Thursday, March 23, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. At this time, we will proceed with silent 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. Phillips: I have two documents for tabling.
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Petition No. 1 - received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, and hon. Members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 1 of the Second Session of the Twenty-Eighth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre on March 22, 1995. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 1, accordingly, is deemed to be read and received.
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
Bill No. 88: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that Bill No. 88, Yukon Foundation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 88, entitled Yukon Foundation Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for first reading of Bill No. 88 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Motion No. 46
Ms. Moorcroft: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House, in response to the A Cappella Report, believes:
THAT adults have a responsibility to provide a safe learning environment for young women in the Yukon;
THAT the Yukon education system should offer an ongoing program to ensure all students have a common understanding of harassment and unacceptable behaviour;
THAT gender equality principles should be a part of core curriculum;
THAT all junior high and high schools in the Yukon should offer course material on teen problems; and
THAT some classes should be split by sex.
Point of Order
Speaker: On a point of order.
Mr. Penikett: I would like to rise on a point of order concerning the introduction of the Yukon Foundation Act, Bill No. 88. I recognize this measure, since previous administrations lobbied vigorously to introduce such legislation for the Yukon Foundation.
My point is that the Yukon Foundation is a thoroughly worthy private institution that receives and disburses requests from private citizens to worthy causes. I recall that previous governments accepted the advice of lawyers and staff that such a measure was not necessary and did not qualify as public business.
The Societies Act and the charities law provided adequate protection for groups like the Yukon Foundation, and this law will not, as I understand it, likely change, in any significant way, the functions or the activities of this organization. The only advantage to a special law is the one of prestige, and of course the inevitable question for the House will be where does that stop? Are we to do this for every group and every organization?
More importantly -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Penikett: More importantly - if I could have the minimum courtesy of not having a point of order interrupted by a point of order from the other side - the point is that this is essentially private business and it should come to the House by way of a private bill. Moreover, Beauchesne, citation 844, says that Ministers cannot introduce a private bill.
A backbencher might have introduced it, but a backbencher did not. Cabinet, of course, may decide that any matter is public business, but I submit that that would be an extremely bad precedent.
I would therefore ask the Speaker to rule on whether this measure is essentially a private bill, not public business, and should therefore proceed through the House according to the rules for private bills, and on that basis, rather than as public business.
Speaker: On the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not believe that the Member does have a point of order. I think that, if the Member has a problem with the bill, the Member should address it in debate of the bill, and that maybe we should deal with it there.
Speaker: I will have to look into the matter. I will take it under advisement and report back to the House on Monday.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Social assistance, fraud investigations
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister responsible for social services. This morning, in a radio interview, the Minister made a comment regarding welfare fraud, "Every time someone gets away with something, it gets around the moccasin telegraph pretty quickly." I'd like to ask the Minister what he meant by that comment.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is a phrase that is used to denote that it gets around by word of mouth.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister should be aware that the term "moccasin telegraph" describes the manner in which aboriginal people of long ago passed on information. I would have thought that everyone knew that. Was the Minister implying that First Nations people are defrauding the government more than others?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course not. In the first place - as the Member well knows - we are not even responsible for administering welfare to the First Nations. They administer their own welfare, on behalf of the federal government.
Ms. Commodore: There are First Nations people on welfare under this government. This comment offended people, and I have been told that it offended people. I would like to ask the Minister if he is prepared to apologize for that remark.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There was no intention to be politically incorrect. It is a phrase that has been used by many people for many years. I would suggest to the Member opposite that there is no need to apologize, because there is no intention to be insensitive toward the native people.
Question re: Employment equity
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. The previous government established an employment equity program to remove employment barriers for people who do not have a fair chance to get a job working for the government, because of their race, or their sex or other barriers.
One of the ways of accomplishing this is by offering courses to dispel some of the myths about employment equity programs. Can the Minister tell me if he or any other Members of Cabinet have ever attended one of the cross-cultural awareness programs offered through the staff development branch?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not personally, and I would have to check with other Members to see if they have attended such a course.
Ms. Moorcroft: The employment equity report that the Minister tabled tells us that aboriginal people are under-represented in all levels of the government workforce. I think it reflects badly on the government that there has been a decrease in the number of First Nations managers working for the Yukon government. Can the Minister tell us if anything has been done to identify why this trend is happening, and what is being done to correct the problem?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that we have some theories why some of the First Nations managers and some First Nations trainees are moving on, and that is because there are more and more jobs offered by the First Nations themselves in these fields.
Many of these individuals have gone on to use the training they received in government departments and have gone on to work for First Nations, because more and more of those jobs are opening up and demanding experienced people. The people we have trained, who have worked in the government, are leaving jobs to work for their own First Nations.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Public Service Commission is reorganized, and no longer shows a budget item for native training. In fact, if one looks through the budgets at actual expenditures, native training, as a separate item, was reduced in funding when this government first came into office, and now, since the 1993-94 budget, has not been funded at all. Can the Minister explain where the budget money for this program has gone, and how the native training program operates without funds?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When I get to my budget, which will probably be in a few days, I had planned to lay all of that out for the Member. There is a new staffing branch within the government that deals with all employment and deals with the area of First Nations hiring as well. I will bring that forward for the Member at that time.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Government Leader on the funding of non-government organizations. The Reform Party put out a document, entitled "A Taxpayer's Budget", and in one of the paragraphs it talked about empowering communities and charitable organizations. I will read a quote: "Distant, impersonal, and expensive government programs cannot be easily tailored to personal needs in times of crisis, and they are open to abuse. The best way to ensure targeted and personalized delivery of assistance to individuals is to empower local communities and charitable organizations to provide the third line of defence in providing for the personal security needs of Canadians, after personal responsibility and family." Does the Government Leader, as a matter of policy, subscribe to the theory that is set out in the Reform Party's plan?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I have not read the Reform Party's plan.
Mr. Cable: I will send over my copy; I got it for nothing.
A few days ago, I received this document. It arrived on my desk. It did not come in a brown envelope, so I assume it was not pilfered from the government's files. It says, "Policy statement re NGO funding". Is this the document that was promised to the Members of the Legislature on the funding of non-government organizations? Is this the entire policy as it relates to the funding of those organizations?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I am not certain which document the Member is referring to. He held it up, but I could not see it from here.
There was something delivered to the Members of the Opposition on NGOs.
Mr. Cable: Just to make sure that we are on the same wavelength, can the government's policy on the funding of NGOs be found on one page?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not believe so. I think the Member may have had a submission for the policy given to him; I am not sure what he has.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Ms. Moorcroft: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Yesterday, the Minister said that he would like the city to take over all the roads that we maintain for it. He also said that "the South Access Road can be upgraded as soon as it is decided whether we will take over the city's part or the city will take over them all. "I would like to ask the Minister if he means that the city would assume the responsibility for the construction of the entire Two Mile Hill upgrade project, as well as road maintenance.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I meant that they did their part up to the city limits.
Ms. Moorcroft: Does the Minister still plan to upgrade the South Access Road during the 1996-97 budget year? Does the Minister think that target date can be met?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We will not know until we know what the budget for that year will be.
Ms. Moorcroft: I was speaking with someone yesterday who often walks down the South Access Road. The road is not only unsafe for traffic, it is particularly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. It needs to be fixed sooner rather than later.
Does the Minister know if the design that was costed out at $5 million for the Yukon government's portion includes a footpath and a bicycle path?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I do not know, as I have not seen the plan that was costed out.
Question re: South Access Road
Mr. Penikett: I want to pursue this question with the Minister of the Department of Community and Transportation Services, because the South Access Road is one of the most heavily travelled roads in this area, perhaps even in the whole Yukon. More and more people are coming to us with concerns about its safety.
Has the department done a formal review of the question of the safety of that road since the Minister took office? If it has, what were the findings?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We put $150,000 in the budget this year to correct a corner that is apparently the most dangerous part of the road.
Mr. Penikett: I would agree that that corner is particularly dangerous. Is the Minister completely satisfied that it can be made safe for $150,000? I have seen several accidents at that location. The point raised by my colleague about there being no room for pedestrians or cyclists is also a serious one. An additional problem that I am sure the Minister is aware of is that, when there is an accident there, it ties up traffic on the whole hill for a quite considerable period of time.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: Not being an engineer, I am going to have to take the word of my engineers that this remedy will suffice - it will not make it perfect - until a decision is made about whether or not we do the South Access next year.
Mr. Penikett: Regardless of what Cabinet does, we would all be interested in knowing whether or not the Minister is prepared to make a personal commitment to put this particular road on the priority list.
Does the Minister's department have a log of the accidents that have taken place on that road over the last few years, and if so, is the Minister prepared to table that log in the Assembly?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure if there is a log or not, but if there is I will certainly table it in the House.
Question re: Two Mile Hill reconstruction
Mr. McDonald: During Committee of the Whole yesterday, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services was unable to say whether or not the drainage problems on the Two Mile Hill construction site were not the government's responsibility. Rather, the Minister stated that the government's insurance adjuster is looking into the matter.
The Minister now says any flooding problems that the business on that hill had were not the result of poor drainage design, even though a special line, 20-foot wide drainage ditch was constructed after complaints were made to the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
Could the Minister tell us how much the additional work in constructing the drainage ditch cost?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will have to take that under advisement and bring that information back to the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I asked that very specific question during Committee of the Whole and the Minister made a commitment to return with the information. Perhaps the Minister could volunteer to provide that information without my having to ask this question during Question Period.
The post-implementation review is going to address the cost overruns and who is responsible for those overruns. Is the review also going to address the drainage redesign work on the project to determine what the reasons for this were?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I apologize if we did not provide an answer to the Member during Committee of the Whole. I guess that is one that we overlooked as we did have quite a few to answer.
It is my understanding - and I checked on it this morning - that the Auditor General's report is the final review of the Two Mile Hill.
Mr. McDonald: The Auditor General's report indicates that a post-implementation review to assess the project has yet to be carried out. I am referring to the report the Speaker tabled approximately two weeks ago.
I am assuming that the review we have been discussing has yet to take place. Is that not a correct assumption? Will there not be another review of the Two Mile Hill project?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: My understanding was that we asked the Auditor General to do a review and that the review the Member for Riverdale talked about yesterday is the review; we are not aware of another one.
Mr. McDonald: Who is going to be conducting the post-implementation review that has yet to be carried out, according to the Auditor General in his supplementary comments to the Legislative Assembly? Will the department be conducting the review? Has the Auditor General already done the review? What is the status of the review?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will check to see if the department is doing another review. I do not believe so, but I will check and get back to the Member on that.
Question re: Historic Resources Act, amendments
Mr. McDonald: I will be following that one up tomorrow. I will ask another question of a different Minister.
Last week, the Minister of Tourism sent proposed amendments to the Historic Resources Act to the heritage community for comments - incidentally, his promise to send amendments to the Opposition was not kept; it was not fulfilled.
He has asked that a response to what amounts to a very substantial change to the act be sent to him by March 31. Can the Minister tell us why he would ask the public to respond in two weeks to what it took the government two years to develop?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We wanted to get a response as quickly as we could to try to meet the commitment that the Member on the side opposite was asking us to meet, which was to deal with the act here in this sitting. Since that time, I have been contracted by Yukon Historical and Museum Association, which has asked me for an extension to April 10. I phoned them to say that that would be fine but I wanted to encourage them to have a look at it as soon as possible and get back to us so that we could introduce the legislation in the House and deal with it in this sitting.
