operation and maintenance of that particular facility, as well as no money for programming at the present time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is funding for the maintenance of the gymnasium in the budget. I can assure the Member that if he were to go up there himself at 5:30 p.m. and walk through the door and flip the light switch, the lights would in fact go on and there would be no howl from Yukon Electrical from that action. I would certainly offer myself to stand between Yukon Electrical and the Member if they were ever to consider that what the Member had done was inappropriate.
I talked to the chair of the board just this morning on other matters and I brought up the issue of the gymnasium. He indicated that the college is interested in formally opening the gymnasium and understands that there is no holdup to the opening. They are looking, obviously, at next years budget to determine whether or not they can have various levels of programming. It would be a matter of discussion between the Department of Education and the college in the future, as to the level of programming. We discussed that very briefly. There is nothing holding up the operations of that gym or the use of that gym, as the Member for Watson Lake indicated yesterday, to allow the students to exercise themselves.
Mr. Lang: Well, maybe I had better direct the question in another manner because the Minister obviously does not want to answer the question. My information is that there is no money in the present budget for Yukon College to cover the costs of operating the gymnasium in question, and that has been one of the major holdups for the transfer, because the board of governors does not want to accept that transfer unless they are guaranteed that dollars are going to be made available in the budget or by supplementary.
Can the Minister tell us if monies are going to be made available in the supplementaries to ensure that dollars are available for the board of governors to run the gymnasium and put the necessary programs into place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, the Member is wrong; perhaps I should get that on the record, just so that the Member does not confuse that portion of my answer with something else that I might be saying. Secondly, with respect to the programming at the college in the coming year, that is something that has to be discussed, at the board level, because they have to determine, first of all - if the Member wants to have a little more information - whether or not they want to have the college gym used for other than college purposes.
The Member is laughing. The Member does not care. Maybe I should have just stopped at the Member is wrong, because that probably would have satisfied him.
The level of programming at the college will depend on either internal priorities in the colleges budget or what funding they might be able to get from the Department of Education. We have discussed that matter. I indicated that in the conversation that I had this morning. I indicated that in the coming fiscal year, if there is a desire for all kinds of programming in the gym, other than the simple maintenance and use of the gym, then the negotiations will be tough because times are tough for funding availability. The gym will be open. The gym will used. The gym will be monitored. There will be staff available. All budgeting was taken into account. The place is heated; I can assure him of that. You can turn the lights on. You can turn the water on. It is all hooked up to the central system at the college and there should be no holding back the college at this point.
Question re: Yukon College gymnasium
Mr. Lang: I still have not had an answer to the question I asked; maybe I will ask it in another way. Let us be honest. It is very seldom that we do get an answer. The information, once again, that we have been provided with, is that the board of governors is very reluctant to accept the new gymnasium because there has been no money identified within the base budget to run that particular facility. Can the Minister confirm to this House that one of the major reasons why the board of governors is reluctant to accept that gymnasium is because they want to get that financial situation straightened out among itself, the Department of Education and the college?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Let me spell it out - the answer is no: n-o. The Member is wrong: w-r-o-n-g. That is as simple as I can make it.
Question re: Yukon College gymnasium
Mr. Phelps: The Member spoke about the students getting exercise at the gym. I think a lot of Yukoners are getting quite exercised with the fact that the government seems to build all these fancy monuments and then not use them. We have the new curling rink at Elsa; we understand the teams have moved away and it is not being used. We are wondering why this brand new facility at Yukon College is not being used. Perhaps, in order to reduce the possibility of the taxpayer of the Yukon becoming overly exercised about this problem, he could give us a straight answer. When is the gym going to be open at the college?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The phrase about exercising students originally came from the Members own colleague, and to keep the taxpayers from becoming exercised, the Government of Yukon is ensuring that the operations of the college are always kept to an efficient minimum, with respect to this gymnasium or any other facility they may operate. Clearly, the gym is something the Member has now labelled as the fancy monument, which I presume one could take, pejoratively, to mean that the Member is not in favour of the gymnasium. That is tough, because this is the way it is and we are in favour of it.
The Member mentioned the curling rink in Elsa, and I remember, during the election, that the Leader of the Official Opposition did not comment on that particular facility. That was after the mine had indicated it would be closing down. He did not mention anything, neither did the Conservative candidate, so I find it ironic and inconsistent to say the least that the Member will cite that example at this point.
Certainly, the desire is to have the Yukon College students use the facility, and there is nothing holding that up at all.
Mr. Phelps: When is the efficient government going to open the efficient gym at the efficient college? When will the gym be used by students at the facility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In the name of efficiency, I will keep my remarks short. I am always pleased to receive accolades from the Member for Porter Creek East; he is such a dear.
There is nothing holding up the opening of the gymnasium. It is ready for use by students, and I wish the students well and hope that, when they organize basketball games and things that allow them to get exercise - again, in the Member for Watson Lakes words - they will have good basketball games, good pick-up games, and maybe the Leader of the Official Opposition may want to join in.
Mr. Phelps: When?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At any time. What does the Member want me to say? If anybody wanted to go into the gym right now, and turn on the lights, they certainly could run around. There is nothing preventing them. We do not have security guards up there holding people back. The board of the college, as I understand it, is considering the issue of the official opening tonight during their telephone conference board meeting. Clearly, as I indicated yesterday, the board of the college is the responsible agent, and they will be responsible for the operations of the college. That is what we all agreed to in the legislation. So, I would say it could be a week, it could be a couple of days - whenever the board wishes to do it.
Question re: Yukon College gymnasium
Mr. Phelps: I would like to follow up on one of the Ministers previous answers. He said that the money for operating and maintaining the gym was in the budget of Government Services. Is that what the Minister said or did he misspeak?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I hardly ever misspeak, and I never tell a lie. I speak nothing but the truth, the whole truth and that sort of stuff. The utilities budget for the college gym is in the Government Services budget; it is Government Services budget for next year as well. That will keep the water running, the heat on and the lights on when the gym is being used. It is an efficient facility that we are looking to support.
The issue is whether or not extra staff will be necessary to run a certain level of programming that the college may desire. I have been told that the board has not considered that matter yet, but they will be tonight, along with other matters.
Mr. Phelps: We are being told that the board has sufficient funds to undertake the operation of the gym.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not know if the Member has been listening to what I have been saying. I will explain it again. The utilities costs of the gymnasium are in the governments budgets, and are in the budget for the coming year.
The level of programming has not yet been considered by the board. They will be considering that in future meetings. They just got together. I have been told by the chair that they will have it on the agenda to be considered tonight, among other important things. They may conclude their discussions on it tonight, although that is unlikely.
They will be presenting a proposal for additional funding to run programs. The facility is ready and open for use. If they want to use it, it is up to them. It is more than available.
Mr. Phelps: I have been listening very carefully to what the Minister says. It is rather a tortuous experience. I gather now that the board does not have, at this time, sufficient funds to operate the gym, and that they will be making application for funding from the government.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: A lot depends upon the kinds of programs that they want to pursue. One possibility is that the manager of student services makes sure that the doors are open and closed at the right times and that people clean up after themselves. That is what they do in school gyms in the public school system. That scenario requires no additional funding.
There could be someone who is dedicated exclusively to the gym. That person could run programs, organize pick-up basketball games, volleyball games and some callisthenics during the day.
Some Members: (inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member has asked what the scenarios might be in terms of the funding, and I am only here to serve them.
There could be others who would keep the gym open 24 hours a day to ensure that if anyone wants to play a basketball in the middle of the night that the service will be available. There are certainly a number of funding scenarios. I have asked them to keep it to an efficient minimum.
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Question re: Yukon College gynasium
Mr. Phelps: Has the board requested additional funds from the government to operate the gym?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I could keep my answer to an efficient, minimum no, because that would be true. I would just explain to the Member that there are a number of scenarios they can consider, everything from the no-cost scenario that I mentioned at the beginning through to the one-person, dedicated facility through to two or three people to handle the midnight vigil, in case someone wants to come in and run around the gym in the middle of the night. There are various costing scenarios they have not yet considered as a board so would not be in a position to present them to the government, as yet.
They have indicated they will try to consider them tonight. I asked them to consider that. The new fiscal year is coming forward, and I am looking forward to the end of the fiscal year, if it matters at all. The new fiscal year is coming, so they will try and consider it. There is no guarantee they will conclude their deliberations with respect to what they may wish for the coming fiscal year in terms of operations. As I indicated, I did ask them to keep it to an efficient minimum.
Question re: Child care
Mr. Nordling: With respect to child care, does the Department of Health and Human Resources have plans to provide money to the Yukon Child Care Association to start a computerized bookkeeping service for its members?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Nordling: Have there been any discussions between the Yukon Child Care Association and the Minister or the Department of Health and Human Resources regarding the provision of this bookkeeping service?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: There have been none with the Minister. There may have been some with the department, but none of which I have been advised.
Mr. Nordling: I have a copy of a letter from the Yukon Child Care Association to all the Whitehorse day care centres and family day homes offering bookkeeping services at $20 per hour, instead of $30 per hour, which is charged by bookkeeping firms in town. This is offered because, we are counting on the Department of Health and Human Resources for the financing of startup and capital costs.
Does the Minister know anything about this letter?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: No. As the Member knows, for some time the department has been working on a number of excellent programs to provide for operating subsidies, capital grants and enhancement grants for the child care centres in Whitehorse. We and the federal government have made contributions toward the work to the central organization, the Yukon Child Care Association.
As to exactly what the child care association is doing, or planning to do with all the money they will be receiving from the different sources, I do not have intimate knowledge at this point.
While I am on my feet, could I just answer a question asked earlier today by the Leader of the Official Opposition?
If he would refer to Hansard on March 31, 1989, he will note in the motion before the House, That this House commends the Government of Yukon for reopening the sawmill operation at Watson Lake, known as Hyland Forest Products . . ., and it has a number of additional points.
Mr. Phelps is recorded as having agreed to this motion.
Question re: Child care
Mr. Nordling: While I am on my feet, I should point out that one of the additional points to that motion was an amendment I made that everyone in the House agreed to. That was that the Public Accounts Committee consider the complete financial records of the Hyland Forest Products, and that has not been done yet. That is why we are asking all these questions.
Back to the question of the money from the Department of Health and Human Resources. The Minister talked about the programming being provided, and some of it is excellent. I would hope the Minister would be a little concerned about the impression given to these associations that money is free and available and they can commit it on behalf of the department, apparently before it has been applied for or discussed.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, I would like to congratulate the Member because he is partly right in his reference to what happened in the motion on March 30, 1989 - a rare and momentous occasion.
The concern expressed by the Member, as I take it, is that the child care association, as a result of funding being made available to it by the territorial government, may be offering a service, or going into competition with certain private sector professionals, and they are able to provide this service only because we, the Government of Yukon, are subsidizing them to do so.
I will have to take that question under advisement. I appreciate the concern of the Member, and I will report to the House at the conclusion of my inquiries.
Question re: Child care
Mr. Phillips: I have a question about the same topic, but would like to direct my question to the Minister of Economic Development.
Recently, we have had a couple of incidents where the Government of Yukon has financed projects to non-profit organizations that compete with the private sector. Has the Minister consulted with the Chamber of Commerce on this recent proposal?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like the Member to focus his remarks and cite examples. That would make my response easier.
Certainly, the loan funding goes through a board that checks for things, including competition with the private sector. If the Member would cite a specific example I could perhaps respond to it and then we can discuss the policy behind it.
Mr. Phillips: The Government of Yukon has struck a deal with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to consult with them on any matters that relate to business in the Yukon. One of the matters they did not consult on was the selling of recycled paper by the Yukon Conservation Society. The Chamber expressed its concerns and the government assured them that this type of thing would not happen again.
Will the Minister now take this letter written by the Child Care Association into consideration and consult with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce to get its views on this type of proposal before he proceeds, or allows the Minister of Health to proceed, on this matter?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This government is well noted for its consultative approach on a series of policy and program issues. The example the Member cites of the arrangement between Economic Development and the Chamber of Commerce for consultation is for specified projects we have identified. We are not paying an interest group to generally advise us on just anything in general. Each individual department is responsible for any necessary consultation that is required before action is taken on a particular project.
A great deal of consultation goes on in Economic Development on every one. If the Member can cite an example of projects approved by the community development fund or the business development fund that did not have consultation specific to the proposal I would be interested in hearing about it.
I do not think the Member can seriously expect that every project we put forward before the business development fund will be subject to consultation with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, certainly. Is that what they expect?
Mr. Phillips: I mentioned one project already and that was the selling of the recycled paper. Another announcement the government made was that of the convention centre. It did not talk to any of the hotels in this town or some of the officials in the Chamber of Commerce. I might as well direct my question, then, to the Minister who is responsible for the Yukon Child Care Association, and ask that Minister if his officials, prior to granting funds so that the Yukon Child Care Association can get into the bookkeeping business, will first consult with the Chamber of Commerce to see if there are any problems or conflicts that the Chamber may have with this non-profit organization getting into the bookkeeping business?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Let us be perfectly clear about consultation. We consult about major policy matters, not only with the Chamber of Commerce, but also with working people, through their unions, through womens organizations, through aboriginal people through the first nations and through CYI. It is not just the Chamber of Commerce whose opinion we seek on these matters. We are interested in more perspectives than just that one.
With respect to the proposal that the Member is discussing, which has been described by the Member for Porter Creek West, which I gather is from the Yukon Child Care Association for funds that he asserts are for a bookkeeping service, no such grant has been made, to my knowledge. I have already indicated three, four or five minutes ago that I would take the representation of the Member for Porter Creek West under advisement.
If the Member is suggesting that every time there is a application for funds or support from this government that we have to run it by the Chamber of Commerce, as some kind of parliamentary Senate, that would be a ludicrous way for the government to operate. We cannot operate that way. The reason we have advisory boards and committees for things like business loans and grant programs, is to deal with the issues of adverse competition, which is one of the standard criteria for checking economic assistance. We have boards to give us advice on those questions but we do not specifically, every time some individual comes and applies for money, run down to the Chamber of Commerce office and say, dear Chamber, is this okay with you? No government can operate that way and to propose that we should is, in fact, quite ridiculous.
Question re: Child care
Mr. Phillips: For the Ministers information, I would like to put some of the facts on the record. The service that this Yukon Child Care Association is going to provide is entering monthly transactions onto the computer and producing monthly financial statements, preparing payrolls and time sheets, maintaining accounts receivable subledger, paying bills, submitting claims to Health and Human Resources, reconciling bank statements, preparing and posting journal entry statements and assisting in the budget process.
They state that the Child Care Association estimates that it can provide the service for $20 per hour. This would be paid for a qualified bookkeepers salary and employee benefits. While the $20 per hour fee may seem high to some, Members should consider the following: bookkeeping firms in town, which offer computerized bookkeeping services, charge $30 per hour. We expect to be able to charge less because we are counting on the Department of Health and Human Resources for the financial startup and capital cost.
The bookkeeping firms in this town that are in the business of bookkeeping did not get a grant from the government for their startup costs and to buy their computers. All I am asking is that the Government of the Yukon would have the courtesy, in a case like this, to check with the Chamber of Commerce and see if it has any objection to a non-profit organization getting into business, courtesy of the Government of the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is of course obliged, by rules, to table the letter from which he has quoted. First of all, I have not seen the letter that he has just read. I do not know who it is from but let me first of all speculate about what the situation is.
Child care centres are not highly profitable businesses; most of them are non-profit. They pay very low wages. They perform an absolutely essential service. Some of them are very small, so small that I suspect they have difficulty running their own bookkeeping or administrative services to do payroll accounts properly. If the association is thinking about offering that service as a central organization to its members, that may be a good idea. As to whether the government should be funding that particular proposal or whether we should have concern about the adverse competition, or potentially adverse competition, is a question, as I have said, that I have already taken under advisement. I think what the Yukon Child Care Association is probably considering makes a lot of sense to its members. We will have to see whether it makes sense to the government in light of the questions asked by the Members opposite.
Mr. Phillips: The Minister now has this letter and he can understand what the letter says; it does come from the Yukon Child Care Association; I did not make it up. I would like to ask the Government Leader if he would consult with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce with respect to this matter. That is the only commitment I am looking for from the Government Leader.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We are not going to start consulting with the Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Labour, the Council for Yukon Indians, the Status of Women Council and every other body on every single grant application. This government, elected by the people of the Yukon, is capable of making some judgments about these questions, and I think we can do so without having to run every application by a private sector organization. I will take the representation, which I think is a representation about adverse competition, under advisement, and I will take it up with my officials.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I would like to give notice pursuant to Standing Order No. 13, subsection 1, that the motion to concur in the interim report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts be called as government business on Thursday, February 22, 1990.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the House leaders, I would like to request unanimous consent of the House to proceed directly to Motions Other than Government Motions, rather than calling for Motions for the Production of Papers. Further, I would like to request unanimous consent that motions under Motions Other than Government Motions be called in the following order: Motion No. 66, which is Item No. 24; Motion No. 73, which is Item No. 25; Motion No. 78, which is Item No. 26; and Motion No. 56, which is Item No. 18.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Item No. 24, standing in the name of Mr. Nordling.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 24?