Mr. McDonald: The desire to deal with the legislation in this sitting is a laudable one, but required consultation is absolutely essential as well. Both problems could have been resolved, of course, if the consultation had begun earlier.
The YHMA, as I understand it, has asked to meet with Justice officials and land claims officials, as well as the heritage branch, to try to better understand the major implications of the changes. Will they be permitted to do so?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes. I have already contacted the officials in Tourism and in Justice. Actually, I called YHMA right after I received its letter and said that there would be no problem, and a letter will follow agreeing to the points laid out in its letter.
Mr. McDonald: Will the Minister agree to meet with organizations or groups that wish to understand the bill that he plans to introduce in the Legislature, so they may have a better understanding of the reasons for - what appear to be - the politically driven changes?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I have no problem meeting with any group to discuss the amendments that are before us in the Historic Resources Act.
Question re: Lawsuits against government
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister of Justice. My information tells me that this government has at least 20 outstanding lawsuits claimed against it, for a total of almost $17 million. The lawsuits range from breach of government contracts, wrongful dismissal, harassment, claims for negligent administration of government contracts, claims for improper tendering of government contracts, and claims for extras on contract work. Some of them have been on the files for five years. I would like to ask the Minister of Justice a policy question about the outstanding lawsuits. Who decides to go to court or to settle out of court when an action is launched against the government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When it comes down to the point of whether or not we are going to go to court, the department presents all of the information to the Minister and, in the significant court cases, it is brought before Cabinet to decide in what direction to proceed. However, in some cases, the Minister can make the decision.
Mrs. Firth: That is interesting. I would like to ask the Minister this question: someone launches a lawsuit against the government. It is brought to the Minister's attention. Who makes the decision whether they are going to try to settle that lawsuit out of court, or whether it is going to proceed to court? Who makes that first decision, and how is it made?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: First of all, the question is somewhat hypothetical. On the other hand, each case is judged on its own, as it would be if the Member owned a company and people brought a lawsuit against the Member's company. The Member would decide whether or not it had merit to fight it, or it had merit to settle it. The information is gathered and presented to the powers that be, and the decision has to be made. If we feel we are in the right, and we feel that we do not want to settle, I guess our only option then is to fight it, and probably end up in court over it.
Mrs. Firth: What I am trying to establish is who are the powers that be. If I had someone launch an action against me, I would want to get it resolved as quickly as possible. That does not seem to be what is happening with the government. What is happening is that people are being stalled and put off until they are bankrupt, and the impression is that the government hopes they will become bankrupt and just go away.
I want to know who makes the decision about whether or not this is going to be settled out of court or if it is to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Who makes that decision? Who are the powers that be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is the same as any lawsuit for any individual, government or corporation. The decision is based on the lawsuit itself, the evidence for or against the lawsuit, and we have to weigh each one individually and decide then if we are going to fight it.
In the cases that are before the courts now, it has been decided that the government was right in the decision it made and that we are going to fight it.
Question re: Lawsuits against government
Mrs. Firth: My new question is to the same Minister. It is an important issue for all of us, as MLAs, to get to the bottom of this issue. I think that probably quite a few of us have constituents who are having their whole lives disrupted because of these lawsuits. It takes its toll on people financially and emotionally, and it is devastating to the whole family. All I want to find out from the Minister is this: he has just said generally that the government looks at the case and says that it is going to go to court, but he has not told me who makes that decision. I am going to have to draw the conclusion that Cabinet makes the decision. I want to ask who makes the decision with respect to whether the lawyer will be from within government - out of the 11 or 13 of the largest law firm here - or if it is going to be some highly paid lawyer from some other province? Who makes that decision?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is made on a case-by-case basis. If we have the expertise within government to deal with the issue, we deal with it. If it is determined that we need people with other skills to deal with the issue and protect the government's interests, then we go out to contract to other law firms.
Mrs. Firth: When the Minister says "we", who is "we"? Who is making these decisions? Is it the Cabinet? Did they make that decision with respect to every one of these 20 outstanding lawsuits? Have they sat down and analyzed every lawsuit specifically and decided when they were going to go to court, and if the lawyer would be local or outside? Is it the Cabinet that has made a decision on each one of these individual cases?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot speak for the previous government, and the majority of those claims were claims that were filed under the previous government, but I can tell the Member that what happens now is that the department prepares all the evidence it has and makes a recommendation to the Minister. He will then go to Cabinet, if it is a major lawsuit, and discuss it with Cabinet. The Cabinet makes the decision. The government has to ultimately take responsibility for any lawsuits that it enters into and we are prepared to do that.
Mrs. Firth: There is a lot of money being spent on these lawsuits. One I can cite for an example is the Taga Ku claim. We have already spent, according to the contract books, in the neighbourhood of $150,000 for that one.
Expensive lawyers are being brought in from outside. My constituents are coming to me and saying, "I cannot get my case heard, because the government keeps stalling and stalling."
There are 20 cases here, and half of them are this government's. So, it is not all the last government's backlog.
The Justice Minister is shaking his head, indicating, "No, they are not." I am starting from September 1993, and going down the list, and about 11 of the 20 are from 1993 on.
All we want is to have some answers for our constituents. Who makes these decisions? Who is held accountable for them? How does the government decide how much money it is going to spend on these court actions? There seems to be an unlimited purse available to the government, compared to what is available to the private individual or the poor constituent trying to defend themselves against big government. I want to know who is to be held responsible, and who makes all the decisions?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think I answered those questions, but surely the Member is not suggesting to me that because an individual may not be able to afford a court case, even if wrong, and is suing the government, that we should just pay them because they cannot afford a court case.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is what the Member is suggesting. The Member is suggesting that we should cave in on all these court cases. Each one is based on its own merit. She mentioned the Taga Ku case. She seems not to be supporting the government.
If the government wins that case, the $150,000 will be money well spent. The government believes it is right in the Taga Ku case; otherwise, we would not be pursuing it.
The government ultimately makes the decision and takes into account the protection of the public when it makes that decision. It will not go to court to fight a case just to harass an individual. We base the decision on the facts, and when we feel that the government is right, we recommend legal action.
Question re: Lawsuits against government
Mrs. Firth: Never once have I said that I expect the government to just cave in and settle a lawsuit. I want the government to be fair; the perception is that it is not. I do not want the government to unduly prolong these court cases. I am trying to find out from the government who is making the decisions. I am trying to find out how much money it is prepared to spend and how long it is prepared to keep something held up in court. The Minister has not answered one of the questions yet, other than to say that the government is ultimately responsible.
I would like to ask the Minister if he could lay out the process for me. When a court case is launched against this government, what is the process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Perhaps I could make an offer to the Member. If she will come to me after Question Period today and tell me who in her constituency feels we have stalled the process, I will look into the matter, find out why and get an answer back to her. I can perhaps give the Member information on the court case, explaining why we are proceeding with this court case. We would not want to proceed with a court case unless we thought we were right.
As to when we would initiate court action, we would do so once we had determined that we cannot get a reasonable settlement otherwise. Occasionally, people are upset with us and decide to take us to court. We have to react.
Mrs. Firth: Let me put it this way: when there are court cases outstanding for five years, that cannot be considered to be dealing with things in an expeditious way. If Cabinet is the body that makes the decision about everything, how often does it review the outstanding claims and lawsuits against the Government of the Yukon to see if they are proceeding in a reasonablytimely fashion? How often does it undertake that kind of review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As the Minister, I have looked at them periodically and asked for updates on the court cases. The Member says some of them are five years old, which takes too long. That is unfair to say. There are court cases that have taken more than five years - some 10 years and some longer - and they depend upon all kinds of circumstances. One cannot use a broad-brush approach and say five years is too long. After Question Period, if the Member would give me the names of the individuals involved in the court cases who have concerns about delays, I will look into them specifically and get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I am trying to get an idea of policy and of how this government makes decisions. I have corresponded with the Minister with respect to specific issues. People have asked me what the process is, so I want to get it on the record.
The Minister said he periodically reviews the actions against the government. How is the decision made - and who makes it - on how much money the government is prepared to spend on a court case? Is that decision made by the Minister, by Cabinet, or by department officials? Who makes the decision to keep spending money, fighting these action suits against other Yukoners, mostly?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are not going to take someone to court for $100 and spend several thousand to get it. The purpose is to protect the government and the public of the Yukon. We will look at each case individually, based on the facts and the law cases outstanding. Some of the law cases we have are for the inadequate heating system in the college, as well as other problems with the Granger school. These are problems we are forced to pay for for a long time to come.
If we feel there were shortcomings in design, or other things, that led up to those problems, then it is our responsibility, on behalf of the Government of the Yukon, to protect the public by recovering those monies, or to gain some claim for the wrongdoing.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions for the Government Leader about the policy of the government for non-governmental organization funding.
I take it that the document I was speaking about in the first round, entitled "Policy statement re: non-governmental organization funding", is not the whole policy of this government on this issue. Could the Government Leader indicate when - and there has been haranguing over the many weeks of this session as to when this policy will be tabled - the complete policy relating to non-governmental organization funding will be tabled in the House?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: I do not know what information the Member has over there, so I am having difficulty responding to the questions he is asking. However, I will check and see what the Member has, what else there is to come and then I will be able to provide the Member wtih better information.
Mr. Cable: I will make a photocopy of this for the Government Leader.
The Government Leader seems to be somewhat in the dark; has the government produced a full-fledged policy with respect to non-governmental organization funding?
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: The government has developed a policy and it has stated that it is moving away from core funding to fee-for-service funding. This is basically the policy.
The government is moving away from core funding and the Member opposite is fully aware of that. I do not know what else the Member is looking for and if I did I would get the information for the Member.
Mr. Cable: What this Member opposite is looking for is a copy of the whole policy. Is it the Government Leader's intention, as was indicated, to table that total policy and indicate to the House what is conatained in the policy, besides definitions of "fee-for-service" and "core funding".
Hon. Mr. Ostashek: If the policy is ready for tabling, I will see if I can get it and have it tabled in this House; however, I do not know the status of the policy at this time.
Question re: Historic Resources Act, amendments
Mr. McDonald: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism. The proposed Historic Resources Act amendment proposes to remove the right of the public to protect a significant historic building without the owner's consent. I would like to ask the Minister when the Yukon Party abandoned the old policy that they themselves approved as Progressive Conservatives in a 1983 policy paper, which said, "Aesthetically and historically valuable private buildings, the law now implicitly concedes, stand partly in the public domain, and the public has the right to enjoy them in perpetuity." It goes on to indicate that any designated site or structure that seeks changes to its character must meet the approval of the government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This is an area where I knew the Opposition would be upset, because there is a fundamental difference between what we believe and what they believe. We support the right of ownership, and the right of ownership of private property. Under the previous act, it was discovered that if it is a second dwelling - if it is not the principal dwelling that a person lives in, but if it is a piece of property that person owns - the government could come in and designate that property without that person's permission. All we are doing to change the act is to say that the government should gain the permission of the individual if they feel they want to designate the property as historic property. If an agreement with the owner cannot be reached, then the government should expropriate that property and fairly compensate the owner.
We feel that private property is private property and the government should not be able to just come in on its own, designate it, and change the value of the property without dealing with the owner.
Mr. McDonald: I do not think anyone has ever disputed that there should be discussions between government and the owner. The fact remains that the Progressive Conservative Party, of which some Members were members in the Legislature when this policy paper was approved by their Cabinet, in its paper - and I will provide the Minister with a copy - indicates very precisely that there shall be designation and that designation should not allow changes to be made to a structure without the Minister's consent.
I would also point out that the use of the Expropriation Act implies that all structures designated for protection must be owned by the government, which is, in my opinion, unnecessarily harsh and heavy-handed. Can I ask the Minister who has asked for this change? I have been searching all over, trying to find some organization that has perhaps suggested this change to the Historic Resources Act. Who has asked for the change? Can the Minister identify a citizen?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It has always been a fundamental belief of the Yukon Party that private property is just that - it is private property. If the government wants to do something to private property, it should at least obtain permission from the owner to do so. Under the NDP act, if the owner did not live on a second piece of property, the government could designate it as a historic site, and the owner would have no say in the matter whatsoever. It could change the value of the property, which may have been purchased ahead of time, not knowing that it could be a historic site. We feel that if the government wants to do that in the future - and it is a fundamental belief - that it should, at least, consult with the owner. If the owner does not want to agree, then the government should expropriate the property if it feels that it is significant enough that the government should protect it.
Mr. McDonald: I think this unabashed support for the expropriation of private property in order to protect historic resources - a commitment that the Yukon Party made in its election plank - in my opinion, is unnecessarily harsh, very heavy-handed, and is an inappropriate role for government to take under the circumstances.
The point that I made is that the Progressive Conservatives - who used to include Members who are actually sitting in the government benches right now - did approve this policy paper, which is consistent with the act that the Yukon Party voted for in the last term of office of the New Democrats.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, which is now scheduled to have its first meeting on March 31, will be canvassed for opinions about the major revisions to the act, and whether or not it will be given sufficient time to respond to the government.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have no problem making that commitment. Many of the people who are on that board are already on many of the committees that are going to be canvassed. However, I have no problem running it by the board. It is an important function of the board.
I have to say that it is just a fundamental difference in belief. The side opposite - the NDP - do not believe that the government should consult with private individuals on private property and how it should be designated, and we believe that it should. If the Member believes that the government should consult, make an arrangement, or even expropriate, and agrees with what we did, then he should say it. I am not sure where the Member is coming from. The Member opposite is not clear about whether or not he supports it. However, after having looked at the act that he had before, it is obvious that he did not support the ownership of private property.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have answers to some of the questions asked. I would like to read them into the record today, just to start things off.
There is a question on page 1517 of the Blues, which refers to whether or not we send young offenders to wilderness camps. The answer is yes. As to whether or not it has been ordered by the court, the answer is that, in some cases, the condition that the youth reside at the camp is included in the probation order. Some young offenders have attended wilderness camps even though it was not included in their order. As to how the services are paid for, they are funded 100 percent through the family and children's services' budget.
During the past year, we have sent nine young people to Jack Smith's camp north of Mayo and 19 young people to Randall Tetlichi's camp in Old Crow.
There is a question on page 1519 that refers to what kind of programs are offered in the young offenders facility. There is a Yukon First Nations cultural enrichment program, which is facilitated by First Nations staff and one young Yukon First Nations contracted person every week. Some are educational programs. Last year's were delivered by a Yukon First Nations qualified teacher. Also, the Department of Education territorial resource room operates during the school year.
As well, two elders meet with young offenders and staff, according to their schedule.
An elder from Dawson advises the program as well. There are daily recreational programs, training of Yukon First Nations staff and the delivery of the alcohol and drug programs on a weekly basis. In addition, there were weekly AA meetings at the facility, a weekly aggression management program delivered by the faculty staff, and daily lifeskills training, which uses a recognized curriculum.
She asked if the cross-cultural coordinator position had been eliminated. Yes, this position was eliminated and the responsibilities for cultural programming are incorporated into the expectations of each supervisor manager within the new services. The staff person previously fulfilling this role now provides an after-care and outreach service to young offenders leaving custody.
There were some questions pertaining to the youth achievement centre. The best thing for me to do is send a copy of the document to the critic, as it is too lengthy to read.
Another question asked if the elders committee in the young offenders facility is still in existence. Yes, there are three other elders who have taken an active role in advising the program and supporting people in the facility.
A question asked if talking circles are used. Yes, talking circles are used at the youth achievement centre at 501 Taylor.
Is the medicine wheel program still used? This has been incorporated into the Yukon First Nations cultural programming at both the young offenders facility and at 501 Taylor.
What is the bed capacity of the young offenders facility? The facility has 10 bedrooms. Ordinarily the facility has 16 beds; however, the capacity exists to increase the number of beds in some rooms to a maximum of 18 beds.
Is the age in custody getting younger? Yes, during the past year we have seen an increase in the number of young people being detained at the predispositional stage and the post-dispositional stage. In 1993-94, we had 12 young people admitted, aged 12, 13 and 14 years. To date this year, we have had 27 admissions in this age group.
The next question regards the population of the young offenders facility. As of March 22, 1995, there were 17 in the program, eight in secure custody dispositions, six in predispositional detention, and three have authorized temporary absences. None of the temporary absences is out of the territory. During the last three years, we have sent only two youths from the young offenders facility out of the territory. They were both sent to B.C. for short-term, clinical assessments and returned to the young offenders facility at the end of the assessment.
The Member asked if the Minister could provide information about the open custody care giver homes.
We currently have four approved open custody care giver homes in Whitehorse. One of these homes is approved for respite purposes. We are currently going through the home study process with potential homes in Watson Lake and Faro. We have not run out of beds in the open custody care giver homes. The average daily count in open custody from April 1994 to date has been 1.5.
I have information about the diversion committees. A First Nation staff person is responsible for the diversion program. She works with 10 community volunteers and with the Kwanlin Dun justice committee. She has had 33 referrals since January 1995. The program involves a three-month agreement providing for restitution, apologies to victims, attendance at 501 Taylor, and referrals to the alcohol and drug services branch.
On page 1525, the Member asks if there have been complaints by Northern Network of Services clients against staff. There have been none brought to the department's attention.
Another question was about information on the NNS advisory board. The Northern Network of Services Society was incorporated under the Yukon Societies Act in April 1993. I will send over the objects and bylaws to the Member.
On page 1526, regarding open custody, a comprehensive training plan was developed and implemented for each home. Training is provided by the open custody coordinator, with the assistance of persons with specialized knowledge in particular areas.
Before I finish my allotted 30 minutes here, I will send to the Member, and ask to be delivered to the Table, a copy of the training for care givers. I will ask the Page to make a couple of additional copies.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to thank the Minister for providing me with this information. It certainly helps me to understand a bit more the kinds of things that are happening, and it certainly answers some of the questions I have. I think I will have to wait until tomorrow before I am able to go over all of the information that the Minister has given to me about the programs that are available.
I suspect that I will not have too many questions, but I would like to have some more information about the individuals who provide the talking circles and find out who works with these individuals. I would also like to know how often these talking circles take place.
There is no real rush to come back with that information, but I think that when we begin discussion on that branch in operation and maintenance I will ask a few more questions in that area.
I only have one question about the debate yesterday. We were talking about the change at 501 Taylor Street from a secure custody facility to a place where they provide programs. The Minister made a comment at that time and I was not quite sure what he was saying. He stated that some of the people who complained about changes did so because they were expected to do some work and not babysit an empty house. What did the Minister mean by that? Did the Minister have individuals come to him with complaints about having to work? Is that what the Minister was saying?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: She can interpret it however she wishes. The fact is that we had a facility with a lot of staff who really had nothing to do, and we took steps to change that so that the staff would be utilized to the benefit of the clients - a much broader range of clients than simply those who would be in the open custody facility.
Ms. Commodore: I understand all of that. I understand what he is saying and I understand why they changed 501 Taylor and provided foster homes. What I was asking him was if individuals who work in those homes complained about the change. Did they make official complaints to the department? That is my question.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a personnel issue.
Ms. Commodore: I am not asking about individuals who might have complained, but he made a statement. If it is a personnel matter, why did he make the statement? He said that some of the people who complained about changes did so because they were expected to do some work and not babysit an empty house. If he is so hung up on not mentioning personnel matters in the House, why did he say that?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I said it, and that is all I am going to say.
Ms. Commodore: So, he might have made a comment and did not really mean what he said because he is not aware that people have complained. He may have had concerns about individuals who might have come to him and complained or went to their superiors and complained about the big move. It is not a very good statement to be made by a Minister about employees in juvenile justice, and I would certainly like to know whether in fact that did happen, but he cannot tell me whether or not there were any complaints, and that is fine.
I would like to talk to the Minister about a program he was funding. Last year, when I saw it in the budget, I thought, what a great guy; he is providing a valuable service to an organization in town and the program looks as if it could be a good program.
What I am talking about is the community social worker program at Skookies that provides counselling to people. The money was given to Skookies, along with a counsellor, and in the end provided employment for two and a half people. They offered services to people on the street. They could come into Skookies during a crisis, and there would also be people with whom they worked on a long-term basis.
Many of those clients, Mr. Chair, were street people - probably some of the people you and I each know - and, in many cases, they were referred for alcohol treatment. These individuals also visited inmates and did programs with them. They came in there to discuss a variety of issues, including housing and social assistance. They were asking for safety, and they dealt with child matters. I am told that their programs were traditional in concept.
Many things were happening and individuals were coming to them, and they were talking about healing. I have been told that they wanted to pursue healing in the four principles, including emotional, physical, spiritual and mental. The workers who worked there sought their own healing and continue to do so.
Some of the projects that were offered - we have all read about them in the paper and have seen them advertised - were lifeskills workshops; a traditional parenting program; they had a lobby group for the prevention of sexual abuse; women's retreats; women's teachings; and a support group for women. For the amount of money they received from the government, they were able to achieve a whole range of programs that were beneficial to the people who needed that work. They had talking circles for families and friends who were suffering from incompleted suicides, grieving workshops and a number of traditional things that these people offered. I know for a fact that they worked very hard because of the problems that they were dealing with.
They built up a very strong relationship with the street people. Sometimes it took a number of years to foster, to the point where they could actually gain the trust of those individuals. Because I attended a meeting, I know they were working with - in order to help in the process - the individuals who would be coming forward as a result of the residential school disclosure for which the RCMP are preparing. I think the Minister is very familiar with that issue because they have allocated some individuals - and I cannot remember how many - in British Columbia to look at the residential school problem that occurred. That, in effect, takes in many individuals in the Yukon, who attended residential schools in B.C., such as the Lower Post residential school and the Lejac residential school that a lot of Yukoners were going to.
I know for a fact that they were working very closely with individuals and starting to look at the impact of people coming forward and starting the healing process. The meeting that I attended was very emotional. They looked at all of the problems that they could see happening and discussed the need for programs that could be made available to those individuals who needed them. I know for a fact that when it became known that I had suffered some abuse in residential school, and it was made public, I had calls from individuals in the Yukon who talked to me and had never talked to a soul before, so I know the problem is there.
My concern is that this money has been cut. I do not see any funding in the transfer payments in this new budget. The program has been cut. We are told that they were warned last year that it was going to be cut. However, not one single person who had any discussions with people in Health and Social Services remembers that being told to them. I am wondering if the Minister can let me know why the funding for this program was cut? It was a successful program; it was applauded by all of the individuals who were working in it. It was one of the excellent programs that this government was contributing to. As of the end of the month, there will not be any more money. I would like to ask why that is?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The funding was provided upon the understanding that Skookum Jim's would be applying under CAP-C programs from the federal government. The financial support was given on the understanding that the funding would not be renewed this year.