Mr. Nordling: Yes.
Motion No. 66
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek West:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to give full consideration to the findings and recommendations of the task force report entitled We Need Someone to Talk To in developing and implementing programs for the prevention of suicide in Yukon.
Mr. Nordling: This motion is really a follow-up to a task force report, which was prepared by the Member for Watson Lake, John Devries, and me. The task force report was entitled, We Need Someone to Talk To - Yukoners Views on the High Rate of Suicide in the Territory.
The task force was announced on May 4, 1989, and was completed and tabled in the House in December of 1989. In my opinion, something like this was a long time in coming. Since I was elected to this House in 1986, I have expressed concern over the high rate of suicide in the territory and asked questions about it.
In 1988, on January 7, I asked the Minister of Health and Human Resources at the time, the Member for Whitehorse North Centre, what direction she had given her department and what steps her department was taking to combat the high rate of suicide in the Yukon, especially among our young people.
At that time, the Minister said, We do not know what the problems are. I would like to remind the Member for Porter Creek West that we are certainly not ignoring it. She went on to say, I would like to be able to come back to this House some time very soon and outline a plan that we have.
It was significant to me that the Minister admitted that the department did not really know what the problems were. From that time, more interest in the problem of suicide has been shown. In the spring of 1989, a little over a year after those remarks were made, CBC held an open-line program that talked about suicide. The RCMP took the unusual step of holding a press conference to discuss the high rate of suicide in the territory.
The significant thing in the news report on the press conference was, The RCMP are also puzzled about how to prevent suicides. Again, there was concern about what the problem was and what we should be doing. The RCMP did speculate that the best prevention is to keep the lines of communication open with all family members. It was something no one seemed to have a handle on.
After those reports and the heightened awareness in the public, I asked the present Minister of Health and Human Resources about suicide in the territory and what was being done. He offered some of the initiatives that were being taken by the department, along with federal Mental Health. I further asked about the possibility of setting up a task force to look into it.
At that time, the Minister said, I would take the suggestion of a task force under advisement. That was on March 13, 1989. The House adjourned for the summer on April 25, without the courtesy of a response from the Minister.
On May 4, the Conservative Opposition announced we had established a two-person task force to look into the problem of suicide. It seemed obvious it was timely, and people were willing to talk about the problem, and something should be done. It also seemed obvious that the government did not have the time nor the inclination to do anything specific about it during that period of time.
As a two-person task force, the Member for Watson Lake and I decided we would talk to as many people as possible and travel to all the outlying communities to ask people what they thought needed to be done to prevent suicide in their community.
The approach we took was non-partisan. We travelled throughout the summer of 1989 to virtually every community as two Members of the Legislative Assembly, not as two Conservative Members.
In answer to the question as to why it was two Conservatives, we often defended the government Members saying that they are very busy in the summer, and we as opposition had much more time to do this sort of thing, so we were gathering information to bring back to the government.
We talked firstly to front-line workers. Those are the people who come in contact with suicide on a more frequent basis than others. Those people were public health nurses, social workers, the community health representatives, courtworkers, probation officers, the RCMP, school principals and counsellors. We talked to the Indian bands, to the social workers, the alcohol workers and band members. We also talked to members of the public and mental health professionals.
When the Member for Watson Lake and I first discussed what we would do as a two-person task force, we were going to just gather information, or go on a fact-finding mission. We were going to present the information that we gathered to the government and to the Legislative Assembly without recommendations.
Before we announced it, we decided that we would end up with a lot of information, and what we should be able to do is to draw some recommendations from what people said to us, so that is what we did.
In the end, the recommendations were not that difficult to come up with because they represent a consensus of what people said. The things that were said were not much different from one end of the territory to the other. We talked to hundreds of people and took hundreds and hundreds of pages of notes.
The recommendations that we came up with reflect, not our conclusions, but what Yukoners were asking for. The response to the task force was much more than we hoped for or expected.
We do not claim that this task force report is the be-all and the end-all or the final word on suicide in the territory and suicide prevention. In fact, we recognize our limitations and spelled them out in the report. What the task force was trying to do was to respond to the concerns raised by Yukoners about the high rate of suicide and to have the Members of the Legislative Assembly take the problem of suicide seriously. We wanted to travel throughout the Yukon, talk to as many people as possible about the issue and report to the Legislature about the comments and concerns of Yukoners. We wanted also to make recommendations to the government on ways to reduce the high rate of suicide and to help those who are otherwise affected by it.
We recognized that it was not possible for the task force to solve the problem of suicide. We recognized that it was not possible to answer all the questions about suicide. We, as a task force, recognized that it was not possible to implement programs to satisfy the recommendations made in the report. We recognized those limitations. Our recommendations are therefore quite general.
There are things being done for suicide prevention in the territory at this time by the territorial government, by the federal government, by Indian bands, by the communities, by school groups, by religious and spiritual groups, by other groups and associations and by individuals.
While travelling throughout the territory we found the interagency meetings held in the communities were very valuable. That let each of these groups know what the other group was doing to coordinate efforts. Often, we find two or three groups are doing the same thing at the same time, duplicating efforts, where it would be much more efficient and progressive to work together. The interagency groups consist of representatives from groups such as the schools, the band, Health and Human Resources, the RCMP, courtworkers, alcohol workers - again those front-line people who would come in contact with suicide more often than most other groups.
We found in discussions with people in Whitehorse and throughout the territory that the problem of suicide and prevention of suicide should be approached at two levels. The first level is at the time of crisis. Most of the people we talked to felt that more knowledge and information on how to deal with a person who was suicidal, and considering suicide at that moment, was needed.
The other area we got into, to a considerable degree, was the prevention of problems in society that lead ultimately to suicide. An accurate description of that is the general health of the community. When we talked about the general health of a community, we discussed the problem of alcohol, drugs, family breakup, family violence, sexual abuse, lack of employment opportunities and a loss of a sense of purpose. The recommendations we have made reflect a combination of these two approaches to the problem.
We made 14 recommendations in all. Some of the recommendations are being implemented at the present time. Some were already implemented before we made them. Some are being planned, and some may not be possible, or relevant to the problem, but they do reflect what Yukoners felt they needed and wanted to see.
The last recommendation is interesting in that this was something that was said to us in virtually every community in the territory: we should focus on a solution to the prevention of suicide among the young. The last recommendation, the only one I will read out, is that, wherever applicable, the above recommendations be introduced beginning at the primary-school level. We feel that it is one of the most important things in considering suicide programming and prevention that we aim at as young a group as we can to start early in solving the problems.
After the recommendations, the report contains a summary. I believe it is a good summary that accurately reflects what was said in the communities.
There is valuable information on what Yukoners think and feel about the problem of suicide, as well as other problems in our society. In addition to that, there are two appendices. The first one covers suicide statistics from 1983 to 1988. Appendix B contains a listing of mental health services available in the territory as of December 1989. These are services available through the Department of National Health and Welfare.
In itself, that is a valuable appendix. We found that a lot of people in the territory did not realize what was available.
In conclusion, I feel the exercise undertaken by the Member for Watson Lake and me has been one of the most significant things I have been able to do as an Opposition Member. I would like to encourage the government to continue the work that is being done through the Department of Health and Human Resources and through the Department of Education, as outlined by the Minister of Education in a ministerial statement on November 21, 1989, as well as through the Department of Justice.
I ask for the support of all Members for this motion, which urges the Government of Yukon to give full consideration to the findings and recommendations of the task force report, entitled We Need Someone to Talk To.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I was listening to the Member introduce this motion, I could not help but cast my mind back to years ago, the last time we had a task force conducted by Opposition Members in this Legislature. That was the task force on education. I was thinking back to the response of the government-of-the-day to that and reflecting on this motion we have before us. The task force on education, which involved my colleagues from Faro and Mayo, is at the genesis of major reform of the education system we are now seeing completed in this territory.
I understand these task forces can be enterprises of great consequences. Even though they are not cheered on by everybody, they are important and relevant work for Members of this Assembly, no matter on which side of the House they sit.
The government party will be supporting this motion put forward by the Member for Porter Creek West. In essence, it asks for consideration of the report prepared by the Member and his colleague from Watson Lake. We have been considering it and will be considering it further as we deal with this. The issue of suicide is part of a great complex of difficult social questions that face this territory, as well as this country.
Suicide is a serious problem in the Yukon Territory. The task force report of the Members opposite contains and affirms some of the established suggestions for preventing suicide.
Many of those suggestions have been articulated in other reports elsewhere by other organizations and very much reflect the views of people in the communities and people working in the field. I want to say to the Member for Porter Creek West and the Member for Watson Lake that we appreciate their efforts in this area. The process of gathering this information and preparing this report was, I think they said, very educational, and I am sure that was the case. I am sure it was educational for the Members who participated, who told us they spoke to 300 individuals. It was good to hear from the Members, in previous statements, of how much they have been sensitized to this problem.
Mr. Speaker, you and I know, and some other Members of this House know, people who have been touched by such tragedies in their own families or in their circle of friends, and our hearts go out to anyone who has experienced this kind of tragedy. Fortunately, not everybody has had to face this form of pain. It is a social problem; even though it is the ultimate cry for help from individuals, it is a problem for all us and not just for the person who destroys himself.
The Opposition process has increased public awareness of suicide as a public health problem, and I know that the Members opposite would not claim that they have found all the answers to the problem, or anything like it. As I am sure the Member for Porter Creek West must have heard during his tour, there are people in the field who worry about calling attention to the problem, for fear of provoking copycat behaviour following incidents of suicide, and that has certainly been a problem in more populated areas of the country. I think, as we have talked about in the case of child sexual abuse or family violence, I do not think, as a general proposition, it is a good idea for a society to avoid these problems, to put them out of sight or out of mind, because they are evidence of some fundamental problems in our community to which we are all dedicated to addressing.
The Member for Porter Creek West admitted that the task force paper is not a comprehensive document but, as I am sure he knows, it is consistent with other national findings and other regional reports on suicide. Although I and other Members have spoken about the initiatives of this government to reduce the incidence of suicide in the territory, I recognize, and so do my ministerial colleagues, that none of us can let up in our attempts to address this problem.
As the Minister of Health and Human Resources, I want to assure all Members, but particularly the Members opposite, the recommendations made in the report will be considered in developing and implementing programs for the prevention of suicide in the Yukon. In fact, most of the recommendations are entirely consistent with our present approach to building healthier communities in the territory.
It must be said that suicide is a complex problem. There are many unanswered questions about suicide and as a result, there is no clear, single solution to the problem. Suicide is an action. It is the ultimate form of human self-destruction. It is not an illness. We know that suicide is the product of a complex array of social, environmental and psychological factors. The task force report identifies some of these contributing factors: low self-esteem, lack of family support, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and other income-related stress.
In addition, social isolation, inadequate housing, physical illness and mental disorder contribute everywhere to the incidence of suicide. Of course, many of the economic and social policies of this government are designed to improve the health of our communities and therefore to reduce the incidence of this kind of self-destruction.
We know also that men between the ages of 20 and 29 are at the greatest risk and that, nationally, the suicide rate for Indian people is four times the national suicide average. We know as well, from published data, that the circumpolar region of our planet demonstrates a higher suicide rate than the southern areas. We know also that Alaska and the Northwest Territories suffer suicide rates well above the national averages. The Yukon has this in common with our neighbours to the east and west.
As I said before, individuals who attempt suicide are crying out for help. They may be experiencing complex problems or a complete loss of hope. When they feel they cannot cope any longer, suicide may, for one awful moment, seem like the only way out - and some unfortunate people take that way out.
Providing support and crisis intervention at the time when these people are desperately crying out for help is a key to preventing loss of life, and it is important to do everything we can on this score. But we also have to appreciate, as Doctor Pat Kehoe, the Yukon psychologist, was heard on the radio to say, that it is impossible to predict always who is at risk. As he said, no one knows for sure where lightning is going to strike next in the forest. That is an argument against treating the issue of suicide in isolation from many other social, economic and health problems, but we still have to recognize that we have to try, as difficult as it is.
One of the things we can do, of course, is to try to sensitize the whole community to signs people display when they are contemplating suicide. Often a friend or a co-worker is in the best position to pick up on these warning signs. The ability to lend a listening ear and offer support to a friend is a resource we must not overlook in developing effective preventive measures.
We also have to understand that even those acute observers may not know or recognize that moment when a mentally-troubled person is contemplating taking their own life. I know from personal experience that someone very close to you can do it, apparently without warning or any early indication, and when that happens, people close to the victim are inclined to feel profound guilt.
We have to recognize that suicide is always painful for the friends and family and those around them. When talking about trying to alert people to the problems, we must not create the situation where we will make people feel more responsible than they can reasonably be for the welfare of their friends and family members.
It is true that everywhere in the country professionals and resource workers are developing specific expertise to identify those in need of help. It is increasingly the case that specific training for resource workers, including alcohol and drug workers, is important. That is happening here, but we still have a long way to go. Everybody involved would admit that.
The Yukon has some expertise in this area at Mental Health Services and at the Yukon Family Services Association and in the Department of Health and Human Resources. Training sessions continue to be offered by these agencies to help deal with this problem.
Identifying a person at risk is only the initial step. Mental health services also need to be available to people so that they can get the help they need. I know, probably better than most in this House, that almost every community would like to have highly qualified resident counsellors. A number of communities have asked me for professional psychologists. It is not possible, at this moment, for the government to meet this demand. It is not possible for any government anywhere in this country, for the simple reason that there are not enough trained people available. In common with other jurisdictions, we are looking at ways to develop services at the community level and to provide access to more specialized mental health services over time.
The task force report recommends that a community network be organized and that lay people be trained to deal with intervention and prevention methods. These suggestions are consistent with the approach that this government is taking now. Through the safe places program, we have found that some communities are starting to develop a core group of individuals who want to help others in their community.
Their range of concerns does not stop with an interest to provid support and safety for battered women. People like this in our communities are also recognizing that problems like family violence, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide are interrelated.
Core groups in communities such as Mayo and Teslin are looking for training on a wide range of issues. Their goal is to provide for community health and well-being. This government is committed to working closely with groups like this to assist them in developing the necessary skills.
Recognizing the warning signs of suicide and then acting to avert the violent action is critical. That we can affirm. However, our ultimate aim, as a government and as a society, must be to help those individuals before they become desperate. Prevention of suicide takes many forms. The factors that lead an individual to violence are so complex.
Public awareness campaigns that strive to change destructive behaviours and promote healthy living are important. Currently, Alcohol and Drug Services offers preventive workshops on a range of topics. The alcohol and drug strategy media campaign currently being developed will promote healthy lifestyles.
Training in the area of life skills is also key to the prevention of problems like suicide. Through the family life program, school children are taught skills in communication, decision making and coping. The aim is to promote self-confidence among youth and good communication with peers and parents.
The departments juvenile justice branch also offers a teen support group and an anger management group in Whitehorse. Planning in communication and coordination of services are also important.
The Department of Health and Human Resources, in conjunction with Mental Health Services, is reviewing mental health services in the territory this year. I believe the Member for Porter Creek West made mention of that in his speech.
Within the Yukon government an interdepartmental committee has been established to coordinate activities to prevent suicide. At the local level, interagency committees are active in many Yukon communities. These committees often include the clergy, the RCMP, social workers, community health workers, alcohol workers, and other health and resource people.
As you are aware, the Department of Health and Human Resources provides a number of services and programs that are designed to support individuals and families in need.
It is important not to forget the economic dimension. Chronic unemployment or underemployment are linked to the question of low self-esteem. That is why the Yukon government social assistance program promotes training, education and employment programs. I should note that at this point the average time a client in the Yukon receives social assistance is four months. I suspect the perception is that most claimants are beneficiaries for a much longer period than that.
Improving the health of communities will only be achieved by not only improving the social fabric, but, more fundamentally, improving economies. That is what the Yukon Economic Strategy, which this government spent two years developing and is now implementing, is about. Our approach to job creation, rebuilding the Yukon economy and developing the communities, is vital to the mental health of our citizens. We still have a long way to go, but I note from the last quarterly statistics that we have the lowest unemployment rate in many, many years. It is also true we have pockets of chronic unemployment in many rural communities, and everything we have done in terms of job creation and training so far has contributed to an improved situation but we still have much more to do, and it is necessary that we continue to do that if we are to deal with the social and health problems from which the communities now suffer.