The exact facts surrounding how the notification was made, and so on, have been questioned by some people at Skookies, and we are waiting for the federal government official responsible for this area to return from holidays, at which time we will investigate the matter further. We cannot resolve the issue until that person returns.
Ms. Commodore: I asked the Minister if there were discussions within the last couple of months with Skookies about the funding for this, because it appears that Skookies only found out last Friday that the funding would no longer be in place.
I know that the Minister has talked about doing more for less, and I know that he has also talked about the value of cultural programs offered to the individuals who need them, so I would have thought that people working in the Minister's department would have seen the value in this program. It appears that one good program is going down the drain and a lot of individuals who need the services offered by this program are going to be left hanging.
I would like to believe that the Minister understood that the program was a successful program, and if something is working, why not look at it until further funding has been established by some other agency?
Did discussions take place between Skookies and the Minister's department in regard to future funding for this program before last Friday, when Skookies was informed that the funding was going to be cut?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is the issue we will be looking into once the person in charge returns. He is not here right now. As soon as he returns, we will be getting to the bottom of the matter. The funding was approved on the basis of Skookum Jim applying for and getting CAP-C funding. The issue will have to be worked out. Nothing is going to happen. I cannot tell her anything more until the person who has that knowledge is back in the Yukon.
Ms. Commodore: The funding is going to run out in a week - that is pretty serious. Normally, when that happens, funding is never restored. I would like to ask the Minister this: when does he expect the individual to be back in town so that discussions can take place about this program?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Monday or Tuesday of next week.
Ms. Commodore: I may pursue this issue further. I know that the Minister does not take my recommendation seriously, but I do know a good program when I see one. I know that this is one and I know that it is working.
No one has asked me to say that. I know for a fact that the individuals who work on that program were doing more than their share of the work.
I would like to follow up on some questions about the transition homes. We had a lot of questions asked in this House, and the Minister was not very responsive about funding since he cut the funding last year. There was a question by the Liberal Member for Riverside about a memo that came out about non-government organization funding. We have heard rumours that this government is going to implement a fee-for-service policy, and that some non-governmental organizations have been told that they would have to prepare themselves for that.
We all know about the problem with underfunding some of our transition homes in the Yukon. Transition homes have been implemented and programs have been developed over the years. We could say that some of the programming and some of the transition homes are something that we can brag about, although we would prefer that the need would not be there.
If one looks at Kaushee's Place downtown, it evolved from an old army duplex to what they have now. In light of the services that it now offers, I would call it a success. However, we also have the Watson Lake transition home. The people there were not entirely sure that they were going to be able to make it through this year. Thank goodness, they were able to do so, through funding from other jurisdictions.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not his department has had discussions with the transition homes about the policy statement for NGO funding, particularly with regard to fee-for-service funding. The Government Leader said that that is the way that the government is headed because of the Liberal budget.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The department has had meetings and discussions of options with the transition homes. We are currently developing a policy that will be specifically oriented to funding for transition homes in the Yukon. We have had people looking at policies in other jurisdictions in Canada, and that will be coming forward soon to Cabinet.
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister if the move is away from core funding, and if he and his department are recommending to the transition homes that they may do away with it and move toward fee for service. If that is his intention, when is he planning to do it? He has said that he is waiting for some information about options and that he is checking what is happening in other jurisdictions before the issue goes to Cabinet. When does he expect that to take place?
We have another few months before we look at funding for next year. Most of the funding has already been established for the next fiscal year. When does he expect to get that information and take it to Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Very shortly. It will be in front of Cabinet in the next month or so.
Ms. Commodore: Will the transition homes know what the Minister is recommending? Will they have prior knowledge that he will be going to Cabinet and saying, for instance, that core funding is gone and the government wants to pay fee for service? Will the Minister consult with them to find out if fee for service will be adequate to accommodate those transition homes for a full year?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The clear policy of the government is that we will operate on the basis of fee for service. We will not operate on the basis of grants for core funding to non-government organizations. The issue really depends upon how much, what kind of service there is and what kind of fees. We are developing a specific subpolicy for non-government organizations so there will be a greater certainty and so everyone understands the situation with regard to the funding, why it is provided, and the rationale.
Ms. Commodore: Things are getting really scary in the Yukon. People are becoming very concerned about the future of the services being offered to people who really need them. I thought the Yukon could pride itself in knowing that a service was being offered. The government talks about zero tolerance of violence against women, and here we have a situation where funding may be decreased because of a new change in the government's policy.
I am not the only one who is concerned about what may happen. We already have a situation in one transition home where many outreach programs had to be cancelled due to the funding cut last year.
Does the Minister have any idea if funding will be less than it is now? It is a fact that the Dawson City and Watson Lake transition homes - and I am not sure of Kaushee's, - cannot do anything for less than what they are receiving now. I know the Minister's motto for this department is that he is doing more for less, but sometimes that does not apply.
It does not apply in transition homes. Does he have any information right now that would tell him that the transition homes will receive less money under the fee-for-service policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, I have no information. I am waiting for the draft policy to come to me and I will be exploring it and making certain recommendations to Cabinet. That is all I can say.
When we were asking questions about the transition home in Watson Lake, the Minister spoke about the aboriginal community there not wanting to use the transition home in Watson Lake. He gave a lot of reasons for them not wanting it, and I thought his reasons were quite patronizing and some people were somewhat upset about some of the things he was saying. I think if a woman is battered, she does not really care where the accommodation is and what is offered. She needs protection right away.
He mentioned that what they were asking for there was a healing centre and the possibility that the transition home could be used as a healing centre, because that was the representation that was made to him. I would like to ask him if anything else has been done in regard to the possibility of using the transition home as a healing centre for the Kaska First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No. I have corresponded with the chief subsequently, and there may be some meetings over the course of the next while. It depends when we get out of the session.
Ms. Commodore: There is a rumour going round that one of the buildings in Watson Lake, belonging to forestry I believe, could possibly be used as a healing centre or, if the transition home was taken over by the Kaska First Nation, they could move there. Is that idea still floating around?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I think somebody looked at a building down there, but it was not suitable. The issue really becomes what kind of use can be made of the facility they have now, which was far overbuilt for the limited use it has been given thus far.
Ms. Commodore: Some of the outreach programs that are being offered by the Watson Lake transition home, if I could read them off to the Minister, are: CPR staff training, self-esteem group for teens, self-esteem staff training - I am sorry, these are on different dates, but many workshops on self-esteem for teens, staff training, children's summer program, lifeskills for students in Lower Post, counsellor training, teen violence in high schools, lifeskills for women, youth groups; they had a candlelight vigil and a Christmas party for the kids, and there was a youth group in Lower Post. Because of the cut in funding last year, they have had to eliminate some of these programs - perhaps offer them but not so often, or eliminate them altogether.
I would like to ask the Minister if he feels that this kind of training is valuable to the people in the community, and if he feels it should be offered by the transition home in Watson Lake.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is a fair question. Should government make the decision about what kind of services they are willing to pay for? If we decide that we want a certain service provided, whatever it might be, training or otherwise, and we determine that it ought to be provided by a non-government organization, and it can be provided at a cost that is acceptable to government - those are all decisions that government makes. We do not simply go around to non-government organizations and say, "Do whatever you want. If it feels good, we will pay for it." It is the other way around. The decisions about what kind of services we will pay for have to be made by government. That is why we are elected.
Ms. Commodore: These programs were being offered by the transition home in Watson Lake, and some of them had to be cancelled because of the cut in funding. It sounds like the Minister does not really care if they are available or not. If the government is going to be funding an NGO, it should be able to accommodate the kind of training that would help them in their jobs.
I would like to ask the Minister some questions about his keeping-kids-safe program. There is a question here about whether or not the program belongs in Justice or in Health and Social Services, or a combination of both. We are dealing with sex offenders, but we are also keeping kids safe. The report that was done was released in October of 1994. Another one, exactly the same, was done in December of 1993. The reason that was given for the number of months elapsing between the first report coming out and the release of the other was because they wanted to make sure that all of the information was factual. I guess they found out that it was. There was a difference of nine months from the first time it came out. I would like to ask the Minister if he can give me some information about the keeping-kids-safe program. According to the information in the book and some articles in the paper, the communities were going to be using volunteer people within the system to monitor sex offenders after they have been released from jail.
We were told that that was already happening.
Could the Minister tell me if that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Department of Justice is taking the lead role and the government is supporting them in what they are doing. I think it is more appropriate that those questions be directed to the Minister of Justice.
Ms. Commodore: I was told that the Minister was responsible for the welfare of children, but I guess I was wrong.
Could the Minister, who was at one time the Minister of Justice, give me some information about how the government will be monitoring these individuals, because it is a big job. Does the government intend to use employees from the Department of Health and Social Services? Of course, that department is the Minister's responsibility. If the government is going to be using other people from other departments, the Minister responsible would have to respond to it, however, I would think that some of the employees in his department are involved in helping some of the victims of some of those offences, and that the Minister should be aware of it, because we are talking about monitoring an offender. I would like to know from the Minister how long he expects that to take place?
This is a very serious situation, and I would say the program is a good one, because we do not want to see anything happen to our children, if at all possible. One of the ways to do this is to involve the two departments, and maybe the Department of Education as a third department, to start monitoring some of the actions of people who have been released. If the government is going to be using employees from the Department of Health and Social Services, the Minister should have some information about how the program is going to operate. For instance, will the government employee be following the person around every day, and if so, does the Minister think it might be a violation of that person's rights? That situation could happen, because that is one of the questions that was asked.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are talking about the policy on the monitoring of sexual offenders, and that sort of thing. It is in the domain of Justice. We are working with them and helping them set up the monitoring systems, support groups in the community, and that sort of thing, but we are into the field of Justice. It would more properly be asked of the Minister responsible.
Ms. Commodore: I will accept that and leave it until we get to the debate on Justice. If I have questions with regard to children who are victims, I will have to ask him about it.
I would like to ask the Minister about sex offender treatment that has been offered to young offenders. There was an evaluation plan being conducted by the government, under family and children's services, and it talks about the youth sex treatment program. I think it was done last summer by some of his summer students. It provided a lot of information, along with information from other jurisdictions that had done assessments of juvenile sex offenders, and referred to questions that might be asked.
I would like to ask the Minister whether or not the evaluation plan, dated, I believe, July 1994, is in use.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: My understanding is that, yes, it is. There is an adolescent sex offender treatment program that - as of the date of this briefing note a couple of months ago - eight young adults and youth were currently taking. They were adjudicated for this under the Young Offenders Act. The focus of the program is on relapse prevention, and the treatment process can last for the duration of the youth's probation period. It requires involvement from the criminal justice system. Referrals have been made, and accepted, for voluntary assessment and counselling. The treatment program has clearly defined expectations for the youth and a well-defined structure. The treatment component is client-centred and focuses on five therapeutic phases: therapeutic engagement, committing offence, trauma outcome, cycle of abuse and relapse prevention. A comprehensive program description and evaluation plan have been developed. The treatment coordinator has also helped to develop public service announcements as a prevention strategy.
If the Member wants any other information, or wants to be briefed, I can arrange to have her briefed by the official.
Ms. Commodore: I would actually like to take the Minister up on that offer some time, because I would like to be a little bit more knowledgeable about the program.
Getting back to keeping kids safe, how is his department involved if the sex offenders are young offenders? Is the responsibility turned over to the Department of Justice so that they can be monitored through that department? How does this department work with those individuals if they are released from the young offenders facility?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The lead role for young offenders would be vested in our department to set up monitoring and support groups. The department works in cooperation with the Department of Justice, which takes a lead role for the vast majority of these kinds of cases.
Ms. Commodore: When the young offender reaches the age of 17 or 18, or finishes his probation, does the involvement of the Department of Justice stop?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the judgment was issued for an offence committed when the youth was a young offender, then upon his attaining the age of majority the completion of the sentence is still within the jurisdiction of the young offenders program. In the recent kidnapping case reported in the local papers, it is still under the Young Offenders Act, even though, as I understand it, the individual is now an adult.
Ms. Commodore: Will sex offender treatment, which is offered by Health and Social Services, continue in the new budget?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Cable: I have a number of questions. Some of them involve the policy statement about non-government organization funding I referred to the Government Leader today. Just so we know what we are talking about, I will ask one of the Pages to take a copy from me and deliver it to the Minister.
While we are doing that, I have some follow-up to the questions asked by the Leader of the Official Opposition. The Minister indicated that, in his view, the elasticity had gone from the system, which I think was another way of saying that the efficiencies have all been brought into the health care system, and the fat is gone from it.
Literature I have indicates that the health care cost, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is considerably lower in European countries than in Canada. By itself that statistic does not mean anything, because it depends upon what your gross domestic product is.
Does the Minister think that suggests, in some way, that there may be more leanness in the system we can achieve to better deliver the health dollars to the recipients?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have not read my remarks as they appear in the Blues. In my mind, the danger with regard to future cuts is that there is a point where the elasticity in the system will have been used. From there on, one has to cut service, and there are possible inequities across Canada. I did not intend to say that there was some magic point that had been reached at the current level. For example, we are still reviewing our health delivery system in the Yukon. We are seeing some efficiencies being developed. We will have a more efficient hospital when the new one is in place. We will have more effective use of some of our staff. We have not fully developed home care or the issue of bringing acute care into homes under certain circumstances, as is being done in Saskatchewan, for example. We have not yet gotten into the whole issue of whether or not nurse practitioners would bring savings, and there is also the area of health promotion.
I did not intend to suggest for one second that we have ended our quest to make the system more efficient in the Yukon.
We have a good start on it. All I intended to convey is that some jurisdictions are more advanced than we are in the quest for efficiency, and the concern is that there is only so much elasticity before one gets down to changing the health care system, as Canadians know it. At what point that starts to emerge, I guess we will see.
I did intend to convey by my remarks yesterday to the Leader of the Official Opposition that I was very concerned with the remarks made recently by the Prime Minister, and others, including the Minister of Health, that seemed to indicate that there would be changes whereby the same level and standards may not be in force for all the insured aspects of the care system across Canada, as is the case now.
They have very clearly made statements that would seem to suggest that, with limited amounts of money, different jurisdictions will have to pick and choose, among some of the insured services, what level will be provided and how. That is certainly the indicated meaning of recent statements.
We do not know how far the federal government intends to go with the cuts. We, here, take the position that we are willing, and are demonstrating our willingness, to make the system more efficient and more effective, but nonetheless there is only so much elasticity, and it remains to be seen when we reach the point where we can no longer provide the service for the dollars and some jurisdictions are going to stop providing that service, particularly in areas that are now insured services, where traditionally the federal government has taken great pains to ensure that the level of service provided to clients would be the same across Canada, regardless of income, and regardless of the financial ability of Canadian citizens.
I guess, in brief, I have no way of telling how much the elasticity has been used up in jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan, which has been working hard on this for three or four years. I know that we have more that we can do here and we are doing it as quickly as we can. Logic would tell you that the federal government has been cutting the provincial jurisdictions fairly severely. At the last meeting I attended, which was in Halifax, the federal government took great pains to praise the provinces for all the good work they had done in making the system more efficient. It is acknowledged that they have been doing great work in that area. At some point, if the cuts continue, the time will come when we do not have equal treatment for Canadian citizens, regardless of their financial ability to pay, across all regions of Canada.
Mr. Cable: The word "elasticity" was the Minister's. The other verbiage was mine.
The article referred to the health care cost as a percentage of GDP. The statistics that are given are for 1992. They show Canada at 10.2 - that is a percentage of health care costs as a percentage of GDP.
The United States was at 14 percent, Germany at 8.7 percent, France at 9.4 percent, Britain at 7.1 percent, Italy at 8.5 percent and Japan at 6.9 percent. I would guess, although I do not know, that the German per capita GDP is very similar to ours, or perhaps even slightly better. It would show that they are certainly using their dollars in a more efficient manner, assuming that the systems are roughly comparable.
Does the Minister know if the German system is providing a comparable health care service, in scope, as we are providing generally across Canada?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I cannot really say that I have a clear understanding of exactly what is provided in other jurisdictions or whether or not we are comparing apples to apples.
Mr. Cable: Do the Minister and his officials collect any comparable data on the percent of health care expenditures across Canada - in the provinces and the other territories - as a percentage of GDP, or do they collect data on the expenditures on a per capita basis across Canada?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is data collected on the per capita expenditures, and that sort of thing. I could provide the Member with that information. There is also a briefing book that summarizes all the changes that have been made in health care across Canada, which is the way in which virtually every jurisdiction is moving. There is some indication that we will be able to save approximately $7 billion in the health care system in Canada without sacrificing quality. I can provide that information to the Member, but what is of greater interest to me is ensuring that we are taking all the steps that make sense to control what was out-of-control escalation in costs and take steps that are fair to make the system more efficient.
The draft that we have provided will show that we have managed to take steps to ensure that certain things have levelled off; programs such as chronic disease are coming down quite drastically.
The hospital, as I mentioned, is going to be extremely efficient. It has been designed with financial uncertainty in mind. Everything we are doing is to try to ensure that we get the best health care for our money. We are moving Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge under the administration of the hospital board for exactly that reason.
I do not think that much of what we are doing is particularly new. In other parts of Canada, various similar initiatives have taken place. I guess we are fortunate that we have not had to close hospitals, and make the kind of really difficult decisions that have been made in Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick, and so on. I still make this point: no matter what people say, there will be a breaking point, at which time the elasticity is gone. I cannot predict where that point is.
Mr. Cable: I do not have any argument with that, I am just wondering. The debate has just barely started in this area, and will go on long after the Minister's budget has been debated here in the House. Speaking for myself, it will be useful for Members in the House to get comparative data, if the Minister's official has that comparative data - health care costs as a percentage of the GDP and health care costs on a per capita basis - in a nice thumbnail sketch. That would be useful. I think the Minister indicated that there was some other literature. If he can refer me to that, I would appreciate it.
In his budget, the federal Minister of Finance brought in this concept of the Canada social transfer. I believe I asked the Minister a question about that. I assume he has had some time to think about the basic concept where there are broad blocks of funding given instead of discreet parcels. The amounts aside, does he have any preference as to whether or not the concept that Mr. Martin is proposing is better than the previous approach to health care funding?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The funding aside qualifier looms very large. The concept of block funding is something that all jurisdictions do. It was the kind of funding that had been offered, for example, by this government to the municipal governments. Formula financing was a provision whereby money was given to us to make our own mistakes and our own choices. The move afoot across Canada regarding health by provincial governments, and now by this government, in part is directed at setting up citizens boards - in some cases elected - to make decisions about how to spend block funding.
I have no difficulty with the principle, but my concern and the concern of this government is simply that we be treated fairly, and that our government not have its money from Ottawa cut to any greater degree than is going to be happening in other jurisdictions in Canada.
Very clearly, in a jurisdiction where roughly 80 percent of our total budget comes from Ottawa, we would very quickly come to the point, if Ottawa makes draconian cuts, of having to pass those cuts directly on to the citizens, and that is just not acceptable.
Mr. Cable: That is fine. I am sure the Minister will look after the interests of Yukoners in attempting to extract as much as he can from the federal taxpayer.
To recapitulate, does the Minister prefer the principle of block funding - the present type of funding that the territory now has - or does the Minister prefer the concept behind the Canada social transfer, a concept that was introduced by Mr. Martin in his budget?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: If the issue is not cutting funding, the answer is yes. If the issue is that the government in power wants to slash funding and pass the blame on to the junior government, as I suspect is the case, then the answer is no. It does not take a person with a great deal of education to quickly realize that what is happening in Canada is that the people who are called upon to make the cuts are not the Liberals in Ottawa; the blame is clearly and deliberately being transferred by Ottawa to the junior governments.
It is very easy to stand up and say that we are going to balance the budget in so many years and that this and that is going to happen, but the programs being offered and funded by the federal government, but being delivered by the provincial governments, are being cut. Of course, the political heat is going to be taken by the provinces.
To me, if that is the only reason for the block funding, then it is not fair. It is not honest. If, however, the motivation is to shed a generous light on it, if the idea is simply that Ottawa feels that government is closer to the people and will do a better job of spending and assigning priorities to the money that is spent, and that sort of thing - if that is the sole reason for the Liberals doing it, then I do not have a problem with it.
Mr. Cable: I would like to explore the Minister's relationship with two bodies in the health services field: the Yukon Medical Association and the Health and Social Services Council. With respect to the Yukon Medical Association, is there ongoing contact on a regular basis between the Minister, or the Minister's officials, and the Yukon Medical Association?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, that was formalized shortly after I became Minister. There is the Joint Management Committee, comprised of an equal number of members of the Yukon Medical Association and officials from the department. The committee meets monthly on policy issues, pertaining to such things as the development of the formulary; they have a lot of input into decisions regarding changes to some of the health programs. It is a formalized structure that meets on a regular basis. The deputy minister, ADM for Health, and another senior official from the Health side of the department are on it, as is the president, I believe, and the past president of the Yukon Medical Association and another physician.
Mr. Cable: Is there an issues list created from time to time, where issues can be put on or taken off, where some recapitulation of what is going on between the government and the Yukon Medical Association could be tabled, so that we could see what the issues are between the government and the association?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I could provide a list of the issues that have been dealt with. But to include the issues they have been working on, no. I do not think it is fair to go beyond that because it was never intended that their discussions would be in the public domain.
Mr. Cable: One of the areas in which the government is working with the Yukon Medical Association is in the audit program for physicians, where the government is auditing both sides of the contract - the delivery system and the patient usage. Where does that stand? Has it been completed yet?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The financial people on the Health side of the department have been working on a program that has been taken to the YMA. There is a physician on contract who will come up to perform the audit. The audit will commence shortly.It is an audit of their practice and billing - that type of thing.
Mr. Cable: When does the Minister expect that audit to be complete?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It has either commenced or is about to commence, and it will be an ongoing process. It will not be just a one-shot deal. A person will audit the practices of physicians on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Cable: Is this a spot audit of certain practices? What are the terms of reference for the audit?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: They check out the billings to make sure they are in conformity with the rules. They look at the general practice. In my understanding, it is more than just financial.