It is also true that the child care initiatives and the family support programs, which are important activities in the Department of Health and Human Resources, are vital, in that they support families. Secure families are less likely to be environments for suicidal people. Home care programs enable seniors to remain independent with practical support.
Through these activities and others the Department of Health and Human Resources is addressing some of the underlying causes of suicide. We are, I think, doing many of the right things.
We freely admit that much more needs to be done. Our willingness and ability to do these things is limited only by the resources that are available to us, human and financial.
In closing, while the government can and will play an important role in the prevention of suicide, we cannot do it alone. Communities and individuals, particularly caring individuals, have a crucial role to play. Individuals in need require immediate attention and support. The people who are closest to that individual are in the best position to help; that means family and friends. It is incumbent on all of us to reach out and help when we sense that a friend, family member or someone we know is desperate and in need of help.
We are optimistic that in the Yukon Territory we can build healthy communities over the next decade and that working together, regardless of our political stripe, we can achieve these common goals. I want to thank the Members opposite - the Member for Watson Lake and the Member for Porter Creek West - for their efforts and for this report.
I say again that we will be supporting the report. We recognize the nature of the problem of suicide is so complex and enduring that the best efforts of all Members of this House would not likely see it completely eradicated. Everything we do that will contribute to preventing one person from destroying himself and, over time, reducing the number of people who will take this awful step, is worth doing. We commend the efforts of all people who are contributing to a reduction in the suicide rate in this territory.
Mr. Devries: I have shortened my notes considerably, trying not to repeat what some of the Members have already brought up.
It is an honour to be able to speak in support of this motion before us today. As everyone is aware, Mr. Nordling and I travelled around the territory, and it was a real education for me. There were some serious concerns out there.
It is important to stress the fact the major cry we heard out there was: we need someone to talk to, someone to show they care. By comparison, in the Legislature some times - not meant in a bad way - it seems that we as government, once in a while, get caught where we have not properly consulted and it leads to a crisis situation. Fortunately, we have the ability to come out of it, normally not looking too bad. One of the problems that seems to exist is that some people just do not know how to handle a crisis.
I would really like to emphasize the part that I feel the family plays in this area. More and more, we are finding that family members and children are not talking to each other; this continually leads to family breakdowns. Some statistics indicate that as high as 50 percent of our students in the local schools come from broken homes; by that, I mean students who are not being raised by both natural parents. As to our youth becoming disturbed, we can only expect this to increase as we live in a society that seems to spend more and more time in front of a TV tube, and, increasingly, we see a two parent workforce. Day care can do a good job of looking after our kids but it can never give the children the love and affection needed to develop that child into a loving, caring individual.
I am not saying that two working parents cannot do a good job. There is no doubt that children often benefit from a more financially-affluent, stable family, but personally I feel that if any of this is gained by sacrificing quality time with our children we will end up being the losers.
The greatest single strength that human beings possess is the ability to love and care for fellow individuals. If this love is placed in jeopardy, this whole generation is destined to fail. There is no doubt that we cannot always be there, and this is where we have to learn to talk to our children and explain to them the situation. Often it is hard to get a person to understand the reasoning behind given situations. As a parent myself, once in a while we make a promise to our kids and, through a chain of circumstances, we cannot always keep that promise. I have even had to cancel a meeting once because I had made a promise. I think this is very important. Children look up to their parents as examples, and if you make a promise it is important that you keep that promise.
Very seldom does a person who is given love and attention, a person who is spoken to with an open mind, a person who is shown that he or she is important and has earned a place in todays society, ever contemplate taking their own life.
Everyone fails at times, but often we learn through our failures. As we travelled through the Yukon, we heard of many situations where people had failed to see the signals of desperate individuals, reaching out individuals, individuals giving signals, begging for attention, and eventually taking their own lives and leaving behind, as the Minister for Health mentioned, bewildered, guilt-ridden family members. I am happy to see that we do now have suicide bereavement counselling through Yukon Family Services. I think this is a very positive initiative taken by this government. I am happy to see that the government made a 180-degree turnaround on the plea from the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake with support for its proposed safe house.
The Liard Basin Alcohol and Drug Task Force, which is funded by the national alcohol and drug strategy and, partially, the Yukon government, is planning a conference on May 4, 5 and 6 where the theme is Building Healthy Communities. Behind it, they have the realities, the possibilities and the manifestations. We are beginning to see various community leaders and workers taking initiatives on their own and I would encourage them to continue this approach.
It was not too many months ago that a member of your own riding in Upper Liard took his own life by jumping off the Liard bridge. This person was scheduled to see a mental health counsellor several weeks before this incident took place. For some reason or another, the counsellor did not show up. I am not bringing this up to point a finger at anyone or to try and make anyone responsible for the situation. I am pointing out the importance of having some people in the community designated to handle situations like this. Even if a mental health counsellor visits a community once or twice a month, it is important to have a backup person present in the community. We will never know if his life could have been saved.
Gary Last is the name of the counsellor. He used to come to Watson Lake once a month. Through the persuasions of both the Outreach workers and Bob Craig, the former mill manager, Mr. Last gave several half-hour lectures on company time. The lectures were about peer pressure and self-esteem. He discussed the relationship between lack of self-esteem and peer pressure to alcohol and drug abuse.
It was amazing how the workers responded and asked questions, obviously being aware that they had problems. Then again, when Mr. Last disappeared, it was not too long before the old habits were back.
Communities need improved crisis training. In this day and age of cutbacks, we have to ensure that there are properly-trained care givers, whether they be the social workers, health workers, RCMP or just ordinary, caring individuals willing to reach out and care for fellow human beings.
From our travels across the Yukon, it appeared that Mental Health Services held several seminars in various communities with a promise of follow-ups about six months later. This was almost a year later, and apparently some of these follow-ups never took place. Some people were quite concerned about that. This was the responsibility of the federal government.
Every community and every worker that we spoke to talked about the importance of the 911 number, or something of that nature, which could be used to access some service. This goes back to the title that we are using here, We Need Someone to Talk to. We talked to the people who run the Crisis Line here in Whitehorse. They said that often the person on the phone is quite drunk. Often the calls came in the early hours of the morning from were lonely people. Just a 15 minute talk with someone on the phone seemed to put their minds at ease.
In some areas, there seemed to be a lack of coordination between agencies. People did not know who was whom. We have to try to streamline the services to make them more effective in that respect. This has become much better in the last four or five months, as I understand it from the regional supervisor.
Then we come to the area of passive wills that are developed by handouts. People need to feel that they earn what they get. From the discussions that occurred around the communities, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of an improved social assistance delivery system. The Minister mentioned that, on the average, a person only spends four months on social assistance. Crisis situations happen with the people who are on it consistently.
Whether this can be done through the anticipated self-government that the bands are hoping to achieve or through the present system, I do not know. We need some corrective measures in this area. Hopefully, this subject will be discussed at the Healthy Communities Conference, which will take place in Watson Lake.
Our families and bands have to do more to retain the cultural awareness. We cannot count on the Department of Education to do this for us. As much as they are making an attempt, it is our responsibility.
One of the priorities of most religious institutions is to help those in need. Often for people who have reached the bottom, it is an ideal opportunity for them to reach out for a hand that will always be there. The government can also utilize the resources of these groups in suicide prevention. Finally, we get to one of the last items in the recommendations, which is concerning guns. Guns are often the tool used. I would encourage the government to initiate a hunter firearms safety training program as a prerequisite for obtaining firearms and hunting licences.
I think many of the social workers are doing a great job. The care givers are doing a great job. There are people out there who are looking for someone to talk to. As MLAs, we have to learn to listen. I urge everyone to support this motion.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I have listened to previous speakers in regard to this motion. I would like to say that the problem is so huge it is almost impossible to even think of how it can be dealt with because of the many things involved.
The Members talked about their trips to the communities in regard to this task force and how they spoke to many individuals. There were some cases, throughout my travels in the Yukon this past summer I had arrived there shortly after they were there and in one instance, it was just minutes after.
I know the kind of situations the people were talking about. I know it is a very serious problem, as has been indicated here. The fact that the majority of suicide victims were aboriginal people is of great concern to the native people of the Yukon. The majority of those aboriginal people were male.
I have personally been around the friends and families of victims after they have lost someone, and I know the sadness, pain and devastation that occurs. One of the things I have observed after such a tragedy is the amount of drinking that takes place when everybody was suffering very badly. It is a concern to each and every one of us.
We talked about the many programs that could be available, or have not been there. The Member for Porter Creek West cited something I had said about bringing something comprehensive back to the Legislature. Something like that is very difficult to do. I think they had an eye-opener when they started to talk to people in the Yukon. It is not just something you can plan and say, This is how it is going to be.
For just about each and every thing that is done in regard to this problem, there is something happening. The programs in existence right now appear not to be enough. You never know when programs that are available are going to be enough. Will there ever be enough to deal with this problem?
A lot of the people in the past have talked about family violence and how that problem causes many other things. We know that there are a number of other areas that have to be developed, such as education, training, employment and alcohol and drug abuse awareness, as well as many other areas of daily living. The young people in our communities are suffering in many ways, and so are other individuals. Some do seriously consider suicide because they are desperate. It is not just a matter of providing counselling services. While they are important, they are emergency measures. We need to look at long-term plans for these young people.
A lot of the things mentioned in the report, we have heard in the past. One of the things they kept mentioning was the lack of personal self-esteem. It went on and on. I heard it mentioned on the air by some of the Members when they talked about low self-esteem. On page 13 it says, Many said there is a sense that the low social status they suffer is permanent and there is no hope for the future. On the page prior to that, page 11, they say, Many Yukoners feel low self-esteem is one of the main reasons people commit suicide. Somebody said, I have been suicidal; I felt alone; I had nothing; I was nothing. There is a strong sense that welfare and lack of meaningful employment are linked to low self-esteem and self-worth. They talk about native depression and a loss of respect for the elders.
It was interesting to note that in this House a few nights ago, the Member for Watson Lake seemed to talk about an educational program that was geared toward native development. He said that possibly his fear was just a natural fear of a white man that we perhaps consider ourselves dominant, which we should not do. He said it was a natural fear, that this is something they have that is very natural. A natural fear. Unfortunately native people have seen that kind of attitude for generations. They have suffered because of it. They have suffered because they are a people who, like the Member for Watson Lake talked about, feel dominated. Society feels dominant over Indian people. That is a fact, because I spoke to him about it after that. He said he was not afraid to tell what he thought, and that is exactly what he said.
It is attitudes like that that do cause people to feel the way they do. As I said, it is not just one person; it is many people. A lot of people will not admit it as readily as the Member for Watson Lake, so it is no wonder there are serious problems.
The problem is not just shown toward native people; it is shown to all other people who they feel are not as dominant as they are. Really, they have no place in the treatment of these potential suicide victims and they have no place in the development of self-worth in any of our communities. When I know there are so many people in many communities such as Watson Lake, with their Liard Basin task force planning committee working so hard to understand their problems and to provide a means for their community to improve the quality of life, I fail to understand why their representative in this House would feel that he has considered himself dominant over native people. I also fail to understand why a person who has just heard the concerns of over 300 people from all over the Yukon, concerns about alcohol among native people, depression and feelings of low self-esteem among native people, lack of respect and unemployment, would rise before this House and discuss his feelings of dominancy over native people.
I can tell this Member in the House, for the record, that it is mainly these kinds of attitudes that contribute to the feeling of hopelessness among native people. It has been noted in the task force report, We Need Someone to Talk to, that unemployment is one of the contributing factors to depression and suicide. It has been further noted that a recommendation to this particular problem is to review the welfare system to find ways to develop higher self-esteem and to develop more meaningful jobs.
This government has gone way beyond this without the cooperation of the Opposition. This government has worked closely with the communities in finding ways to access resources from this government to provide for increased employment in the communities. At the same time, the Opposition sits on the other side of the House, criticizing this government for every project or program provided for native people. My recommendation would be not to review the welfare system but to work together to help communities become self-sufficient, economically as well as socially. One can help communities develop their own self-worth by respecting their decisions and by supporting their initiatives. During our recent debate on prohibition as an option for communities, the message came through loud and clear: this government is prepared to respond to the cries for help from the communities.
Our government is deeply concerned about the alcohol and drug-plagued problems in our communities. We need to listen to our communities to hear what they are saying. However, during this debate, the side opposite voted against the expressed desires and wishes of some of the communities. How can these same Members claim to be listening to the communities and their cries for help for suicide prevention when they know full well that alcohol is a major contributing factor to suicide? How much listening does the side opposite do?
Suicide is a serious issue and not one to be taken so lightly as to suppose that all one has to do is make a quick trip into the communities and provide a short little report to this House. This issue is much more serious than that and this government has long recognized the seriousness of this problem and has worked hard in developing new initiatives to help combat those concerns that directly relate to suicide and violence of any kind in the Yukon.
As the Minister of Justice, I have been able to respond to this issue by initiating many programs within this particular department. The family violence prevention unit was introduced to develop and deliver programs to support and assist offenders, victims and potential victims of family violence, including suicide, and to increase community awareness of the problem in order to decrease the incidents and lessen the impact of such violence on the individual and the community.
Many of these programs are directly related to the recommendations that were made by the task force on suicide, because the need was established prior to the task force going to the communities. For example, recommendation number five speaks of family violence and sexual abuse. Under our family violence prevention unit, we have a number of current programs dealing directly with these issues. We have an assaultive husbands intervention program that primarily deals with the priority of longer term protection of victims of family or interpersonal violence. The sexual offenders treatment program is also a longer term program, delivered in conjunction with Mental Health Services, that assists sexually violent and abusive men to understand the nature and origin of their behaviour, to learn self-control techniques and develop life-long strategies to prevent reoffending.
The sexual offender treatment program is delivered in conjunction with Mental Health Services. Our family violence prevention unit has also been able to co-facilitate a sexual abuse survivors group with Mental Health Services. The womens support group consists of weekly sessions designed to provide a supportive environment in which women who are victims of physical or sexual abuse by their partners can explore how this violence has affected their lives and seek positive alternatives to remaining where they are victims.
The increasing number of women contacting the family violence unit suggests our program is quite effective. There are several community services provided to the rural communities by way of workshops and support groups that deal with education and community development, as well as providing protection for victims of violence.
Our community outreach program, under the family violence prevention unit, has been able to provide promotional and public awareness campaigns, public presentations and liaisons with other agencies and departments in exchanging information about family violence and delivering programs.
The Salvation Army residential centre has provided an excellent service for assisting selected offenders from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre in participating in activities that include employment, vocational and alcohol counselling. These services help inmates learn to cope with ordinary demands of the community after they are released.
At the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we have provided for a psychiatric nurse, who plays an important role in the mental health of the inmates of this centre. That was a recommendation that came out of an inquiry into the suicide of a prisoner there. It was told to me by inmates in letters that the situation was very bad there. As a matter of fact, I received a letter from an inmate who was contemplating suicide at that time.
I am told by individuals in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that this service, although it is not the overall solution to everything, has helped to fill the need that was there prior to the nurses arrival.
There are many programs within the Department of Justice that are directly related to increasing the quality of life in the Yukon and, in particular, as they relate to family violence.
I understand and support the recommendations that have been put forward for consideration by the Members for Porter Creek West and Watson Lake. However, major initiatives have been undertaken to combat all areas of violence and suicide well ahead of these recommendations.
I would like to challenge the side opposite to provide support for all the departments of the government in their efforts to provide more employment in the communities, in providing education opportunities for the communities and in providing a more stable economy for the communities. Most of all I challenge them to listen to the communities when they ask for help in areas of alcohol prohibition.
This government has actively pursued the well-being of the communities and has been gravely concerned about the issue of suicide. We will continue to support such efforts as those of the Members for Watson Lake and Porter Creek West. They do have to be commended in this area. We all realize that there is much more to do. We have to be more open to what we are hearing from the communities.
I talked to many people in the Yukon who have asked me about services that are lacking in the communities. In some cases, in both my responsibilities for my previous department and this one, we have tried to make services available that would meet some of their needs. There are so many contributing factors to suicide that we have to look at the area of prevention as we do with many other social problems.
We have to look at areas of employment and education to get help for some of these problems. We are supporting this motion. Once again, I would like to thank the Members opposite for taking the time and for their caring in establishing this task force and for bringing it to this House.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Many Members before me eloquently articulated the problems associated with suicide prevention. They have explained the process of the task force, the writing of the report, and the response that should be given to the report.