Mr. Cable: My understanding is that it is related primarily to usage of the system, not to number-crunching in the sense of dollars. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are several things going on. One has to do with physician utilization. There is also the Physician Resource Management Committee, which has more to do with the issue of whether or not new, additional doctors should be practicing in the Yukon, how we ensure that services are delivered to rural areas, and that sort of thing. There is a separate committee under the Joint Management Committee that deals with that.
Across Canada, jurisdictions have tightened up the admission of new physicians into their jurisdictions. In B.C., a little more than a year ago, they were slapping a policy in place that said that new physicians would only be paid 50 percent of the billing rates.
We sought the same thing here in self-defence and are working with other jurisdictions to try to find some kind of utilization that is reasonable for the whole of Canada, because if everything is too tight then we lose these new physicians to the States. That is another process that is ongoing, where we are trying to ensure that only physicians whose services are required will be setting up in the Yukon. Otherwise, of course, if somebody is retiring, they can sell their practice or if a locum is required for somebody who is going away to Tibet for two years, that is okay. These rules are being set up by a subcommittee of the Joint Management Committee.
Mr. Cable: It would be useful for the legislators in the Opposition to get a copy of any report that is given out on the audit - not with patients' names and doctors' names, of course, but global reports that indicate whether or not the system is efficient or if it is being overused at either end of the equation by patients or physicians.
Is it the Minister's intention to issue such a report in the future?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: A report on physician utilization is also being done in conjunction with the Bureau of Statistics. Perhaps that is what the Member is referring to so, yes, we can make those kinds of statistics on physician utilization available.
Mr. Cable: Is the Minister saying in essence that two audits are being carried out - one relating to physician and patient usage and one relating to the financial implications of the relationship between the doctors and the plan?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There is an audit, on the one hand, and on the other hand there is the development of statistics on patient usage and how our physicians are being utilized in the territory. That will be something that we are able to share with Members here.
Mr. Cable: I will look forward to receiving a copy of that.
On the Health and Social Services Council, it is my understanding that the relationship between the council and the Minister is working just fine and that the council is providing some considerable input to the Minister. Is that a view that he would share?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes.
Mr. Cable: I was just going throughout the Health Act, looking at the functions of the Health and Social Services Council as set out in section 36, and in particular the subsections (a) and (c). Subsection (a) reads, "to consult, individuals, groups and the public about health, social and justice issues and report to the Commissioner and Executive Council on what they believe the issues are and how they believe the issues should be dealt with."
Then, (c) states, "the council is to advise the Commissioner and Executive Council" - that is the Minister, of course - "on issues relating to the provision of health and social programs and services."
Is that done on a regular basis, and if so, how many times a year does the Minister meet with the council?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It meets as a council four times a year, normally in Whitehorse for two or three days. In the case of our coming out with the fraud report that was tabled, that was given to the council before we finalized it, and the council gave us its critique of it. It has given us a critique on the alcohol and drug implementation plan and we have made some changes to it as a result. That would be coming forward once it goes through Cabinet.
It certainly gave advice and its opinion on such things as the health reform package that was made public last May, I think it was, and the changes to the social assistance plan that was made public toward the end of the last session.
As well, the council invites people from the public to come before it and discuss health and social service and justice-related issues. The council had various people appear before it, including lay people and doctors talking about holistic approaches to medicine, to people who have concerns about FAS/FAE issues. There was a wide range of input.
The council provides me with minutes, and I understand that the minutes are available to the Members. I do not know if the council mails those minutes out directly, or if one has to ask the department, but I do not know that the issue has been raised in previous budget debates.
I think that it is very worthwhile to have such an advisory group. In fact, we are looking at a similar group, structured in the same way, to provide that kind of advice on a broad range of educational issues. We discussed that during the Education debate. The last meeting was held in early March. Generally, I attend for about an hour.
Mr. Cable: The Minister indicated that he would provide a list of issues that are being dealt with by the Yukon Medical Association. Could he provide a similar list of the issues on which the Yukon Health and Social Services Council has made recommendations since his government took power? Is that a major chore? Is it doable?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will ask the department to send copies of all of the minutes to the Member.
Mr. Cable: One of the other functions of the council is found at section 36(f), and that is to advise the Commissioner in Executive Council on the implementation of this act, and on the use of the health investment fund. Is that advice provided to the Minister on a regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes. As a matter of fact, the council has one person that sits on the deliberations over the applications for the health investment fund. One of the members of the council is always involved in those deliberations. The council also developed the guidelines for the health investment fund, and revamped those guidelines as recently as within the last six months.
Mr. Cable: Section 37 of the same act - the Health Act - refers to the power of the Minister to establish one or more committees to act in an advisory, investigative or administrative capacity, in connection with the implementation of this act. I do not want to plough a lot of old ground, because part of that has been dealt with already. In that I am not terribly familiar with the delivery of health services or how the Minister receives advice, would it be a major chore to provide a list of the committees that are now in existence and are functioning as set out in section 37 of the act?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: There are none under that section. What we have is the Health and Social Services Council, the JMC and some committees under that. There are no committees specifically under that section.
Mr. Cable: I would like to deal with an issue that is dear to the Minister's heart and my own, and that is the fraud investigation.
I should preface my remarks by indicating that I am not opposed to fraud investigation per se, and I am not opposed to it in principle. What I am curious about, however, are some of the numbers that have been floating out of the department on the fraud rate. The Minister provided the House with the fraud investigator's report, and I would like to ask him some questions on that.
The numbers that were quoted in the ministerial statement indicated that 497 files were selected at random. Of those files, 20 had some suggestion of fraud in them. That was the verbiage used in the ministerial statement: "Of the 497 files reviewed, approximately 20 were found to contain irregularities prominent enough to be considered fraudulent and warranted further investigation."
The fraud investigator's report is couched in a little more forceful language: "The review resulted in approximately 20 files being identified as containing irregularities that were considered to constitute fraud." When does the Minister anticipate that the 20 files will be dealt with by the RCMP and by the courts, so that we can actually get a definitive answer on what the fraud rate is in this jurisdiction?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I do not know the time line. It is a source of some frustration on our part, in that the RCMP have been somewhat slow in bringing these files to closure, to either lay charges or not. In hiring the fraud investigator, we will be working with the RCMP and the Crown attorney, and perhaps the investigator will develop the file to the point to which it is taken to the Crown attorney for deliberation about whether or not a charge will be laid.
Mr. Cable: The ministerial statement is couched in softer language than the report. Am I to read from the ministerial statement that the Minister in fact believes that there will be 20 out of the 497 files successfully prosecuted, bringing it within the Minister's projection of four- to five-percent fraud, or is that an inaccurate paraphrase from the report?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: To make a statement that there are files in which irregularities are serious enough to warrant full investigation by the RCMP is one thing, but to speculate on the merits of each Crown case - proof beyond a reasonable doubt - is quite another. I do not know the circumstances; I do not know anything about the files. I know the categories - and all of this is in the fraud report - but I do not want to know the names. All I want to be assured of is that the investigation is conducted in a highly professional manner and in accordance with the Charter of Rights, and so on.
I can say that my personal belief is that the rate could be somewhat higher, and is in danger of growing, if we do not take steps to investigate fraud and to check, through verification, the facts given to us in opening up a file for social assistance payments, not counting the numbers under scrutiny by the Member's question of the 20 files that we gathered in a period during which people came in because they were given a month to come in, fess up and make arrangements to pay. That happened; I am not counting it.
We had situations where people came in to fill out the forms and were told there would be verification, at which point they left without completing the forms. I think four to five percent is a reasonable figure, but it is by no means precise. If there is not some kind of check in place - whether it is verification from time to time, and investigation - there is the opportunity for mischief, and it is clear to me that it is necessary to take these steps. All other jurisdictions are.
Mr. Cable: I do not question but that the issue should be pursued with some vigour. It is just a matter of identifying the number.
The Minister indicated he would table the numbers of persons who had seen the light after the investigation was underway and who turned themselves in or had approached the doors of government, been fearful of the Minister's efforts, and turned away. It would be useful to have those numbers so that in six, eight or 10 months from now, when the next session starts, and when we can assume that the 20 files will have been taken to court, we can have an overall package, and the Opposition can form some conclusions about whether or not that four- or five-percent number is accurate.
I believe the Minister made a commitment to provide those numbers - I will have to go back through Hansard. If the Minister has not previously made that commitment, would he make it now?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I have no difficulty making a commitment to provide the number of people who took advantage of the opportunity to voluntarily confess to defrauding the government and made arrangements to pay back the money, and thus were granted amnesty.
I do not know how we would quantify the number of people who came in and decided not to continue their application for social welfare, once they found out their statements would be checked.
I do not think any records were kept. I know it happened, because I was told on various occasions by my senior staff that it had been happening, but I do not know if there is any accurate account.
Mr. Cable: All right, if we can get whatever numbers the Minister has we can form our independent judgments on the fraud rate here.
Does the Minister have the fraud report in front of him? I refer him to the executive summary - there are nine recommendations made by the investigator. Has the Minister and his officials formed any opinion as to whether all of those or some of those recommendations will be proceeded with?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, we are currently acting on all of them.
Mr. Cable: I have just one last point. If the Minister could flip over to page six of the report, I refer him to the top of the page under the heading "Findings". It says, "Investigative work was completed on 47 of the 68 files referred to the investigator. In 35 of the cases, evidence of fraud was found." I have some trouble reconciling that with the legislative returns, because I do not see the numbers 47 and 68 and 35. Could he indicate what those numbers mean?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: When the investigator started, he was given a stack of 68 files from social workers who suspected fraud. The investigator completed investigating 47 of those suspicious files and, in 35 cases, evidence of fraud was found.
Mr. Cable: Are those 35 files over and above the 20 that came out of the random spot check of 497 files?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The 20 files are some of those 35 files where evidence of fraud was found. We have a reconciliation that I can bring back to the Member. I do not have it with me right now.
Mr. Cable: I would appreciate receiving that information, because I cannot make sense of some of the numbers provided.
I have a couple more questions before we turn the floor over to the critic.
In Question Period today, there was some follow-up on the non-governmental organization funding. It was obvious that I and the Government Leader were not connecting on this topic.
I have provided the Minister with a document entitled "Policy statement re: non-governmental funding". Could the Minister help me out and tell me about this document?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The issue of funding for non-government organizations went to Cabinet on the basis of what the principles would be regarding funding for NGOs. This paper looks to be either the final basic principle paper - I would have to check into this. It is then up to the departments - on the basis of the paper as a principle - to deal with the NGOs that they fund. There is a very straightforward and simple principle of how the rationale for funding will be not core funding, but fee for service. That is the corporate decision. Each department will then make the arrangements with the NGOs that they are responsible for and move from core funding to a fee-for-service position.
Mr. Cable: We have been asking in the House about the government's overall policy on the core funding for NGOs, both within the Minister's department and in relation to other departments. Is this document the whole policy for funding of NGOs in this government? If the Minister does not know the answer right now, perhaps he could phone me, or write me, or get a legislative return.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, it is the whole principle. The ratio is this principle. The individual departments operate on this principle and will develop their policies for their NGOs.
The principle for all NGOs that are funded by the department we are dealing with right now will be that we want to develop a more accountable funding system, and that we are moving to fee-for-service funding. We are not core funding now. That principle has been applied in certain circumstance before, but the intention was that everyone was reading from the same principle - the same book. I think it is a very clear principle. And that is the basis on which we negotiate with the NGOs.
Mr. Cable: I will say that perhaps it is a clear principle, insofar as it talks about accountability. That is just one facet of funding. There does not appear to be any goals, although there is something called an objective to increase accountability. What is the main theme or thesis behind government funding of NGOs? That is not found in this document.
Perhaps a little facetiously, I read the Reform Party's approach to NGOs. They believe in moving the delivery of health and social services down the chain, more to community organizations, communities, individuals and families.
What is the policy of this government with respect to the use of NGOs? Presumably, that is really what is driving the funding, not just writing out cheques and telling an NGO to report back if it is doing a fee-for-service project. Is there not some overall structure that is guiding the government in determining who gets funding?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We inherited a situation where the funding was all over the place. There was no rationale for many of the organizations. They did not understand why they did, or did not, get largesse from governments from year to year. The position of this government is straightforward. It is government's role to determine what kind of services government should deliver with the taxpayers' money - that is one. That is what government is elected to do - make those decisions. Government will then determine whether those services should be provided by a department or by a non-government organization. If government determines that the situation warrants services provided by an NGO, then it will pay a fee for the service, if an NGO is willing to take it on. That is fundamental democracy in action. We are not simply giving core funding to people to spend as they wish. We are not paying people to be think-tanks. We are not just giving money to transition homes to develop their own programs on whatever they think is great, because that is an abdication of responsibility. This is where we start. We start by talking to each of the NGOs that we fund. In debate earlier this afternoon we talked about developing a policy for transition homes using this principle as the base.
In each and every case, we will determine which services we would like to have provided. A lot of the organizations are really pleased to have a clear understanding of where they stand on this - exactly what we see our role as, and what we see their role as. We are not here to simply give money to people to spend as they wish; we are here to make a decision: do we want to provide a service; do we want it to be provided by a non-government agency; what are the standards we expect; how much are we willing to pay for service to a certain standard?
In this department, the terms of the contribution agreements are geared to the services we are purchasing and the kind of standard we expect. To me, that is a very clear way to approach the issues, and that is what we are doing.
Mr. Cable: I was looking for a gestation of some kind of policy elephant, but we got a field mouse.
It does not answer the threshold question about the role of non-government organizations. All the Minister is saying is that, if a non-government organization is used, here is the accountability proposition and principles. Does this government believe that a significant portion of the delivery of health and social services should be done through organizations that rely, in part, on voluntarism? Is that one of the propositions that underlie the government's policy?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course. We look at each area where we are going to provide service with that in mind. It makes great sense for us to sit down and discuss the delivery of services we wish to provide with organizations that are largely volunteer, and we do that wherever possible and wherever it makes sense, in our view.
Previously, I believe there was no understanding of the relationship between the government and the non-government organizations. There was no accountability. In many cases, the issue of who decides what services will be purchased was not there. There is that understanding now, so we have an organization like the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon come to the department with proposals for services it would like to deliver.
These are the ones we fund now. We discuss it in the relevant department to determine whether or not it is a good idea, whether it is the kind of service we need, and that we are willing to pay for such a service if we make that determination, and so on. To suggest that there should be a great, big, thick policy document that makes all those decisions for us and that we follow it is absolutely antithetical to all my beliefs about policy and how it should be developed. I really firmly believe in basic principles and not great, big, thick policy documents - the thicker they are, the less practical they are, in my view.
I always get a kick out of it when somebody says, "This does not weigh very much, it is only one page or only two pages, but this one that weighs this much is really good stuff." All my training and experience has been quite the opposite. It is easy to write 80 pages of B.S., but it is very hard to get right down to a few pages.
Mr. Cable: Okay, let me feed back to the Minister what I think I hear him saying. What he is saying is that the government's policy is reactive. If the LDAY should come in with an idea for service to certain groups of people that meets some certain general policy framework or some terms of reference, then the government will consider it. There is no master plan indicating what service should be provided by the private sector; it is strictly reactive - am I hearing the Minister correctly?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: No, he is not. We review all these things as we review the programs, and one of the things that we consider is whether or not it makes sense. Who should deliver this program, should the government decide to keep delivering it?
For example, when the issue came forward that something had to be done to provide home care in Watson Lake, the department initially wanted to hire someone to do that. However, it was my view, and the view of my colleagues, that we should instead provide funding to a non-government organization to provide that service - the same non-government organization that was demanding these kinds of services be looked at and provided.
There is an association in Watson Lake, called the Signpost Seniors Association, currently being funded to develop a package of home care for seniors in the Watson Lake area, which has been ongoing for some time now. Why did the government choose to provide the services in this way? It seemed to us to be a more effective and efficient way of providing the service, and we will see how it works out.
We do not have a document that outlines a formula - if something falls under "category b", you then move on to "category c", compare it against an established scale and at the end of this procedure you have bingo - NGO - $700 per week.
We are looking at some practical principles that have to be applied, just as judges apply principles of law. It is my genuinely held belief that it is really important that the basic principles are understood by all the players. The application of them can be developed as long as we understand what we are talking about and what the essence of the principles are. I noted, when watching a television program recently, that there have been some books written, and some of the states are moving in that direction as well - that all of these great big policy books are a bunch of B.S. and we should get back to the basic principles and the application of them.
I do not, for a second, apologize for a policy document that applies the principles and is short and succinct. I really do not think that a bunch of paper should take the place of common sense.
Mr. Penikett: Just before the break, I would like to make a short comment to the Minister, because he said a couple of things that perhaps were not deliberately provocative, but provoked me.
I doubt if there was any serious disagreement in the House, and I doubt if there is even any serious disagreement between the political class and the bureaucrats about the desirability of clear and simple policy statements.
I strived for seven years to replace long, complicated regulations with clear, simple policy statements. I do not claim that I succeeded, but I do claim that I sought that goal.
The problem with the clarity, the simplicity, the elegance and the purity that the Minister is talking about is that it sometimes exists only at the rhetorical level.
In looking at the Health Act, for example, we were trying not to lay out principles about funding NGOs, but rather to start to talk about new ground rules and new arrangements. I will come back to this after the break, but there are things in the Health Act that are not being done that could be done.
However, I looked at the field of NGOs, and the social services field is very complicated. We inherited a lot of complex arrangements, and I suspect that even after the Minister has completed his reforms, a value-for-money audit could be done on each one of those arrangements, and fair-minded citizens would be found to be saying things like one contribution to a certain group in a certain community might be politically driven, and another looks like it is driven by need, and another looks like it is driven by some other imperative. There is no simple and clear rationale. I do not care who is the Minister or what party is in power. There will be those criticisms.
In fact, notwithstanding the clarity of the principle stated by the Minister's colleagues - I make this as a comment and not to provoke further debate - I know what the funding principles say in the funding programs of the Department of Economic Development because I was the Minister who set up most of them. I know that my constituents now observe that, whatever the stated principles are, the observable behaviour of the department is that only the groups that support the government party or the government's philosophy get funded. My colleague, Mr. Cable, has not put it this way, but I think the problem is that, however clearly the policy is stated, even if it is in a single sentence, two sentences or a single paragraph, the power of the Minister - in fact, let us be honest. There is bureaucratic patronage; such a thing exists, too. The power of a program manager or a department head to direct funding one way or to set the level of funding continues to exist.
It is not simply a statement of policy, because there are other levers and other tools. Not only is there a lively debate about who gets what and what is fair and if it is just, but there should be a continuing debate, no matter how well we articulate our basic goals.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I accept everything that the Member is saying with regard to the distiction between understanding what the principles are and how they are applied. They can be applied, quite often, in not too subtle a way to meet the personal objectives or political objectives of the individual or group of people applying them.
That happens in applying principles of law, too, of course. The judge finds some way of getting the desired result and hangs it on the appropriate principles. I am not stating that this leads to some kind of wonderful new world, but it is important that we understand the basic principles and go from there.
I suspect that this will lead to some changes in the way that funding in Economic Development and in other departments are applied. I think that we have moved in this direction, ahead of it being a corporate policy - we being Health and Social Services - partially because there was a myriad of funding activities going on and I was having a really difficult time understanding the rationale for many of the arrangements that had been made, historically. I am not even saying by the previous government.
Some of these things have been ongoing for a long time, with no one really understanding the basics.
The application of them is a different matter. Debate about how they are applied, whether it is fair, or whether one group gets something and another group does not - are all valid and we are not trying to do away with that at all. I did not intend that, although my remarks may have implied it.
Chair: It is the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Health and Social Services?
Mr. Penikett: I am looking at section 7 of the Health Act, particularly 7(1), which the Minister will recall says, "The proportion of the health budget appropriated for health promotion and preventive health shall be increased each year, and by the beginning of the year 2000, an equivalent of five percent of the total health treatment budget of the territory shall be appropriated for preventive health and health promotion programs and services consistent with prudent fiscal management." I suppose that is an important qualifier at the end.
Since I notice that the money allocated to the health investment fund is going down this year, and not up, I want to ask the Minister a few questions. I will ask all three of the questions right now, because they are essentially factual.
The first is this: what is the department's calculation of the percentage of the treatment program that is now going into health promotions?
The second is: were there any lapses in the health investment fund that were rolled over? I will confess that I put a specific provision in the act to state that they could be rolled over, and I wondered if they are being rolled over into the following year so that the money stays there.
The third question is this: we should assume nothing about the year 2000, but given the current fiscal realities - national budget cuts, et cetera - are we likely to meet the legal objective of five percent by the year 2000?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: With regard to the funding itself, in the health investment fund the lapses roll over automatically.
The biggest issue, I guess, is one of definition - what does it mean? I have had some very preliminary discussions with people in the department and with members of the Health and Social Services Council about that problem. It does get raised from time to time. We would like to get an idea of what the concept ought to encompass first and see the kinds of things that fit within it. I really would not know where to start at this point in time. There are so many things that arguably fit within the investment in good health and so on.
When one reads all the new work that is ongoing and coming out about determinance of health and so on, it makes the big picture even more difficult.
At some point in time, we are going to start addressing that issue - we hope fairly soon - and try to get at least some kind of a discussion paper on what it means and what kinds of stuff is in it. I would expect, within our budget, it would range from child care to alcohol and drug strategy measures. There are so many things that could fit within it.
The concept is a good one. Whether we should try to tie things down too much is quite another issue. That is about all I have to say about it at this point.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the Minister's answer, but he did not say much about the Year 2000, but perhaps I can infer what his answer would be to that. The Minister said that the lapses are rolling over as required by the law, and I am curious to know what they are, because it is not clear from the budget information that I have what the order or magnitude of the lapses are.
I would like to make a comment about the problem of definition. I agree that there is a lively debate about what constitutes disease prevention and health promotion activities. In fact, I had a fascinating discussion with a fee-for-service doctor recently, who was insisting that much of what he did fell into this category. I was quite strenuous in asserting my view with him that that is exactly the type of activity that should not be included in this definition, because that is what is eating up the health budget right now.
As arbitrary as the five-percent figure was, the reason that the Legislature agreed to do it at that time was because every other jurisdiction was overrunning its health budget on the curative side - fee-for-service, high tech hospitals - and had no money left for disease prevention and health promotion, which admittedly has a long-term payoff, and because we, as relatively wealthy nations - Canada and the United States - were falling behind many other countries in terms of a commitment to that activity.
The proposition was really simple: we should spend the first few cents of every health dollar on that, rather than spending whatever we had left over. I hope that at least that principle will be maintained.