I would like to say, as one ex-opposition task force member to another, that I know of the long hours on the road, the coffee machine in the trunk of the car, organizing endless meetings, meeting with individuals, taking notes at meetings that did not always stick to the point, dealing with people who were either skeptical of our cause or who felt emotionally attached enough that they spoke at some length. They spoke at some length and then asked us not to repeat any of it. I am aware of all the problems associated with a task force of this nature. I commend the Members opposite for putting the time and effort toward this important subject.
One of the most difficult elements of putting together such as a report is taking a mountain of information and providing concise and consistent conclusions. It is difficult to identify themes and to provide recommendations that are useful. I will not claim authorship of the education task force report, but I do remember the great deal of work that went into putting the project together. I also remember the many revisions that took place and the great deal of work that went into putting the project together.
I am sure that the task force on suicide prevention and intervention faced many of those challenges, and, given the sensitivity of the subject before them, they encountered challenges that were new to Members who have gone around the territory seeking public views on important issues of the day.
I would like to simply provide from an education perspective what the Department of Education has been doing, and even inject a few of my own anecdotes into the mix.
The occurrences of suicide have been far too prevalent in the territory. The education system has seen the consequences of attempted suicides and suicides themselves from time to time. There is often the expectation that the education system has to do something about it. People look to the system to solve the problems.
One element of the task force report that is useful and sound is that it is not the sole responsibility of the education system, nor government, to resolve all problems associated with suicide. Suicide results from a complex set of factors that are very difficult to predict: low self-esteem that an individual feels, the lack of family support, alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and income-related stress, social isolation and references to children who do not know their families but know what is on TV from minute to minute, physical illness and mental disorders. These are all factors that relate to the situation surrounding the potential for suicide.
It cannot fall on any one individual but must fall on all society and the family to identify the potential for suicide and potential causes that would lead to suicide, and prevent them wherever possible.
The Member for Porter Creek West cited his enthusiastic support for the interagency meetings held in various communities to try to take a complete view of social problems within our community in order to address the environment in which suicide might be contemplated. That kind of interagency contact is essential to ensure all government-related responses are coordinated so all factors associated with a person that may lead him to the tragic decision to commit suicide can be considered in determining a response to the situation.
The interagency meetings were cited as being an excellent illustration of how a government can work together in a community to contribute to the resolution of problems associated with suicide.
The creation of the Mayo pilot project, which was designed to contribute to an even further and more thorough interaction between social agencies, is another illustration of how things can happen in the future to best meet community needs. Not only will a community be empowered to establish its own priorities, but it will also be empowered to work more thoroughly together, to respond to emergency situations, or situations that require a coordinated response.
The education system sees children a few hours a day. There is so much of the childs life that is outside the school. As the Member for Watson Lake mentioned, there is probably very much of the childs life that involves sitting in front of the TV. If one were to assess where children spend most of their time, the amount of time spent isolated, one-on-one, child and TV, rivals that time spent in the classroom interacting with other children. That is a sad fact, because the social skills associated with living in a family, living in a community, feeling wanted and useful are often forgotten when one is glued to the television set.
It is also important to note that, even within the school system, where peer support is available to all children, which is good, children can sometimes feel isolated in a crowded school. It is not simply the fact that you are in a crowd that makes you feel useful and a part of society, it is the fact that the crowd cares about its members that makes the difference.
The education system does play a role, but not an exclusive role, in identifying and preventing suicide. It plays a significant enough part in childrens lives, at least, that efforts must be made at the very earliest moments in a childs life in school to identify and prevent suicides, as the task force report mentions.
Last year, the department developed a report called Suicide Related Services in the Yukon Public School System. As I mentioned, the report provided a summary of recommendations for training personnel in the schools, for upgrading resource materials and, in so doing, including all agencies within the community to respond to suicide prevention and the results of suicides, when they do happen.
Some of those initiatives have already been taken, but others have to be taken. I am pleased to note the department will be conducting suicide-prevention workshops for public school counsellors this month. We will also be sponsoring what is referred to as a suicide-prevention training program in early March.
It is important to note, as well, that, for the workshops, invitations were sent to social workers and Indian bands, school counsellors, health workers and others to participate, as well. This was a recognition that we are in this together in order to produce good results.
The incidence of suicide in the schools is well noted. I recall responding in the Legislature here as Minister of Education some years ago when a suicide occurred in Dawson City. Following that suicide, a great deal of work was done to deal with the concerns expressed by some parents that an enormous amount of discussion took place with children after the suicide attempt had taken place in the school in Dawson. Concern was expressed that this was unseemly so soon after the successful suicide, and the response was that it was seen by everyone that a follow-up activity was absolutely essential to ensure that the depression associated with a suicide would not cause the incidence of any copycat act.
I think now that we have put effort into discussing it publicly through the task force, discussing it publicly through school committees, developing departmental policy with respect to suicide prevention and a protocol for completed suicides, people now understand the rationale for appropriate action both before and after suicides. There is a greater community understanding of not only the importance of the issue but the sorts of things that should be undertaken to prevent suicide and to respond to suicides that do take place.
The strategy I outlined in the House in November has aided the cause, as far as the education system is concerned, in suicide prevention and a protocol for suicides substantially. I congratulate the Department of Education for putting in the effort for a large portion of last year.
I do not have a great deal more to say because so many speakers have indicated better than I could the potential causes of suicide, the character of the problems of suicides, the complicated social issues that can at times lead to suicide, and that does not need to be repeated.
I conclude by saying that this government, when it sees Members of the Legislature going out to identify and to report on important issues of our day, supports those initiatives. I only wish that when the Member for Faro and I had gone on our task force we had received a more healthy reception from the government of the day. I can assure the Members for Porter Creek West and for Watson Lake that I understand the amount of work that goes into a project like this and all the stale doughnuts you can eat, all the gut rot coffee you can mix and all the hotel rooms that sometimes are perhaps not the same as your own livingroom.
The time on the road translates into a lot of work and a lot of dedication. I thank the Members for that. Even though the Department of Education has been working in this area for years, raising the profile of the social problems associated with suicide is a valuable expenditure of an MLAs time. It behooves all Members of the House to recognize and support the recommendations.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to commend the conscientious efforts made by members of the task force. There is no question that, as they say in the report, Yukoners are deeply concerned about suicide. The scope and magnitude of the problem is well known to us all.
This kind of work and obvious dedication displayed by the two members of this task force and by the two members of the then-opposition party in hearing from Yukoners has a very positive effect. It involved taking time that they could have enjoyed with their families. It is deeply appreciated by individual Yukoners, particularly by those who live outside of Whitehorse and in the communities.
This was a positive effort. The Members set out to perform a certain task, and they accomplished that task. They certainly start out in the report by acknowledging that they recognize it was not possible to solve the suicide problem or to answer all questions about suicide, or to implement programs to satisfy the recommendations made in the report.
On the other hand, they submitted the report to this Legislature with the hope that it would give all of us a better understanding of the problem of suicide in the Yukon. In that, they were successful. They stated that it is their hope that Members of the Legislature will adopt these recommendations, and that together we can provide the help that is so desperately needed. It seems, from the speeches given so far on this motion, that this will prove to be a successful hope.
I really have little to add to the remarks made by people who spoke before me. I strongly support the motion. I, as an individual MLA, and on behalf of my constituents, appreciate the work they have done. I hope that it contributes to solutions.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if he now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Mr. Nordling: I believe that discussing the problem of suicide and the unanimous support for this motion is a credit to our Legislative Assembly. It is an indication that we take the problem of suicide seriously and that we are willing to do something about it.
As the Minister of Justice pointed out, albeit in a somewhat defensive and spiteful way, we are far from solving the problem of suicide. As the Ministers of Health and Human Resources and Education pointed out, the government cannot do it alone.
This was recognized and accepted by virtually every Yukoner we talked to. It is reflected in the very last paragraph of the conclusion of the report, which I quote, The answer lies within the community. People must help themselves. However, there is a desperate need for action from community leaders, the Legislature and the Yukon government. I believe that action is now being taken.
In conclusion I thank the Member for Mayo for pointing out, and reminding us of, the great difficulty in assembling, condensing and revising the material and making it into a report. I would like to put on record one of the acknowledgements contained in the report, A special thank you to Bill Barnie and Flora Evans, who encouraged the formation of the task force and spent untold hours reading and summarizing hundreds of pages of handwritten notes.
Motion No. 66 agreed to
Motion No. 73
Clerk: Item No. 25, standing in the name of the Mrs. Firth.
Speaker: Is the hon. Member prepared to proceed with Item No. 25?
Mrs. Firth: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should reconsider its position that a 911 number is a waste of money and instead look at having this life-saving service implemented in the 1990-91 fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: I bring forward this motion in another attempt to get the government to look in a reasonable way at providing this service to Yukon people, and perhaps to look at it in a more positive light.
Just for some background, I want to refresh the memory of everyone as to what the government has said about the system, and some of the coverage and discussion we have had in the public forum about a 911 number here in the Yukon Territory.
This issue has been going on for a year and one-half, at least, since we first brought forward a motion to the Legislature suggesting that the government look at this initiative. We never had a chance to debate the motion. However, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services had indicated in a ministerial statement that it was under active consideration by this government.
When I again questioned the new Minister responsible, he, too, sounded rather positive about the initiative and said they were doing some research and would be making a decision soon. It has been something we have been raising and discussing periodically in the Legislature for the last year and one-half or two years.
The last time we discussed it, in December, I had asked the Minister about the 911 number and whether or not the government was going to consider implementing it. I had expounded on some of the merits of the system. At that time, the government, through the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, claimed that having a 911 number was a wasteful expenditure, and that it was a fairly costly exercise with a minimum of benefit to Yukon people.
He went on to explain to the public it was going to cost the Yukon government in the vicinity of $550,000 a year to operate, and that the emergency system now in place adequately met the needs of Yukoners. He made some comment that, in some cases, the 911 number would actually delay emergency responses because of the centralized system. I did not see any sense in that statement, either, but we will get into that later. The final comment was that we do not have the population numbers to make it cost efficient.
But, he did try to salvage some self-respect and dignity when the accusation was made that, perhaps, they were not concerned about the safety of Yukoners. He then made the comment that it was not cast in stone forever and may be feasible four or five years down the road as the population grows.
I found that an extremely negative response to an initiative and suggestion that had been brought forward that had been positively received by the public. It had been brought forward at the suggestion of a constituent of mine and had been brought forward at the suggestions of people who work in the delivery of emergency services in the Yukon. When the Minister defended the position he had taken, he defended it with the following information.
First of all, I was given a letter from the Minister. It is one of those letters you get from a department when you ask for 10 reasons why not to do something. It was with respect to the 911 service, and there were at least six or seven reasons why it was not feasible to implement the 911 number. There was every excuse, from the numbers of calls to the existing structure not being able to serve all the Yukon. The most significant excuse or reason in the letter that was given as to why we could not have a 911 number was the cost that was associated with it. At that time, they were anticipating the cost would be in excess of $500,000 to deliver this service.
A letter from the RCMP, which was less than supportive of creating a 911 emergency communications system within the Yukon Territory, was also given to me. Some of the reasons stated in that letter were that the additional police person years requested by the RCMP had been turned down for the last two years by the previous Minister of Justice, who is not the Minister who sits in the House today.
The relationship between that Minister of Justice of 1988 and the police was not a healthy one. The police did not feel they would get the additional support that they required should they become involved in participating in the delivery of a 911 service. So, the police were not rejecting the idea because they thought the concept was no good or unworkable, they were rejecting it because they felt they would not get the additional support they felt would be required to deliver the service.
The Minister is yelling across the floor for me to read the letter. I also read in the letter that the RCMP individual who wrote the letter, the commanding officer of the day, said he did not believe it would be practical to proceed with the 911 now and, in his view, he did not know whether it would be a better service to Yukoners or not. Surely, we are not going to make a decision of this kind on one individuals point of view. I know the Minister is going to stand up and say that the RCMP agreed with him, that we are not going to get any better a service if we have the 911 number, but I think that remains to be debated further in future times.
We have a letter of justification and rationale from the department, which is not very positive. We have a letter from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that does not indicate a lot of positive response, and of course we have the public comments and the answers to the question in the Legislature from the Minister that were not very positive or open minded. I must also add that a preliminary feasibility study for implementing a 911 system in Yukon was also presented to me by the minister - he had indicated originally that it was enclosed with one of the pieces of correspondence I received but it was not and he provided it for me later - and I do have to say that this documentation, which was prepared by Terry Rudolph, a consulting engineer representing the communications branch of Community and Transportation Services, YTG, on November 30, 1988, is a very useful document. It contains a lot of relevant information. It contains a lot of detail about the 911 system, both the basic 911 system and the enhanced 911 system. It talks about how it could be implemented in the Yukon and it discusses the number of calls we get. It discusses costs. It discusses the involvement of the fire, police and ambulance services.
It is an extremely good working document, so I think credit has to be given that there was something positive done, although the public of course does not know that this document is available, and is available to be used when a decision is made with respect to whether we should have a 911 number in the Yukon or not.
I came to the Legislature this afternoon to make some practical and reasonable and affordable suggestions to the government so that it can re-evaluate the position it has taken and perhaps go back to the drawing board and see if we cannot implement this service for Yukoners in the coming year.
I was very interested in the discussion that the controversy about the 911 number created. I have to give credit to a couple of individuals at CBC who started doing street commentaries, soliciting street commentaries from people, going to the schools and talking to the school children about the 911 number. This provided a very interesting and informative interview on the radio one evening, which unfortunately I did not hear - but I heard of. James Miller and Peter Novak at CBC had been able to get in touch with a very informative gentleman by the name of Don Croucher. They were very good to me at CBC and let me come to the station to listen to the interview and they provided me with the phone number of Mr. Croucher so that I could get hold of him.
For the information of the public and for the other Members of the Legislature, Don Croucher is a 911 systems consultant. He is presently with the Ontario police department but has been seconded to the Ministry of the Solicitor General to work strictly on advising people in different communities and areas in Canada with respect to implementing 911 emergency services.
He is a very capable, competent individual. I do not know if any other people in Canada are as knowledgeable as this gentleman is on the issue of the 911 number. I have since spoken to him on the telephone and corresponded with him so that I could be better informed when I brought this proposal to the Legislature again.
Essentially, the interview on the radio that the public heard dealt with the 911 number. It consisted of a five to 10 minute interview. Mr. Croucher talked about how the size of the community and the population did not matter. It depended upon the number of emergency numbers that a person has to know; that usually determined if it was feasible for a community to have a 911 number.
He was asked about the expense. His opinion was that the cost of $.5 million a year sounded too expensive. He cautioned people not to rely on ball-park figures. He said that there had to be some basis from which to develop figures and costs.
He also talked about two small communities, Dryden and Fort Hope in Ontario, that have established the number. Dryden has a population of 6,000 people. Fort Hope has a population of 10,000 people. It was interesting to hear him stress the community efforts that occurred in having a community participate and to eventually have a 911 number.
He talked about how it could be affordable, what the benefits of the 911 number were. He made some reference to a particular community having predicted a cost of $200,000 to implement the 911 service. When they actually investigated and implemented the service, it cost under $50,000. It can be done. I found that interview extremely interesting.
The experiences of other places that have implemented 911 numbers are as follows: in communities that have three or more seven-digit emergency numbers to memorize, the people found that it was an asset if the community could provide this service. In many cases, the communities chose to install a basic system that was capable of being upgraded to an enhanced system at a later date.
It is interesting to note that the figures that the government has given us are based on the enhanced system. They are not based on a basic system of 911 services. We have been given the Cadillac of services in the $.5 million figure.
The communities that have implemented 911 have made recommendations to other communities that they request proposals for both options to be included so that a comparison can be made. Many emergency agencies anticipate large increases in staffing to operate 911 answering bureaus. Adding a 911 number to a community does not increase the number of emergencies within that community.
Statistics show that call volumes in 911 centres range from about 80 percent to 90 percent police calls, eight percent to 10 percent for ambulance and two percent to six percent for fire. That is not inconsistent with what we experience in the Yukon. If the answering bureau is operated by present police dispatchers, 80 percent to 90 percent of the calling activity will not change. In many instances, no additional staff is required to implement a 911 number.
I believe the documentation the government gave us said the RCMP would be requesting at least six more person years to implement a 911 system.
Inflated ball-park pricing has scared communities off. Communities must take the time to evaluate exactly what they will require and price correctly. Other communities are advising us not to accept ball-park guesses based on other systems.
There are territorial disputes between different emergency agencies in their areas. Concern rises over losing control of operations, and it has hindered the implementation of a 911 number. This concern is usually founded on the misunderstanding of what 911 is actually meant to do and what will be required to implement the system.
It is a telephone number, not a dispatch system. In most jurisdictions in Canada, the initiative has been taken by local communities to establish 911 numbers. They set up investigation committees. Instead of getting caught up in the politics and trying to coordinate townships and communities, the implementation is more often effective when one large community within a political area takes the initiative and, then, other communities opt in as to whether or not they want to join that system.
Those were just some experiences from other places that had implemented the 911 system that I received.
There was also an interesting article in the newspaper one day. It was in the Edmonton Journal and was about a 911 operator. The title of the article was Emergency Hotline Operators have to Stay Cool. It was an interesting article. The name of the woman interviewed was Ardie Fullone. I managed to track her down in Edmonton. I phoned her and explained who I was and talked to her at great length about exactly what kind of staffing requirements are needed in central headquarters where the operators worked, what kind of training she had. We talked about salaries, staff complements, and the most interesting comments she made to me were that she learned her job on the job. They did not require a lot of expertise and skill.
The RCMP have talked of having people who have a broad knowledge of medical and emergency skills, but this system works well in a much larger province than ours. The operators are trained on the job. They work 10 hour shifts. She talked about the turnover rate, explained that being an operator for 911 emergency services was considered one of the better jobs in the Edmonton area.
Today when we were debating the suicide task force and talking about people who were crying out for help in a time of crisis when they needed help, Ardie Fullone told me that, very often, the 911 operators would receive calls from suicidal people who were seeking solace and assistance. I believe the suicide task force recommended we consider having a 911 number here in the Yukon so that would be available to people.
I want to briefly describe the basic system versus the enhanced system. I do not want to go into any technical details and put my colleagues to sleep.
With the basic system, when someone dials 911, the call is directed to a regular telephone at a predetermined location. I could see that being located here at the RCMP headquarters. The operator who answers the call obtains from the caller the necessary details about the emergency, and determines which agency should respond to the call.
While the caller is still on the 911 telephone, the operator either directly dispatches the appropriate response agency, or relays the information to the appropriate response agency, which in turn dispatches its own personnel. There can be modifications to that system, but that is essentially the basic system.
In the government report I referred to earlier, there is reference to the cost for that basic system. I will read from the report so as not to misrepresent it. It said there was no formal quote provided by Northwestel for the basic 911 system, but some rough numbers were discussed with their marketing people. The rough estimate was only $10,000. That is two years old, so it may be as high as $15,000 or $20,000 now. My colleague says it may even be $11,000. I see that as a reasonable figure. It was given as a provisioning charge for establishing a basic system.
NorthwesTel could not readily identify any ongoing charges other than the approximate $15 rent per month for each telephone in the centre, which would be the RCMP centre. That seems to be a reasonable proposal.
The enhanced 911 system has an automatic number identification people in the 911 emergency business refer to as Annie. With this feature, the 911 operator has a video console on which the number of the telephone being used is displayed.
In addition to that, there is also an automatic location identifier, which is Allie. The people in the business refer to this as the ANI/ALI system, thus the E911, the enhanced 911 system. As the name implies, this feature tells the 911 operator the location of the phone. It gives the address where the call is coming from.
The costs that were associated with this enhanced system were considerably more and resulted in the Ministers figure of $500,000 or $550,000 that was presented in his letter to me.
That is the very basics about the 911 system. In my research and discussions with Don Croucher, I found when most communities were examining whether or not they would have a 911 number, they went through a planning exercise. I am not aware of any planning exercise we have had here in the Yukon. I am sure we have not had any. I know when Terry Rudolph did this report, he consulted with the city fire marshall, the RCMP and the ambulance services. They provided him with information as to costs if they were to be the central operation to deliver the service. The RCMP did not; they were still working on something and were unable to give Mr. Rudolph any costs for this report. That is indicated in the report.
Other than that, I cannot think of a planning exercise that has happened within government. I would encourage the Minister to look at doing something like this with a very open mind.
When a 911 planning exercise is going to proceed, the first theory is that there has to be a will and a desire to help people and to look at this initiative in a positive way. You have to be prepared to agree with the principle that population does not matter, that it is the number of emergency numbers you have to know; again, I say there are three different emergency numbers Yukoners have to know and all of them are seven-digit numbers.
The benefits of a 911 system are that it is known across North America; you have one number to remember, and it is an easy number to remember and an easy number to dial. There is usually toll-free dialing from pay phones, which is of benefit to travellers both elderly and young, and to new residents. There is assistance for reaching the most appropriate service and, when the system becomes more sophisticated as in the enhanced system, there are opportunities for ringing back for further information and benefits to the emergency service agencies such as response-time reduction, resource coordination, increased public confidence and so on.
What I am advocating is that a committee or a planning group could be made up of local, interested people, of emergency service providers, and political representatives if they wanted. It could be a mixture of anything. I would strongly suggest that it include the individuals who are going to be delivering emergency services and who presently deliver emergency services.
I think there are four basic issues that must be addressed by a 911 planning group. Those four basic areas are: number one, the area to be served - telephone central office boundaries dictate the areas to be served; number two, the emergency service agencies in the area - that all emergency service agencies must be considered and included in the planning; number three, the scope of services to be included - a decision has to be made regarding the agencies to be included, and all 911 bureaus must include three main public safety agencies: police, fire and ambulance; and number four, the location and operation of the 911 bureau - you have to evaluate the existing dispatch facilities and determine the type of 911 operation that would be suitable for your area.
There are activities with respect to the area to be served, the inventory of services, the committee has to be formed; if necessary, advice can be sought from consultants or people with expertise in this particular area or from people in other communities that have set up a 911 service successfully. We may have to look at some technical aspects, technical subcommittees. In a large centre, you may need a subcommittee of that nature, but I think a representative of NorthwesTel sitting on the overall committee could assist with those technical details. The information that has been made available so far could be reviewed, and again I come back to the report done by Terry Rudolph. I think we could add to that report - it is a couple of years old now, but the documentation could be used in a review. Then we could get down to looking at equipment, staffing, where central operations would be, looking at the costing and costing approvals before we looked at the actual implementation of the service.
To me, that seems like a logical and reasonable plan and approach to take, and I would ask the Minister to consider very strongly the suggestion that I bring to him.
I would like to ask the government to look at the merits of this system with an open mind, with a more positive and constructive attitude and approach to it. There is a wide range of options available to us. On one hand, there is the basic system. On the other hand, there is the enhanced system. There are lots of possibilities in between those two systems.
It would be reasonable to start by looking at using the system in Whitehorse. We could suggest to the communities that they may opt to join in after they have examined how it has worked in Whitehorse. We could set up a committee to look at the options. We could have community representation involved so that they can be part of the whole process.
I recommend that we start with a basic system, as opposed to a fully enhanced one. I also recommend that we look at the central operations being located at the RCMP detachment where they already have a central communications system that takes over, even for the communities, after hours when the RCMP are no longer considered to be on active duty. The calls from the communities go to the RCMP detachment here in Whitehorse.
It would be to our advantage to get some outside opinions and experiences for setting up this system. I strongly make the representation to the Minister that it is not a waste of money. We can examine this option without spending a lot of money.
I would like to express some personal views about why we need a 911 system. They reflect the opinions of a lot of people to whom I have talked about this, both constituents and people who are involved in the delivery of emergency services in the Yukon.
The 911 systems are widely recognized as a good way to increase the accuracy and to speed up the delivery of the emergency response services that a community has. That has been proven. We have three emergency numbers to remember: one for fire, one for ambulance and one for RCMP. They are all seven-digit numbers. They are all difficult to remember, let alone dial if there is an emergency.
I have lots of people say that they were in control but that there was an emergency and they could not remember the number to call; they then dialed the operator. That could happen to anyone of us.
Yukoners do make a lot of emergency calls. There are approximately 390 made to the fire department. There are 1000 to 1100 made for ambulances. There are 2400 calls made to the operator, and 13,000 are made to the RCMP. People in the Yukon are requiring emergency services.
Children understand and are familiar with the 911 number. CBC proved that when it went into the schools and interviewed the kids. The kids were all very familiar with what 911 meant.
Tourists, new Yukoners and the elderly are also familiar with the 911 number. People who are new to the Yukon, when they find out that we do not have a 911 number here, are shocked. They immediately ask what numbers they have to know, and look very puzzled and astonished when they find out that they have to remember three separate numbers.
It has been proven that having a 911 number saves lives and helps people in distress. This is the kind of initiative that politicians should be considering. It serves the people, and we are elected to serve people. We should be examining these kinds of sensible, reasonable initiates and bringing them forward for consideration. They should be brought forward for consideration as a new public service policy.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I am always honoured by the reception Members opposite greet my rising in the House. It is heartwarming to rise in debate and be applauded for doing so.
With respect to the motion at hand on the 911 emergency response number, I want to clarify a couple of points the Member for Riverdale South has made. In particular, I want to clarify this governments position that is erroneously stated in the motion.
The Member for Riverdale South has introduced a motion calling for the government to reconsider its position on the 911 emergency response number, and injects into the motion that the government has somehow considered this a waste of money. I want to clearly state for the record that the assertion of wastage was one made by the Member for Riverdale South during debates here in the House. The Member may recall the couple of debates that took place in Hansard. The first assignment of the term wastage of money was made by the Member for Riverdale South, not by this government.
This government has taken a position with respect to the 911 number and has provided that position to the House and particularly to the Member. In recognition of the existing level of emergency service that is available to communities, and in light of the substantial costs to attempt an improvement upon this already existing service, the government could not justify the implementation of a Yukon-wide 911 emergency response number.
I state very emphatically that neither I, nor this government, stated there was a wastage of money in relation to any implementation of a 911 number.
The Member is correct in the assessment of the historical perspective of the 911 emergency response debate. The matter did arise approximately two years ago. There was some debate and some reference in the House, both by introduction of a motion and by a statement by the previous Minister, that the emergency 911 was under active consideration.
When I took office, that report was largely done. The report the Member cited, that I provided to the Member, was largely concluded. My task was to review its contents, review the additional correspondence that had taken place, and take a decision respecting what to do about implementation or not.
Accordingly, the decision was provided to the Member for Riverdale South.
The Member referred, correctly, to a letter of some detail that I provided to the Member concerning those elements I took into account respecting the decision. The feasibility of the introduction of the 911 number territory-wide I discounted as not being an improvement upon the emergency services that are available in the rural communities already.
The Member has raised the issue of utilizing the 911 number in Whitehorse and I have to, in some measure, agree with the Member that the matter may be much more feasible in Whitehorse. If the Member recalls some of the arguments I provided in my correspondence to her, I outlined the level of services that exist in rural communities and that a 911 number would not necessarily improve that level of emergency response. It is as simple as stated by the Member, that the 911 number system has to have a central coordinating agency. In other words, all calls on 911 are routed to a central dispatch, from which central dispatch the emergency response is routed to the appropriate service. In the case of a rural community - take Ross River, for example - a 911 call would be routed directly into Whitehorse, and as the Member states, probably to the RCMP, a central agency. The RCMP, depending on the nature of that call, or the operator at that central agency, depending on the nature of a call, would route back an emergency response to the community.
I want to tell Members that I have spent 20 years in the rural communities; I know the level of emergency response reaction in those communities. I also know the level of technology that exists in those communities in relation to a central communication operating from Whitehorse. Mr. Speaker, you may have experienced it yourself. You can spend a half-hour on the phone trying to get through to Whitehorse. If you are in an emergency situation, that is not the route to go.
I draw to the Members attention that that appears to be the flaw in the 911 number system implementation for all rural areas being centralized in Whitehorse. I concede that there are options and variations to this that may be workable, and I will speak to those in a moment.
The Member spent some considerable time referring to the RCMP response. In my communication to the Member, I pointed that out as well and provided the correspondence we had from the RCMP. I should point out, to clarify it for the record, that it was not the issue of person years that the RCMP would need that governed its recommendation not to endorse the system. The RCMP position was quite simple: eight out of 10 calls are generated to the police anyway, and in the case of a 911 response there was no improvement to already existing service.
It was not just a case of dollars and cents and bodies. In their judgment, it was a case of there being no enhancement to the emergency response that could be provided by 911. That is stated fairly clearly in their correspondence.
The Member also referred to a report that I provided. I agree it is a reasonably detailed, constructive and sensible report. It does reflect the analysis that is deserving for anyone who would like to take an assessment of whether 911 should be implemented. The report is quite clear also in its conclusions. There is no specific recommendation by that report, I note for the record, but it does make the point that before a territory-wide system is seriously considered, there is a need to standardize procedures and systems within the communities. The Member did speak at some length on the lack of standardization throughout the communities where different services are provided in different communities. To establish a linkage between those services for centralized coordination, there needs to be some standardization.
Currently in the communities, we have quite a number of services that are available; in many instances, the government is currently paying for those services. The mobile communication system that is currently run costs us almost $300,000 a year at this instant. These mobiles are equipped with an emergency button on their unit, which is directly linked with RCMP communications in Whitehorse. This is often used in an emergency situation. Anybody off a mobile has a direct connection with Whitehorse through the mobile system, not through the telephone line system.
The RCMP communications centre in Whitehorse is staffed 24 hours a day. I am sure Members from rural communities have often attempted to reach that Zenith 50000 number and met with delay. So even in the existing emergency system within the RCMP, we do not have a foolproof method.
Where I see a constructive, useful exercise is within the communities themselves. Communities already have, as was pointed out in the previous discussion, three general emergency numbers: fire, police and ambulance. Not to mention the operator, who is often used, in the absence of knowledge of the emergency numbers. Again, I draw upon my own experience in the rural communities where people knew automatically the three emergency numbers, or at least one of them. The numbers are generally structured so they are in easy sequence and easily remembered.
The problem is in trying to establish a 911 connection with a central agency in Whitehorse. That is the fundamental problem.
Until we improve our technology that guarantees that communication, we are not going to provide any enhancement to the emergency response ability that we have in the communities now. Every community has a fire alarm system and a fire emergency response. Every community has an ambulance response.
The government spends considerable funds in emergency services, ensuring that all ambulance attendents are hooked up with pagers. It ensures that the communities have as good a level of response service as possible.
The estimate of the $.5 million was in 1988 dollars. In 1990 we would probably be talking about $600,000 or more. If we are going to be spending $.5 million, it would be wiser to spend that kind of money on something significant that will help emergency response in the community. We could add $100,000 to the equipment of a fire brigade. That would go a lot further in an emergency response of saving lives than trying to integrate a 911 system that we have no proof is an enhancement. As I say again, this would be in the rural areas.
I suggest that if there was some concern that the three numbers, or one number in a small community, is too much to remember that we improve our advertising and publicity to ensure that anyone needing to use the telephone system has a good knowledge of the system. I hope others can speak on this.
The rural community often has its own network of emergency response outside of the telephone. Whatever method is used, varies from community to community. We often have had experiences where the community is far better equipped to handle emergency response than trying to route through a technological system that is not foolproof, through a system that is not guaranteed to enhance the recovery time of a response service. We have opportunities to address this in a number of other ways.
I was not convinced, from the research done by the department and provided in the report I gave to the Member, that 911 will work in rural Yukon. If there was any constructive suggestion in the previous speakers address it was that we could look at the rural communities through a number of approaches to enhance their emergency response.
I was not convinced by the research done or by the argument presented by the Member that we are able, at this time, to hook a 911 system into the rural communities that would provide an improved level of service.
Again, I note that in the communities we do have a well-established emergency response system - as we do in Whitehorse, because it does exist here, as well. I do not believe that the implementation at this time of a 911 number system, considering the current technology, is necessarily an enhancement, especially because of the need for centralization. I just cannot be convinced, given my past experience in the rural communities, that if we were to route emergency response into Whitehorse and back to the community, on an unreliable system, that we have got anything near an improved system.
This may not be the case in Whitehorse. In Whitehorse the telephone system is clearly more reliable than it is in the rural areas. I submit that the 911 number, centralized in Whitehorse, will not work in rural Yukon but it may work in Whitehorse. I think in rural Yukon we can spend more time looking at ways to enhance and improve emergency response that would be an addition to those services that exist already.
As I indicated previously, we have got fire, ambulance and RCMP in those communities, and those for the most part are close-knit communities that are currently in a position to handle the best available emergency response that they can. Interconnecting with a Whitehorse, unreliable system is not a responsible or wise route to go at this time.
The Member, in her opening remarks, made a number of allegations that the response of the government to date has been negative. I submit that it has been the opposite, that the response to date has been very positive and open. I would be loathe to comment on the suggestion that this government does not care for people services or does not want to improve upon those services that protect peoples lives. It disturbs me that such a suggestion might even be made. I think this government has probably gone further than in any other period in history of the Yukon to provide services to people. Our approach to 911 is similarly responsible. The suggestion in the motion that this government considers 911 implementation as a waste of money is incorrect and I am not going to be recommending to my colleagues that they support the motion in that fashion.