I know that the problem of definition is difficult, and I know that the single largest contributor to good public health over the last 100 years was the discovery of clean water and decent sewer systems. This was discovered in London during the late 1800s as a response to epidemics.
Obviously most of those kinds of activities are now carried out in other departments - Community and Transportation Services, Economic Development, and so on.
Nonetheless, it seems to me that if the Minister is going to resolve the question - at least in his own mind - whether or not I, Mr. Cable or the doctors agree, there needs to be a definition at some point soon. Whether or not we all like it, we need to settle on one, so the department, from a planning point of view, can make a distinction between those activities, expenditures or programs that fall under the promotion and prevention category and those that are in the curative or more traditional medicine category. Otherwise, the presumed benefits of all the things that everyone apparently agrees on now will not be observable, much less measurable. When the Minister was talking about Education, I understood that to be a goal of his.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I agree with what the Member is saying. Getting a handle on some definitions is easily said and more difficult to do. My interest largely has to do with concepts of the healing of whole villages, and that type of thing, which all fits within it.
It is something we have to embark on, and I will talk to the Health and Social Services Council and the department about working up some concepts. It may be that the principle, as expressed in the act, might be replaced with something as a result. The five percent does not matter - one can fudge that. The concept is important, that there be an emphasis on a category of things that are health promotion and disease prevention.
Maybe that is the way it ought to come out in the wash.
In the meantime, we first should get the definition to see where it goes from there. I would make the argument that, in a small community such as Pelly Crossing, there are a whole bunch of things that could fit under health promotion and disease prevention - everything from the alcohol and drug strategy and how it is applied there to training, partnerships and jobs at the mine at Minto - I think it is called Minto Copper - the whole feeling of being more in control of one's life, not just individually, but as a community, so that the whole idea of taking responsibility for justice is arguably part of the healing process.
We are getting into the whole issue of stress and its impact on health. It is relatively new, or maybe it is one of the things that comes back after a while. The front pages of the popular magazines are all about stress - whether it is Newsweek or Time - so there are a lot of things to look at.
Mr. Penikett: One of the leading theorists in the field of stress was a man named Hans Selye. He was in fact a Canadian who was much read about 20 years ago, but seemed to be forgotten for a while and is now being rediscovered.
I will not disagree with the Minister about all the things that can be included under that category of health or health promotion. To use economic terms, the distinction I am trying to make is between investment and expenditure. We can come up with definitions from a number of different directions, but given that most provinces - and the federal government - have at least rhetorically been talking a lot about health promotion and disease prevention for some time, my guess is that there are definitions around. Whether or not they are suitable for our needs is another question.
I would recommend to the Minister - I make this a representation, not a question - that he take a look at some of the definitions that are around, including the Circumpolar Health Organization and the World Health Organization, which would probably have definitions.
Perhaps even before beginning the work in the department or Cabinet, some of them could be passed on to the Health and Social Services Council, which could be asked to discuss them and perhaps to select one - rather than trying to write one - that is agreeable to it, and then see if it finds favour with the department. Some other process like that could be implemented, but it would have to be one that would perhaps force the issue a little bit about coming to a satisfactory definition.
While I do not disagree with the Minister about broad definitions for health and healing, there does come a point when, if one is to include everything under the definition, there is no definition anymore. There is nothing to measure. One cannot measure the outcomes, and cannot really make any honest assessment of one's own activities or performance. So, I think a definition is useful, and, I would argue, even necessary.
This Legislature did in the Health Act what no other jurisdiction had ever done at that point, which was that, whether or not an instrument was flawed, we actually committed ourselves to saying we were going to do it. I think it was a good thing to do. I have actually had two other ministries of health from other jurisdictions recently inquire about what we were thinking about and why we were doing it. It is one of the remarked-upon features of the Health Act.
The Minister may be right about the particulars of the instrument, but I am not hung up about that. I just think that the basic idea - which I think we have to do in all the social policy fields - is shifting away from expenditure to investment. It is hard to do, because one has to find extra resources on top of growing expenditures. It is essentially like the savings principle that the author of The Wealthy Barber, and others, advise one to do: take the first dime off your pay cheque and put it in the bank. I think if it makes sense at that level, it probably makes sense in this field, too.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I agree fully with the Member on these issues. It is just that if the focus is on the five percent, one will see a bunch of people trying to fudge. I think it is too important a principle to get all caught up on the five-percent issue. The definition and the principle is great, but it will become more and more tempting, as we approach the magical year, for people to fudge.
The focus should be on the principle and making a sincere effort to devote more of our efforts to health promotion and disease prevention.
Mr. Penikett: My last word on the subject is that if I had a preference, the focus would not be on the five percent but on the adjective "increasing".
Ms. Commodore: I would like to get back to transition homes and other NGOs. I understand that a letter has gone out to some of the NGOs, notifying them of the change in policy from core funding to fee for service. Perhaps that has not happened, but I think it has.
Some of the questions that are coming out of that information is with regard to the funding. In the budget book, we have budgeted certain amounts of money for Kaushee's Place, the Help and Hope Society and the Dawson shelter. There is a concern that they may end up with less funding.
Even though we have budgeted certain amounts for those three homes, is there a possibility that they may not get that amount? I understand they were told that they would get a partial payment rather than the whole amount. I do not know what is happening after that.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Once the policy is established, we will sit down with the three transition homes to discuss the funding situation with them. Is there a possibility they may not get as much as they are getting now? I am really not sure.
It is not the intention to suddenly lower the boom on them, if that is what the Member is asking. We intend to try to rationalize the funding for these organizations over a period of time. There may not be any change this year, but there may be in the years after, of course.
Ms. Commodore: That was my concern, because we are budgeting a certain amount in the budget book. I am told that some groups were told that their funding would remain the same. The concern raised with me - which I am now concerned about - is if half-way through the next fiscal year it is determined to go the route of fee-for-service, because that leaves a very unstable feeling within the transition homes.
If we are going to allocate money in a different manner, should that not be included somehow in the budget book? If I am asked to vote for $482,000 for Kaushee's Place, it is my assumption that $482,000 is going to go to Kaushee's. However, I would like to know if that is the case before I vote. If there is some suggestion that it might be more or even less, I would like to know, as would those non-government organizations.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It is premature for me to really get into it in any detail. What happens is that whenever there are changes to funding, we have supplementaries and we discuss them, but the position with the transition home is that we are going to be introducing a policy and discussing the consequences with them. If the Member is saying that there ought to be an appropriate phasing in, and so on, yes, there will be. Are we guaranteeing that we will not change it before March 31, 1996? I am not making any guarantees. We are not trying to be Draconian about this. We want to rationalize the funding, and there is going to be a fair amount of discussion with them.
Ms. Commodore: I can understand what the Minister is saying. There has been a lot of discussion surrounding that issue but, as I said before, if I am voting for $93,000 for the Health and Hope Society when we get to that line item and it is agreed in this House, or cleared in this House, whatever the term is, I would assume, because it says so in the book, that the funding would be going to them.
If it does not have that assurance, there will be some concern. I would like to know, when I am voting in this House, what I am voting for. I would not want to vote $482,000 for Kaushee's Place if there was some possibility that it was not going to be done. That would just not be right.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I thought we had established early on that the Member and her party were not voting for any of these funds - they were voting against the budget.
Ms. Commodore: I was asking the Minister a question that is of great concern to those individuals out in the communities. Should he not be able to stand up in this House and give them some assurance, instead of being a smart aleck? Should he not give them some assurance that somehow or other they can work in comfort knowing that the funding will be there? I was asking him that question; I was not asking him for a smart-aleck answer that will not satisfy those individuals. It does not satisfy those battered women who need the shelter when necessary.
That kind of remark is really uncalled for. I am asking this question on behalf of those individuals.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The Member stood in her place and said that when she is voting for these things she wants certain assurances. The Member is not voting for them - she is voting against the budget. The Member voted against the budget in second reading, she will vote against it in third reading and she has voted against every single budget that this government has put forward. It is misleading for the Member to suggest that she is voting for this money for the transition home, because she is not - she is voting against it.
Ms. Commodore: Could I ask the Minister if he will answer my question? I would like to be able to send a copy of Hansard to the non-governmental organizations. I would like to be able to show them what the Minister has said.
Are they or are they not going to be receiving this amount for the new fiscal year of 1995-96? Can the Minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I cannot answer that question, because we are going to be introducing a policy and entering into discussions with the transition home. All I can say is that there is no intention to make radical changes to funding. We are going to move toward fee for service and rationalize the funding. Whether or not we spend each and every dollar amount on each and every item on each and every page of the budget, I do not know.
Mrs. Firth: After the budget has passed, will the Minister turn over a certain portion of that contribution agreement until such a time as they negotiate this new fee-for-service option? Will it be a quarter of it? What will happen?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It can have the money on a quarterly basis. There has been no decision made that we are going to cut it back during the year, but we will see where the policy takes us.
We have a relatively arbitrary figure in the budget book that was placed there three or four months ago. We are not going to have our hands tied completely by that figure. Certainly, if any of the NGOs do not live up to their part of the bargain and do not deliver the service as laid out in the contribution agreement, they stand to suffer the consequences, because that is what a contract is.
Mrs. Firth: What is the time line for the change in funding for the NGOs? When does the Minister anticipate having the new fee-for-service process in place?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Our department has been moving toward it for over two years. The only issue we are discussing at this point is a particular policy for transition homes, which we are in the process of developing. It will go to Cabinet fairly soon.
I would think that the initial impact on funding would not be very great, but I cannot guarantee that each and every dollar in the budget will be spent up to the maximum. That is why we have supplementaries.
Mrs. Firth: I am not arguing that point; I am just trying to get some clarification.
They are looking at this new way of funding transition homes. If it is going to Cabinet soon, is it fair to say that they will get their first quarterly payment and, after that, there may be some changes made in the way the second quarterly payment is given, or in the way the rest of the payment is given? That is what I am trying to find out. As far as it goes, for how long might they have a guarantee?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We are going to give it its first quarterly payment, and we have no intention at this time of making sudden changes to the amounts in the budget. If there are going to be changes, I will be giving it a fair amount of time to adjust. It may be that it will be given until the next fiscal year to adjust, but I am not going to be bound by a time line.
Ms. Commodore: It is interesting that the Minister talks about this process going on for more than two years, and the Government Leader, just last week, was blaming it on the federal Liberal budget, so what do we know?
I have a question in regard to a letter that was sent to the Minister on September 7, 1994, from the Playcare Centre Society in regard to direct operating grants. It appears, according to the letter anyway, that there was no information given to it with regard to a moratorium on the direct operating grants.
They proceeded with their plans to renovate the building, but were told after that was completed that it would only accommodate 54 spaces, and it was built to accommodate those spaces, and no one had mentioned that there would be a moratorium on the NGOs. Only 35 of those spaces were given a direct operating grant. I would like to ask the Minister this: since I have not received any information since I got a copy of the letter that was directed to him, what has happened as a result of that? Was he able to accommodate them?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Yes, the moratorium on the grant was lifted on November 1, and it has been funded for additional spaces as a result. I have not heard any complaints since from that NGO.
In view of the time, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: The Committee of the Whole considered Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
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. Phillips: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. next Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:27 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled March 23, 1995:
Maintenance Enforcement Program review contract: terms of reference and cost (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1128
Whitehorse Correctional Centre job skill training programs offered; Yukon College services at WCC (Phillips)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1448