However, given that we are very serious about this serious topic, I am prepared to introduce an amendment that I am sure will capture the support of Members opposite. Perhaps I can introduce it at this time and you will permit me to speak to it.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I move
THAT Motion No.73 be amended by deleting everything after the word should and by substituting the following: ...consider the advisability of a 911 service for Whitehorse.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Government Services
THAT Motion No. 73 be amended by deleting everything after the word should and by substituting the following: ...consider the advisability of a 911 service for Whitehorse.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: To a large measure, I presented many of the reasons why, in my opinion, we could be looking at this for Whitehorse but should not be looking at implementation in the rural areas. The Member for Riverdale South pointed out a number of cost implications. I respect the comments the Member made. It is conceivable that a 911 service may be implemented in Whitehorse. It would require further work, further analyses and investigations relating to costs. The Members suggestion about a team approach where responsible agencies and service groups should be included in such analyses make reasonable sense.
The issue of cost may well be supported by only the attention to Whitehorse for this implementation. Whitehorse has a more integrated technology. Whitehorse is obviously a more concentrated community with a number of emergency response services, and there may well be justification to coordinate these and centralize these with a 911 number. The argument could be supported that Whitehorse ought to be examined for the purposes of implementing a 911 number.
We have basic emergency response services in the rural areas that I do not believe will be enhanced by an unreliable system that is centrally located in Whitehorse.
This is supported by the RCMP documentation that has been provided. It is supported by the report done by the department last year. In the rural areas, I would prefer to see expenditures made in the area of improving the emergency response in that community, whether it be through enhanced equipment, improved communications or improved education. The argument is not there for the Whitehorse integration.
However, as indicated by my proposal for amendment, the 911 service may well be possible, and ought to be investigated, for Whitehorse. I look for support for the amendment.
Mrs. Firth: It is interesting that this amendment initially proposes the motion I had brought into the Legislature requesting that the government look at implementing a 911 number. At that time we got a negative response. As I said in my introduction, we never did have an opportunity to debate it. Essentially, it proposed the same thing.
The intent of the amendment is acceptable to us on this side: that the government should consider the advisability of a 911 service for Whitehorse. However, in our dealings with the government on particular issues, we have found that unless some specific times are specified, or unless we nail the government down to some specific commitments, things do tend to go on and on.
Therefore, I would like to propose a subamendment to the amendment, if the Minister would be prepared to consider it.
Mrs. Firth: I propose
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 73 be amended by adding after the word Whitehorse, the following: in the 1990-91 fiscal year.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 73 be amended by adding after the word Whitehorse, the following: in the 1990-91 fiscal year.
Mrs. Firth: I heard some grunts and groans from the Members on the government benches when I read out the subamendment. In the context of the amendment that says, consider the advisability of the service for Whitehorse, I am simply requesting that the government give consideration to that this year, in the year 1990-91. I am not pinning them down to any major expenditure of funds. Again, I can assist them in finding funds if need be, but I am just asking that we have some time line on this so that it is not put on the shelf and not examined. I hope the government Members take the amendment in the positive context in which it has been proposed.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Could the Member confirm for me that the subamendment simply adds to my amendment the words in 1990-91"?
Mrs. Firth: In the 1990-91 fiscal year.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The first opportunity I have had to speak to the subamendment has now arisen, but unfortunately I do not hear any hand clapping from the side opposite this time.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: That is so encouraging. What the Member for Riverdale South has introduced I would like to consider to be a friendly amendment - a friendly amendment in the sense that, very subtly, the side opposite is trying to ensure that the examination of a 911 service for Whitehorse be considered in the next 10 months. The suggestion here is that, during the course of the next 10 months, the government will undertake the investigation of the advisability of introducing that service. I had some nervousness about it, and I will share it with the Members in the full spirit of the motions intent.
The Member suggested that there may not be any costs involved. I submit that there may be in this short order. What we are looking at is a remaining nine months - no, it would not be nine months; in the fiscal year, there would be a year left.
The Member suggests there would be no cost involved. I heard some mutterings of where such costs could be found if it had to be. If I added up all the costs of services that Members opposite have asked for in the last three months, I bet I would pass well into the several millions.
We are talking about the Leader of the Official Opposition asking for second channel television reception in his riding. The Member for Riverdale North already got his Wickstrom Road from me. The Member for Kluane asks me for a Mendenhall Road upgrade, not to mention all the road upgrading every Member is asking for.
Every time I turn around, there are requests for improved roads, improved ambulance services, a fire truck for Watson Lake, or a sports building at the Jim Light Arena. There are millions of dollars being asked for by Members opposite. It is not enough that this government has agreed to examine the advisability of the 911 service for Whitehorse. Members opposite want assurance it will be done in the next fiscal year. I have some apprehension that it may not be possible, and this is the caution I will extend.
Mr. Phillips: If the Minister can change a licence plate over Christmas, he can certainly do this.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Designing a new licence plate has very little comparison to the examination of some sophisticated technology for the City of Whitehorse.
From a technical point of view, it may not be possible to commit to this in the next fiscal year. We may not be able to do a complete and thorough investigation of the technology required in a years time.
We are talking about technology that may have to be put in place, high technology that keeps coming onstream, integrating with current social service agencies to ensure the 911 system serves all the community. There is a considerable amount of work. The Member can appreciate that quite a number of groups have to be involved in such an exercise, beyond the technical examination.
The commitment to tie that down to one year may be a bit difficult. Considering the motion is an opinion of the House that the government should do this, I will recommend to my colleagues to support the subamendment.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I should point out to Members opposite I have no control over how my colleagues vote. We may yet see this subamendment defeated. Nevertheless, given the spirit of the motion, the amendment and the subamendment on a serious issue, by the will of the government, there will be every effort to examine the advisability of 911 for Whitehorse over the course of the next year.
The only caution I extend is that all the technical detail and consultation may not be concluded, and Members have to expect that.
Mr. Lang: I am pleased with the response from the Minister with respect to the subamendment by my colleague from Riverdale South. I want to commend the work that was done by her and the research that was provided to this House in respect to the question of the 911 system.
I want to make a number of corrections for the record. The Minister keeps talking about $600,000 for a total system, or even more. It is very clear in the preliminary feasibility study he referred to that it can be as little as $10,000, plus some monthly charges as enumerated by my colleague, the Member for Riverdale South. There is a whole range of services that can be provided, and it would be costed accordingly.
As the Member for Riverdale South pointed out, we have no problem accepting the amendment. The first thought was that it should probably be started in Whitehorse with the idea of expanding outward, and seeing what services we could provide through the community of Whitehorse to the various communities, as they tied into the system.
In reviewing the motion we put forward, I appreciate the Minister bringing forward his own personal support for 911. It is very clear in Hansard, and is on the record, where Mr. Byblow stated on December 12, 1989, The Member is being melodramatic about a wastage of expenditure. I have already indicated, through my correspondence and report to the Member, it is not warranted.
Just to point out to the Minister ...
Hon. Mr. Byblow: Point of Order.
Speaker: Point of Order to the Minister of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The Member is misstating what I said. What is exactly in Hansard is my reference to the Members reference that there was a wastage of money.
Mrs. Firth: There is no Point of Order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no Point of Order, just a dispute as to the facts.
Mr. Lang: I appreciate the fact there is also no Point of Order. For the record, I want to clarify what was said on December 12, 1989.
There were news reports that followed from his statements by the Star reporter. The Minister is the one who used the wastage of expenditures and went on at some length about it in response to a question raised by the Member for Riverdale South.
There was a very unfortunate situation that happened in my riding this past year when there was a serious fire. When the owner of the home was interviewed, she indicated they had tried to contact help through dialing 911. Fortunately, there were no casualties, the people did get out of the home, and help from the fire hall did arrive.
The Minister kept saying there are only three numbers and everybody knows them. The reality is that because of modern technology, and primarily TV, the number 911 is in the mind of most people when it comes to emergency. It is becoming more and more evident in the Yukon because of television.
I point that out for the record. My constituent had a very serious situation develop but, fortunately, there were no casualties; there could well have been. That highlights the point put forward by the Member for Riverdale South. We are talking about saving lives.
Anybody reading these debates should also take the opportunity to read the preliminary feasibility study for implementing a 911 system, which shows that there are many ways of implementing this system. In many areas it can be implemented within the services provided by the fire hall or ambulance services. There are a number of areas this can be instituted without a lot of additional costs.
We are going to look forward to the results of this study. I understand the caution of the Minister in getting it done in 1990-91. I would be surprised if we cannot get it done. The preliminary work has already been done. My colleague has indicated some names of people who can be contacted who are very knowledgeable in the area of 911 and could provide further expertise and knowledge that is necessary to put forward a proposal to see how it would affect the community of Whitehorse.
As time goes on, in the not-too-distant future, once this is implemented in the Whitehorse area, I would like to see it go out to the rural communities. Technology being what it is, and with what we are doing within our systems and NorthwesTel, I can see the day fast approaching when it will not be a major feat in technology to do it for the communities.
We look forward to a unanimous vote on the motion, as amended.
Ms. Hayden: I have a very brief comment. I support the motion as amended and subamended, and I trust that considerable thought and research will be given to any proposal, and that the people of Whitehorse will be asked if they believe this project would be the best use of social service dollars for this community.
Subamendment to Motion No. 73 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the amendment as amended?
Mr. Phillips: I am also going to be brief.
Mr. Phillips: I thank the Members across the floor for the generous applause.
It is important that we do pass this motion. I support the amended motion. I would remind the Member for Whitehorse South Centre that I believe the Whitehorse people do support it. In several conversations I have had with people, there seems to be widespread support for it. With the advent of that new television show, The 911, a lot of kids have really tuned into the fact that 911 is an emergency number. It is something we should consider here. Many residents in Whitehorse have only been here less than five years and come from jurisdictions that have 911 numbers.
I suggest to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, who spoke earlier, that we should give strong consideration to the 911 number along the highway in the future.
There are many tourists who travel our highway and run into an emergency of one type of another. They have no way of knowing any number other than the 911 number, because that is the number they deal with in their jurisdictions. I think that is an important consideration.
I fully support this motion and I urge all other Members to do the same.
Mr. Phelps: I rise to speak to this motion and I want to provide an example of brevity and clarity in my speech, something I hope the Minister of Education will follow in future Question Periods. Unreservedly, I support this motion.
Speaker: Order please. I would like to remind the Member for Whitehorse Riverdale South that she has already spoken to the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Webster: I rise to support this amendment. In response to the amount of discussion in this House about the whole idea being a waste of money, we have to look at the whole matter of getting value for our money. Looking at the service it provides and the costs, the idea has a lot of merit for Whitehorse but, at this time, I really doubt it does for rural Yukon.
For example, introducing 911 has never been an issue in Dawson City, for one very simple reason: we already have an excellent system, and it works. It is very easy. In Dawson City, we only have to remember one number: five for fire, four for police and three for medical. The same system employed in Dawson City is also in other rural communities. Once you get past your exchange, which is 993 in Dawson City, you then have your first constant number, which is five. After that it is 555 for fire, for police it is 444 and medical attention is 333.
It is very simple. Granted, it still takes a longer time than the 911 system, but how it does save time, it goes directly to the people in Dawson City; it does not go from Dawson City down to Whitehorse then back to Dawson City. If a person in Dawson City wants to phone the RCMP, there is someone on staff on call all the time. Members of the volunteer fire department or ambulance service have pagers and can be reached immediately. It works very efficiently and the number is very easy to remember. My six year old son knows the numbers and can dial them. It has an easy reference, which is right on the inside cover of the telephone book.
All Members of the House have made some good points about going outside the rural communities and having to use a different number. It is the responsibility of each individual to find out what those numbers are and to teach them to their children. This 911 system is not as common as most people believe it to be. It only covers about half of the people in Canada.
Most people are aware that emergency numbers differ from place to place. As a result, they display these numbers on phones in their residences. Every hotel, for the benefit of tourists in Dawson City, have these three numbers very prominently displayed.
The amendment is in order. It does have some merit for Whitehorse. It should be investigated, but it is probably a long way off for rural Yukon, considering the high cost involved to provide this service. The cost is high to replace a system that now works.
Amendment to Motion No. 73 agreed to as amended
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion as amended?
Mrs. Firth: I want to tell the Members who represent the communities they do not have to have 911 if they do not want it. That is not the intention of this motion. The Member for Whitehorse South Centre said it was not a question of support, it was a question of choice. The community development fund has $4 million to spend. The Ministers who sit on that selection committee can make that choice to help people. The 911 number is a good way to help people.
I thank all Members for their encouraging signs of support for this motion.
Motion No 73 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I request unanimous consent to move a motion for the House to resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent is granted.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that Mr. 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
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will break until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I call the Committee to order.
Bill No. 19 - First Appropriation Act, 1990-91 - continued
Advanced Education - continued
On Administration - continued
Mr. Devries: When we closed off, we were talking about the native teacher education program. I had some concerns in this area but, rather than take a chance on the Minister of Justice turning around and blowing my statements out of context, I will be communicating those concerns by letter.
Mr. Lang: I think the Minister of Justice wants to participate. Perhaps she should tell us what this is all about?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: When we ended discussion last night, we were talking about the native teacher education program and I think I gave a long statement about the objectives of the program. I have been given to believe that the Member is interested in expanding the program to other than those people at whom it was initially targeted. Certainly, as I have indicated before, we are interested in looking at the potential for that. I indicated last night that the priority is for acquiring teachers in the more technical areas. That means that we will be having to try to target our initiatives at acquiring teachers to take into consideration the need for more technically-qualified teachers - meaning, the math, science and the language teachers in particular.
That is a worthwhile goal. Every effort will be made to expand it if we can within the terms of reference, bearing in mind who the primary target is for the program.
Mr. Lang: Constituents of mine have inquired if they are eligible for the teacher training program. They are native Yukoners, people born in the Yukon - maybe not of native ancestry, but long-time Yukoners. They would like to have the ability to further their education, contribute to the education system so they can provide themselves with a worthwhile living. It is incumbent upon the Minister to look at the program from that point of view to see if the terms of reference can be expanded.
The Minister talked about the technical side of the teaching profession. There are shortages in some areas, and we all know that. Looking at our education system, there must be quite a number of teachers on the verge of retiring within the next five years. Some come to mind right now.
Has the department looked ahead to see who is on the teaching staff who have been there for 20 years and would be looking at retirement within the next five years? That would help determine what the teacher demand will be. That area should be scrutinized, because quite a number of teachers will be retiring in the next little while. Those positions will have to be filled, and it would be nice to fill them with local people. It would eliminate the recruiting expenses. Sometimes someone is brought up, and it is like a two-year sabbatical for them; they then leave to go elsewhere.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Watson Lake and I discussed the expansion of the program last night. We are considering that, and I believe the Member for Watson Lake knows that.
A lot depends on whether or not we can expand and certainly financial resources is one limitation. Nevertheless, we are investigating the possibility of expanding the terms of reference.
With respect to the issue of anticipating future needs, we do do that; we have done that for some time. It is more and more difficult now to anticipate a retirement date, given that some teachers who had been thinking, earlier in their careers, that they were going to retire at 65, are now thinking that they might as well keep going. They may still enjoy teaching and that sort of thing. Interestingly enough, the positions that they are leaving are considered some of the plum positions; they are usually the generalist positions in Whitehorse and those are coveted positions in the territory.
With respect to the need to train, not more qualified, but people qualified in certain technical areas, that certainly is something that we are looking at. That is a longer term project than simply basic teacher certification, because quite often the people require more than a simple degree. In any case, it certainly is in our interest, I believe, to compare the costs of recruitment, which are obviously high, and the potential savings that one might get over the long run with a paid teacher training program. The only caution that I would have is that, given the small numbers that we do have, teacher training, which is basically university-level programming, is a very expensive proposition in the territory. There is not as easy an argument to make, I guess: to compare teacher relocation and recruitment costs and the costs of a training program.
The other thing, too, of course is that the program we have now basically trains teachers for the elementary grades. In other words, it is the basic first line and it costs more to train teachers to teach physics and math, and it is virtually impossible to train teachers from the ground up in the French language program.
We have a particular difficulty with recruitment of French language teachers. Quite often in rural Yukon we need someone who can teach French, but who also has other skills and can teach other kinds of high school programming - math or industrial arts, for example - and whom we hope knows something about Yukon history. You have to get a mix of qualifications. Finding someone who can do all that and speak French at the same time is getting more and more difficult in this country.
As I indicated yesterday afternoon to the Member for Watson Lake, the requirements for teaching in the territory are as high as they are anywhere else in the country. For some reason, we have not yet felt the pinch everyone was anticipating with respect to teacher recruitment. We are a lot more aggressive now than we were before. We recruit about this time of year, whereas we used to recruit in April, May or June. We are recruiting now, and we are developing strategies for even longer term recruitment.
There are some jurisdictions that recruit right out of teachers college so they can capture students who are still going to college. We have not exactly covered that point yet, but we are preparing a strategy in case we do have to.
Mr. Devries: I do not know if I can say the proposed president, but I talked to Mr. McCaffrey for approximately half an hour when he was in town the last time. He seemed to go in much the same direction the Minister is talking about, say give a couple of diploma courses in several areas: one of them was in native teacher education, and another in elementary school teacher training.
The feeling I got from him was that the majority of the college courses should be geared to two year courses and have the final two years of the course taken in a university elsewhere, due to limitations in cost.
That is also my feeling. I often fear that our kids are restricted if they take their complete education in the Yukon. Mind you, it may also be very beneficial, but it is also good for them to have the experience of getting out of the territory into a big university to experience some different aspects of life
Then they can decide from that point on whether they wish to return and live in the Yukon or whether they wish to carry on elsewhere.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not had the pleasure of meeting Mr. McCaffrey yet, but I take the Members comments as being an expression of his feelings about the matter, and I would tend to agree. Personally, I think it is an eminently practical perspective in terms of trying to provide general university programming. The first two years of a university program usually tend to be the more general type of courses. As students get into the third and fourth years, they start to specialize. As they start to specialize, generally universities have to offer a full range of senior level courses. Obviously, our ability to do that with our relatively small college is limited. For certain kinds of paraprofessional training like teacher education - if the goal is constant, such as the goal to provide elementary school teachers in a Yukon context - then I think it is reasonable, because it is so specific and so focused, to try to provide that programming from the first year to the last year of the course, as long as we can be sure to have the qualified personnel doing the teaching themselves at the university level. That is the reason why I think the native teacher training program now is going to be successful, because it is focused. There is no attempt to try to provide physics teachers and chemistry teachers and history teachers and constitutional law teachers, et cetera - people with a specialty, which would be an impossible target to meet. What we are looking at really is an elementary school teacher to teach basics for K to grade six. That, I think, we can provide for in the territory.
I think if the teachers who graduate from this program are prepared to do their term, or at least a portion of their term, in rural Yukon, then I think we have filled the niche, because there is no shortage of teachers with elementary school qualifications in the City of Whitehorse; there is no trouble finding persons with those qualifications now.
Quite often people will go to teach in the rural communities and come into Whitehorse later. That is not how everyone feels about it, but a number of teachers do. They like the flexibility to make that career move. We have it well targeted as long the graduates of the teacher training program are not automatically assuming that they will have a teaching position in Whitehorse as soon as they get out of school.
Administration in the amount of $10,536,000 agreed to
On Research and Planning
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The increase here is a small one. It is an expected net increase in the student financial assistance grants in the amount of $51,000. There are some lower salaried staff requirements for new staff just assuming the positions. That is about a $5,000 difference. It is mostly for a projected increase to provide financial assistance.
Research and Planning in the amount of $2,187,000 agreed to
On Human Resources and Career Development
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The reduction here is for a number of things. The Yukon employment incentives program and the Yukon training opportunities program were both eliminated and rolled into the community development fund. There are some increases. The apprenticeship incentive marketing program is to be increased by $20,000. There is also some short-term vacancies in 1989-90 that will not be projected in 1990-91 in the amount of $15,000. That is the reason for the reduction.
Human Resources and Career Development in the amount of $1,712,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $14,435,000 agreed to
On Career Services:
On Furniture and Equipment
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have a requirement for some furniture at the Career Services Centre. This is for dividing screens, library shelves, window blinds, tables and chairs, a laminator, telephone answering machine and a typewriter.
Furniture and Equipment in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Yukon College:
On Construction and Maintenance:
On Community Campus - Construction
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The community campuses in the territory have expressed an interest in a number of projects to upgrade their facilities in the areas of maintenance and renovations. The list of repairs will be finalized when the board meets with community campus committees in the coming year. We are reserving a fund to meet their needs. They have expressed concerns about the inadequacies of some of the space that they are currently housed in.
Community Campus - Construction in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Campus Equipment:
On Existing Equipment Replacement
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is just campus equipment for Yukon College, which will be transferred to the college as capital budget for equipment replacement. This is the budget for all programs, old and new, whatever they require, at their discretion.
Mr. Devries: Will any of this equipment be going into the new gym?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I doubt it. I would think that the new gym is full of equipment at this point, but they may want to purchase some new basketballs.
Mr. Phillips: This existing equipment at the Yukon College is just a couple of years old. Does the Minister have anything in mind that they are actually replacing, or is this just old equipment they have that they are replacing, that was transferred when it became Yukon College?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is old equipment. If they have a new program then they have a budget for new equipment for new programs. In the past we had outlined it: new equipment, new program; old equipment, new programs; old equipment, existing programs. This time we just lumped it all together and will be transferring the budget for the college. As things wear out, just as they do for government - they do replace them from time to time - much of the equipment that the college has now was transferred from the old college site. It wears out from time to time, and they have a budget at their discretion to select new equipment to meet the program needs.
Existing Equipment Replacement in the amount of $190,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Mrs. Firth: Just before we agree to the whole amount, the Minister told us in his opening comments, when he explained all the changes in Education, about the $1 million commitment to land claims for training. Maybe that was under administration or somewhere in this area. Can I just ask him how the program is going to work and what kind of training is going to be available and who it is that gets to apply for the training? Perhaps we could see some details.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The fund is to be managed by a land claims training committee. The training committee is made up of representatives of CYI, the federal government and YTG. Ultimately, the funds for the lands claims training will be supplemented, dollar for dollar, by the federal government, as per the agreement. We have committed the $1 million now. The committee has started to meet but have yet to determine their final terms of reference. On the committee are the following people: Dale MacDonald, Nancy Sinnott, Willie Joe, Will Patwood and Shakir Alwarid. The committee is basically a selection committee with representatives from these organizations, and it makes selections as to which projects go ahead. The process will first require ratification by the two funding organizations - YTG and the federal government - as to the terms of reference, before any money is sprung, so that there is agreement that even if the YTG money is spent first, at the beginning of the fiscal year, it will all count as our commitment under the agreement in principle. This committee is to establish the priorities and approve the projects. They have started to talk about some of the priorities. I think the biggest priority right now that they are considering is in the rural resources training area.
That is what they are doing. I believe there is also a technical committee that reports to them and assesses projects. I do not know specifically who the people are on that committee.
Mrs. Firth: For the Ministers information and to let him know what direction I am coming from in asking if this program will address these needs, I have always felt very strongly that the bands and Indian people need the resources now for education so that when they start getting the money for the land claims and the land claims is settled, they have been able to accumulate the human resources around them with the education to manage their affairs.
For example, if they wanted to run businesses through the bands, and operate businesses such as some of them are doing now, they should have employees and the human resources who are properly trained. Is this going to be able to help them with this particular aspect?
I can see the renewable resources being a priority. That would help with the settlement and with them being able to manage their resources. Is that program going to help to address the concerns I have just mentioned to the Minister?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, the top priority is renewable resources training. The second priority is management and administration, both for bands as well as corporations. The Yukon government has established a number of administration courses - for example, the community administrative skills program and skills training program, and the Indian government program - which are not under this $1 million training. It is something we started a couple of years ago to start building those skills. It is a fairly long learning curve that we have to understand from the very beginning.
Through recent funding support from Indian Affairs, there have also been some entrepreneurial training workshops. One graduated some 20 people from a 20-day workshop at the Bahai Centre. In that particular training program, they discussed how to put together a business plan and how to sell the business plan. Some of those people have been fairly aggressive in trying to get the business plan they put their heart and soul into going, even now after the course is over. They are trying to either be sponsored by some band corporation or just do it on their own. There are probably doing it more on their own than through other support.
That is another example of the entrepreneurial training the Member is referring to. Every band is now opting for a minimum of one band corporation per band to manage their corporate affairs; some bands are looking for two. Some bands, like the ones in the riding of the Members for Watson Lake and Campbell, are looking at banding together. For example, the Kaska people - Liard, Lower Post, Ross River - have put together what they call the Kaska Tricorp, which is an amalgamation of the three bands to manage their affairs as a group. Each time they do this, they are recognizing there are certain entrepreneurial and basic administrative skills that are required as they proceed. They do not have very much in the way of assets yet, or much business activity. Very few bands have the same sort of entrepreneurial culture, for example, that the Champagne/Aishihik Bands Dakwakada Development Corporation has.
It is a fairly gradual process. My understanding is that this tripartite group has been talking about that kind of skill training among its top priorities.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us who is providing the training? Are we making an effort to have Indian people provide the training to other Indian people? Do we have the resources here yet to be able to do that? For example, have any of the individuals with some of the bands that have been more successful been approached and asked if they could provide that kind of training to some of the other bands? I know that to get any certification or final degrees or diplomas they would have to go through the college, but I want to know if the government has been working on any kinds of communication in that area.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In this particular area, the area of business training, we have not had enough time, I believe, to train indigenous people to provide the training itself. We have had more success in other areas; a couple of years ago, the college initiated a native trainee program, at the teaching level, to try to encourage native people to become instructors and give them some of the basic qualifications. However, that takes a fair amount of time. I know that at the entrepreneurial course at the Bahai centre we just mentioned, most of the instructors were non-native. In fact, most of the instructors were not even Yukoners. There were, I believe, one or two native instructors but they were not from the Yukon. I think it will come with time, and certainly that would be a desirable goal in the not too distant future in this particular area and in all areas for training.
On Allotments and Person Year Establishments
Allotments and Person Year Establishments agreed to
Mrs. Firth: On the yellow pages, I just wonder if the Minister could give us some explanation of the reduction in the number of grants? I know there are fewer students, but is there any reason why there are fewer students applying for grants?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is no clear explanation that we have been able to determine. One of the reasons we are voting funding into student financial assistance as a change in the forecast was because we had a little drop this past year. We have not been able to determine exactly why there is this anomaly here. There is obviously an anomaly, because nothing has changed with respect to the rules for receiving assistance, apart from the minor change that was sponsored by the Member for Porter Creek East. That is not enough to change the statistics. If anything, that would increase, not decrease, the expense.
The one thought people had, which we have not been able to verify at this point, is that the number of students who went to Yukon College this year climbed dramatically, in the university programs in particular.
One respected Member said that they are still eligible for the grant and that is correct, but they do not receive the airfare. I do not know if that is the root cause; I am just speculating. We are still looking into what the several reasons are.
Mr. Lang: A letter was sent to the Minister about the grant for students being taxed as income. Has the Minister had the chance to check into this to see if, if the legislation was changed, we could define the grants differently so that the grants would not be taxed?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I did speak to Finance about that. They said it was a misunderstanding that had been cleared up. The person who was concerned need not have been. If the Member could delay the question, I will answer his question later, maybe tonight, when we get into the Finance budget.
Capital in the amount of $398,000 agreed to
Advanced Education in the amount of $14,833,000 agreed to
On Libraries and Archives
On Operation and Maintenance
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The increase here is very minor. The major reason is because of the settlement merit rate pay. There is a rental cost for the Ross River Library of $12,000. There is a security monitoring contract at the new archives building for $2,000. This increase is for salaries.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister update us on the addition to the Ross River arena? Are there structural problems with that facility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is nothing wrong to our knowledge. We are talking about a library.
Mr. Lang: I am talking about the same addition to the arena as the Minister. It is supposed to be brand new. I have been told that the walls are starting to crack. I do not know if that is commonplace for that kind of structure. Could the Minister check in to it and let us know?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Government Services will check it for the Member.
Administration in the amount of $226,000 agreed to
On Technical Services
Technical Services in the amount of $189,000 agreed to
On Public Library Services
Mr. Devries: The Minister mentioned yesterday there was going to be some work done on the Watson Lake library. Will that come in here? That would be operation and maintenance, because it is not a new structure, or is it capital improvements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Capital improvements.
Public Library Services in the amount of $779,000 agreed to
On Yukon Archives
Yukon Archives in the amount of $470,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $1,664,000 agreed to
On Library Facilities:
On Whitehorse Library Development
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the first stage of the work to be done to renovate the archives space in the library building to public library space. The whole space is slated for public library services, and this is the first step. There will be further requirements in following years. Overall, we are anticipating about $800,000 to completely renovate it. This is the first step in the process.
Mr. Devries: When are they planning to start this renovation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As soon as the archives moves out, and that is slated for July, the planning work will begin.
Whitehorse Library Development in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Community Library Development
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the work to be done for the Watson Lake public library. This includes work such as a circulation desk and chair, filing cabinets and various furniture requirements for the library. The target library this year is Watson Lakes.
Community Library Development in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Library Equipment:
On Branch Library Equipment
Branch Library Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Audio Visual Equipment
Audio Visual Equipment in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Library Equipment
Library Equipment in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Archival Facilities:
On Archive Relocation - Equipment and Furniture
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is the furniture, shelving, et cetera, for the new archival building. This is what is required to move into the new building. The major cost will be storage equipment and shelving, and there will be some cost for the furniture for the public use areas, which are larger than the public use areas we currently have.
Archive Relocation - Equipment and Furniture in the amount of $370,000 agreed to
On Conservation Assessment
Mr. Devries: Is this something to do with conserving heat, or is it the products that go in the archives?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is to provide an assessment of the conservation lab and equipment in preparation for the new facilities, as well as to provide for in-house treatment of the collections that are in our care. We have a couple of notable ones. The most recent one that needs conservation work is going to be Eric Nielsens papers.
Mr. Lang: Could the Minister give us the estimated operation and maintenance costs of the new archives building once it is finished?
I do not believe he gave us those figures.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is $20,000 for communications. The utilities budget is $55,000, and that is in Government Services budget. We anticipate that custodial work will be about $23,000 so the three add up: $20,000, $55,000 and $33,000, which is $108,000.
Conservation Assessment in the amount of $17,000 agreed to
On Display Preparation and Maintenance
Display Preparation and Maintenance in the amount of $22,000 agreed to
On Conversion of Film to Video
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is an ongoing program. The libraries and archives branch has a lot of film and it is rare that the public now have projectors, so what we are doing, gradually over time, is converting the films to video tapes. That makes them accessible to the public. Otherwise, the only people who could use them are those people who would use them for institutional purposes, such as schools. Even schools now are moving away from film projectors and toward video cassette players.
Mr. Phillips: Do we do that ourselves or do we contract that work out?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We do that ourselves.
Conversion of Film to Video in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
On Prior Years Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Capital in the amount of $694,000 agreed to
On Allotments and Person Year Establishment
Allotments and Person Year Establishment agreed to
Libraries and Archives in the amount of $2,358,000 agreed to
Chair: We will go to Schedule A.
Are there any questions on the pink, green or blue pages?
Mrs. Firth: Is this where we can ask the Minister some questions about the expenditures at Yukon College? The grant for $8,698,000 for Yukon College is on the green pages. I had some outstanding questions on the salary dollars. Can we proceed with this?
Does the Minister have an answer to the question I asked during the budget debate supplementaries when it was pointed out to us that the salary dollars and the person years were taken out of the Education budget and transferred to Yukon College? I had asked what salary dollars were allocated, out of the $8,698,000. The Minister said that he would bring that information back to me.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I presume that the Member is talking about the cost of conversion. That came out of the colleges $8 million. Is that what the Member is asking?
Mrs. Firth: There are explanations at the front of the budget book, the person year page on page nine. We were told that 148 person years came out of there and were transferred to Yukon College. Of that $103,716,000, how much was for 148 person years to Yukon College? How much money did these 148 person years represent? What are the salary dollars in the total administrative costs of the operation of Yukon College? It used to be in the department somewhere. The Minister should be able to find it with the assistance of his officials.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am sorry - I have been labouring under the misapprehension that the Member is asking for something else. The 1989-90 personnel costs were $6,299,000.
Mrs. Firth: Six million, two hundred and ninety-nine thousand dollars - is that what the Minister said, for personnel?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The personnel costs I provided would be more than just the personnel costs associated with those 140-some the Member mentioned. It would be all personnel costs associated with the college. For example, if they hired casuals or whatever has to do with the salaries of people, that would be incorporated, too.
Mrs. Firth: What I am trying to determine is what the personnel costs are, so we can see what is left over for programming. If you look at the $8.698 million and $6.299 million of that is personnel, it leaves $2.399 million for actual programming at the college. That is quite a large portion of the total college budget.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is true. It is much like the public schools budget. The public schools budget looks very big, but one could take 90 percent of it and roll it into teachers wages. It is a fairly large portion for wages. Maybe what I can do for the Member is check to see what the actual costs of those 148 positions are specifically, and separate that out from the casuals. I do not think I can do it tonight, but I will do it.
Mrs. Firth: I would appreciate that, because all we have is one figure of grants for Yukon College: $8.698 million. We do not have any breakdown as to what that money is going to spent on - administrative costs, personnel allotments, et cetera. There is no breakdown for it and I gather the only time we are going to be able to get that is when they table their annual report, which is going to be a year from now.
I would like to get some idea how that money is going to be spent so we know what we are dealing with when we get the annual report.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will endeavour to get a breakdown for the Member. We calculated the grant this year by taking last years and adding three percent. We also factored in an increase to the northern studies program. That was being phased in over time. We will provide them with this years allotment for the northern studies program beyond the actual grant.
In terms of determining the grant, we did not analyze every program. Last year they got a certain amount, this year they get a certain amount plus three percent, and then we left the priorities up to the board.
I will get the information with respect to the breakout so we have baseline data for next years budget.
Mr. Lang: Can the Minister confirm there is more money needed by the college to operate? I asked him a question during Question Period about a supplementary, and he never really did answer my question. Is it true the government is considering more money for the college, over and above this?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a potential for that. At this point, I have not had an opportunity to sit down with the board and discuss their business and what they feel their requirements to be.
We have provided fairly substantial sums to them, and we are asking them to look at their budgets and provide the rationale for any additional requests. We already provided $766,000 to the college as a result of the conversion. If there is a requirement for a future allotment, it would have to show up in the supplementary as an expenditure of the Department of Education to the college.
As the new board has only met once, I have not had an opportunity to discuss that matter with them.
Mr. Lang: Is the Minister telling this House that there was no request from the college for additional dollars over and above what is being requested here?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not saying that but with respect to the actual administration of the college, the question is whether or not they need any money for this current fiscal year and whether or not they need money for the upcoming fiscal year, beyond the three percent, and that is a matter of negotiation. What I am saying is that the negotiations have not been completed.
There is always a request for more funding. I take that to be a given. With respect to the conversion, we have provided with them substantial funds and if we do decide to provide them with additional funds to support the college - we have not made that decision as yet - any additional funds would show up in a different supplementary.
Mr. Lang: I just want to pursue this a little further. The Minister keeps beating around in the bush. I would like an answer. Has there been a request by Yukon College for additional dollars over and above the amount that we are being asked to vote here?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is not a simple matter and I wish I could just provide the Members with a yes or no, but the Members might not take it rightly. They might be confused, so what I am trying to do is explain the situation and I believe I have. With respect to the conversion, we have provided $766,000 toward it, as well as the cost of the move from the old Yukon College site up to the new site.
With respect to any additional funds that they might desire for the operations of the college, that is a matter for negotiations, which are not complete. They have certainly indicated that they would like more money but I have not had a chance to speak with the board in any kind of formal way and we have not taken a position with respect to an increase. I would like to be able to say that it is all clean cut and that if they are going to get something, it is going to be this amount, and all that sort of thing, but I cannot. That is not the stage of discussions at which we are right now.
Mr. Lang: That is not the question I asked. I want to know if the college has requested more dollars for its operations. The Minister said that they are negotiating. Can I take it then that the college has requested more money? Are discussions going on to see if the requests are valid?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In some respects, that is correct. They have asked for more money, but not only for this purpose. We have indicated that they will get a three percent increase. We indicated that they need to priorize, and we will come to an accommodation in an atmosphere of tight money. The negotiations have not been completed. We will discuss the matter once they make a momentous decision, which they may be doing tonight. Once it settles down, we will discuss the matter further.
Mr. Devries: There was a turnover of the board of governors as of January 1. Does this budget end on September 30 of this year? Would it include the final three months?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This budget is for our fiscal year. The college runs on a different fiscal year. This budget will run from April 1, 1990, to March 31, 1991.
Mr. Lang: Earlier today, the Minister mentioned that the O&M dollars for running the gym at the college came under Government Services. Does that include the rest of the college? Does that include the cost of heat and lights?
Mr. McDonald: The college provides for their own utilities and their own custodial services. Government Services provides for maintenance and grounds improvements. That is the break out.
Mr. Lang: I want to take this a little closer to home. We talked about the gym earlier today. Obviously, the gym has not been turned over to the Yukon College.
Perhaps I should be asking this of the Minister of Government Services. When the transfer happens, and the government has agreed they should give more money for the operation of the gym to Yukon College in order for them to accept it, what happens to the dollars that are in the Department of Government Services? Is that also transferred to Yukon College so they can turn the lights on? Perhaps we could play blindfolded in the gym and never turn the lights on.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No. So far, we have transferred finance administration. The service Government Services provides has yet to be transferred. That will be transferred along with the ownership of the buildings. At that time, what Government Services provides in terms of costs will be provided to the college board, along with the obligations to maintain the building.
We hope the transfer of responsibilities will happen this year, but it has always been considered the lowest of the priorities.
Mr. Lang: I understand the transfer has cost a lot more money than what anybody thought, and there are a lot of things there nobody took into account. I want the assurance of the Minister that there is going to be enough money in this particular line item to ensure the college can carry on the programming it has and will not have to cut back in some areas to adjust because of the conversion and the transfer and obvious situations there that no one has taken into account.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The college is going to have plenty of resources to carry on its operations. As I have indicated, there is $750,000 that has been added to the base to cover the major portion of college administration. The college will be able to get along just fine.
There certainly was a cost, and the most significant cost was the transfer of the site from the old college site to the new college site. I freely admit the operation and maintenance costs associated with the new college site were not developed prior to a decision to construct. That has added better than $1 million to the cost of operation of the college, but that has been covered, and the college does not have to worry about that at all.
Mr. Lang: I just want to follow up on the transfer of the now much discussed gymnasium. I do not quite understand this. The O&M costs are in Government Services; do those dollars not automatically go to Yukon College and the board of governors then transfer out of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am told that the college has the funding for utilities in its base budget, and the costs with respect to maintenance would be in the Government Services budget. The costs for utilities would be in Yukon Colleges budget and is contained in their base budget.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us what the utilities cost is, in the base budget of Yukon College? I am looking again at that $2.some million. I would anticipate that the cost would be quite high and would take quite a chunk out of that poor remaining $2 million for programming.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will find the information; I do not have it here.
Mr. Phillips: Madam Chair, I wonder if we might take a break now? Then we can come back and resume this discussion.
Chair: We will keep going until we finish this department.
Mr. Nordling: I would like to clarify something with the Minister, again with respect to the gym at the college. My impression in Question Period today was that the gym is sitting there empty and ready to be used by the students but is not being used. It is up to the board of governors to open the doors or let them in or hold some sort of official opening. I would like to ask the Minister how long this situation has existed. How long ago was the gym finished to the satisfaction of the Department of Education and the Department of Government Services, and how long has it been sitting there available for use by the students but not being used?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Department of Government Services and the general contractor signed off interim completion on February 13, which means that the college gym was available for use. There were some seasonal deficiencies, as the Minister of Government Services said there were this afternoon, but the college gym is available for use now and the board is dealing with it by a previously scheduled conference call tonight. They will decide when and in what way the opening will be conducted.
Mr. Lang: My understanding in Question Period this morning was that the O&M costs for running the gym were vested with the Department Government Services; now, tonight, the Minister tells me that the dollars for the running of the gym are in the base of the dollars that they are asking me to vote here. Could the Minister explain to us why we have been told two different stories today on the one gymnasium?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The college does not assume responsibilities for this gym, in terms of its utilities, until it gets turned over. The maintenance will continue to be a responsibility of Government Services until such time as the maintenance for the college facilities is turned over to the college board.
Mr. Lang: I still do not understand. I was very specific in my questions today about the light, heat and janitorial responsibilities. The way I understood it, today in Question Period, from what the same Minister said, was that those responsibilities, and the dollars for those responsibilities, were vested presently in Government Services. I never did get a straight answer, as far as I could make out, as to whether or not the dollars were in the base of the Yukon College budget for those particular functions.
I just want it clarified. I know they are having a telephone conversation tonight, but my question concerns the 12 months that this gymnasium is in operation. Are part of the dollars for the full cost for running the gym included in this particular budget amount of $8.6 million?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, it is. The utilities and maintenance, up until the time that the gym is turned over, are the responsibility of Government Services. The utilities, once the gym is turned over, are the responsibility of Yukon College. The maintenance will be the responsibility of Government Services until such time as the responsibility for the whole physical plant is turned over to the college board.
Mr. Lang: I just want to know if the costs for the utilities for running that gym are included in the $8.6 million that we are being asked to vote?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mr. Lang: Does this particular budget amount include the cost of the janitorial services for running the gym, for the services of any of the programs that would be instituted in the gym, such as basketball or whatever other programs they have, and for buying equipment for the gym, such as the volleyball nets and all of that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: All the programming, as I indicated before, with respect to whether or not there is going to be someone managing pickup basketball games and all that sort of thing, is not in this budget. It is not in anyones budget. That is a matter yet to be negotiated, in terms of whether or not we want to proceed with any level of programming in the gym. That is what I explained this afternoon.
Chair: Committee will take a break for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further debate on Yukon College?
Mrs. Firth: On page 154, under Yukon College - Course Fees CEIC participation for $1,179,000, there is nothing for accommodation fees, book store sales or cafeteria sales. Why is that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The college collects those fees itself. It is responsible for generating that revenue and they keep it.
Mrs. Firth: Do they collect the course fee? Does that go to general revenue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes.
Mrs. Firth: Is that all the money that would go into general revenue from the college? Would we have to wait for the annual report to find out what they will collect in any other way? Are they predicting that they will collect something similar to the previous year? Is it expected to go up?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Anything that they might collect under accommodation, books or cafeteria sales would be theirs to keep. If they find new ways of selling books, they keep whatever revenue they get.
The government only receives the CEIC course fees.
Mrs. Firth: What happens if the college over spends their budget? What is the procedure going to be? They have to come under the same jurisdiction of the Financial Administration Act that other departments do. The Minister is shaking his head. They do not have to abide by the Financial Administration Act regulations? What happens if they over spend their budget?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The act does not permit them to over spend their budget. At the same time, they do not come under the Financial Administration Act, either. There is a clause in the act that says they do not have to come under the act. There is also a clause that says they cannot over spend their budget or borrow money without the approval of the government.
They are not supposed to. If it is serious, that may be a cause for administration of the college. Presumably, if it is not, or it is understandable and the Legislature forgives them, they will receive additional expenditure. If it is not acceptable, it would be the obligation and responsibility of the Minister to do something about it with the board.
Mrs. Firth: I did not think they came under the Financial Administration Act. With it being the first year, and the extreme employee conversion costs the college has had, and the Minister seeming to take a strong position on their budget, I feel the chances of them over spending their budget the first year are probably very good, with a new board and financial administration. With the settling-in phase, I do not think it would be unrealistic for them to come back with over expenditures if they are already looking at it for the first allotment of money they got.
Is anything being done on a regular basis to keep a check on the expenditures at the college, whether they are getting too far ahead, or too far behind, or getting into any trouble before we allow six or seven months to go by and then find they are in a lot of trouble, and we are looking at a major deficit or something?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not see any reason for them to over spend their budget in the first year. The payouts were paid out by PSC, so the college does not have to bear that. Even if they did have to bear it, it would be in the current fiscal year.
The policies and procedures and bylaws have been established. That is what the interim period was for. They have their own financial administration manual, and they have competent, qualified people performing the administrative functions of the college.
If they did over spend their budget, it would be by board direction. I have certainly impressed upon the board that financial responsibility is an important feature of their role.
They do have a fairly experienced director on the boards subcommittee on finance and administration in Mr. Dunbar who, one would accept, I am sure, is a fiscally-responsible person. With respect to the monitoring, we will be working with the college on the development of its budget and we will be assessing the current years expenditures as we assess their requests for funding in the future. They will have to justify, of course, the complete amount for their grant in the future, and will be necessarily working with the administration of Education in order to do that.
So, we will be watching, but not in a big brother sort of way. I personally do not see them over spending. The act certainly does not permit it, without approval, and I believe the leadership of the board has impressed on me that they understand their responsibilities in this regard.
Mrs. Firth: Will we have the ability as legislators to question the board with respect to their expenditures? I know when the next budget comes in the Minister will be tabling the annual report and that is all the information we will be given. Is the Minister going to be prepared to answer in the Legislature specific questions about the budget or are we going to have the ability to call the responsible board members or the chair of the board forward?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe I answered that in the supplementaries, in the sense that I felt it would certainly be a reasonable thing for the board to come before the committee and answer questions. I have not heard any particular aversion to that idea by board members. If, for some reason, that is not possible, I would take the responsibility for answering questions with respect to board operations and ensure that I had full a briefing on the boards planning process and their plans for expenditures prior to expecting it to be passed in the House.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister gave me the commitment to come back with some information regarding the pay outs of the employees at Yukon College. He was going to bring back the amount of money that was paid by each area: the federal government, the Government of Yukon or Public Service Commission. Can the Minister provide me with that information at this time?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The transferred employees had the option of having their pension contributions refunded to them or to have them rolled over to the new plan. These payments would be made by the federal government. We do not have any rights to know how much is being paid out or transferred.
The total pay out made by the Government of Yukon was $608,743. The normal severance pay accrual was $114,000. Additional severance pay was $334,000 because they were laid off. Normal sick accrual was $141,000. The compensation time was $17,000. Normal long service leave was $1,000. This totalled $608,000.
Any entitlement to carry over unused leave credits for vacation or special leave would be paid out by the government as the employee left. That could be anywhere in the neighbourhood of $700,000. That would be the normal pay out for employees anyway. It is budgeted for by the Public Service Commission.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me for how many employees that $608,743 was?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The pay out was for 112 employees. The others would not be eligible because of the length of service that they provided.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister give me an example of what an average pay out was? Some people told me that they received cheques for as high as $10,000. Is there some scale that the Minister could provide us with?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Payments range from $718 to $35,000 for the combined severance and sick leave payout. The large payout would be for people who have spent a lot of time at the college.
On Schedule A
On Department of Education
On Operation and Maintenance
Operation and Maintenance in the amount of $54,134,000 agreed to
Capital in the amount of $12,064,000 agreed to
Education in the amount of $66,189,000 agreed to
Chair: We will go on to the Department of Finance.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will get things rolling so Members can roll over the words of wisdom from the financial gurus of the government. We can then deal with the actual budget tomorrow. Perhaps they would like to listen to a little bit of brilliance from the Department of Finance.
Department of Finance
Chair: We are now on page 159.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This budget is going to be the same as last year plus inflation. That pretty well explains it. I will provide a few ways of saying the same thing.
The Department of Finance projects expenditures of $4,311,000 for the 1990-91 fiscal year. There is no capital component. This is an increase of $180,000, or 4.4 percent, from the forecast expenditures for 1989-90.
The increase is wholly accounted for by a factor for inflation and salary increases. The personnel establishment is unchanged at 51 person years.
This is the first year the allowance for bad debts has shown up as a main estimates item. We did budget for it for the first time in the supplementaries.
It is now incorporated into the main estimates for the first time. In calculating the figure, we have simply applied a three percent inflation factor to the 1989-90 forecast, to arrive at a figure for 1990-91. A similar inflation factor has been added to the Workers Compensation Board supplementary benefits program; there is no better information available at present.
The treasury program has increased by approximately five percent because, in addition to the inflation factor on precious goods, it includes merit or step increases on the salary component of the program. We do not anticipate any significant vacancies.
Revenues for which the department is responsible show an overall increase of over $1.2 million, although several individual items have decreased. The most significant decreases are in tobacco taxes, where declining consumption is becoming apparent, and this was mentioned in the main estimates speech, and in investment income where the anticipated impact of lower interest rates and a projected reduction in our accumulated surplus will be felt. We feel, rightly or wrongly, the same way that Mr. Wilson feels about interest rates.
If Members have general questions, perhaps they might want to put a few on the record and we can get to it tomorrow.
Mr. Phelps: Actually, I only have a few general questions. I was wondering, where does the figure that is paid out each year as interest on overdue accounts show up? Is it included in one of the line items, and how much is it estimated to be this year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It appears on page 379: loan capital, loan amortization, at the end of the budget book.
Mr. Phelps: That is not the same thing. The government pays interest when it is overdue in paying accounts to third parties. I am wondering how much that is estimated to be this year.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Perhaps I can provide that later; it will be one of the first questions I will answer tomorrow.
I move that you report progress at this time on Bill No. 19.
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 will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 19, First Appropriation Act, 1990-91, 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 9:26 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled February 21, 1990:
Wood bison as subspecies; Wood Bison Management Plan (Webster)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1144
The following Filed Document was tabled February 21, 1990:
Letter dated February 5, 1990, from Yukon Child Care Association to Whitehorse Day Care Centres and Family Dayhomes re offering of bookkeeping service (Phillips)