Tuesday, March 23, 1999 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of National Francophone Week
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to pay tribute to National Francophone Week. Semaine Nationale de la Francophonie began on March 19 and continues to March 26. During this week, we recognize the many contributions Franco-Yukonnais make to the Yukon and French-speaking Canadians to our country.
Last Saturday was proclaimed Yukon French Heritage Day and on Thursday, March 25, there is a special ceremony celebrating National Francophone Week at the Elijah Smith Building.
As well, there are a number of activities throughout the week highlighting traditional French culture through historical displays, the play Les Époux Vendables, and social events such as the Café Rencontre on Friday.
Yukon's strength depends on the vitality of its communities, and it is a pleasure to highlight our strong and vibrant francophone community as it celebrates its place in the social fabric of the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to join with members in paying tribute to l'année de la francophone canadien, the year of the francophone in Canada.
Starting this month through to March 2000, a number of events and celebrations will be held clear across Canada to showcase francophone communities within our country and to acknowledge their contribution to our history, culture and economic life. Here at home, the Yukon is proud to have a strong and vibrant francophone community within our territory. This community is living proof in itself that with some perseverance, inspiration and understanding, people with different cultures and different languages can live among each other, can thrive, and can learn from each other.
Je voudrais à l'occasion de l'année international de la francophonie souhaitre a toutes les franco-Yukonnais une année de plaisir. I look forward to hearing more about this year and would encourage all members to participate in the upcoming celebrations to be held in the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute to la semaine de francophonie, National Francophone Week.
The francophone culture has been alive and well in the day-to-day life of the Yukon since before the gold rush. The first white woman to walk over the Chilkoot Pass was Émilie Tremblay. She operated Mme. Tremblay's General Store in Dawson City for many years. L'École Émilie Tremblay in Whitehorse is named after her.
Francophones left their names throughout the Yukon - Lake Laberge is just one example - contributing to the heritage and development of the territory.
Francophones are active in every aspect of community life in the Yukon. They are employed as government workers, medical professionals, sales people, mechanics and teachers. They are happy to contribute to the Yukon and to the dynamic life that goes on here.
A directory of businesses with a significant francophone component was recently published. Over 150 are either owned or at least partially owned by a francophone person or deliver French services voluntarily.
In the Yukon, we've had reason to celebrate the la francophonie for the past 100 years.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that there would be significant economic benefits for Yukon should a railroad be built connecting Alaska, through Yukon, to the southern United States;
THAT this House recognizes that the Alaskan House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill setting aside land for the railroad right-of-way up to the Yukon border;
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations, whose land the railroad would cross, to express their willingness to consider the Alaskan railroad proposal, including the setting aside of lands for a right-of-way through the Yukon: and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, with the full participation of the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations governments affected, to commence discussions with the Government of the United States and the State of Alaska about establishing a mechanism, such as an international joint commission, to expedite the development of the Alaska railway proposal.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, I've compared the minister's squatter relocation plan to a TV game show - behind every door there's a prize.
Now, you look behind door 1, an individual who was squatting could receive up to $100,000 - the replacement cost of their buildings; up to $5,000 flat rate equity; long-term occupation allowance to $45,000; a senior allowance to $10,000; and moving expenses to $5,000.
Then we look behind door 2. They get to move to the front of the line, bypass hundreds of Yukoners who've gone through due process to obtain country residential land.
Then we look behind door 3. They then get to acquire that country residential lot, in one case valued at some $35,000, for $15,000; the squatter receives an earned equity of $20,000.
One thing for sure is that the only losers are all those Yukoners who've applied for land in the conventional manner, and the Yukon taxpayers, who will ultimately pay the bills.
I'd like to ask the minister what he is prepared to do for all the rest of Yukoners, who have faithfully paid their taxes all these many years, stood patiently by -
Speaker: Member, time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I can say I know where the member is coming from. I heard the report in the House yesterday - quite emotionally, if I might say - because I think what the opposition party is attempting to do is to drive a wedge between Yukoners. And I must say, certainly, Mr. Speaker, that that's not what this government is here for. This government is here to bring people together. We're here for the greater picture. We're here to deliver for the public good, and we have to start in one area. And I must say that this government has tackled some very big issues that the previous administration would not even entertain because they did not have anywhere near the skills to do it. This government has.
And why are we doing it? We are doing it for the good of the public, the territorial people, the people who live in this community. And I call the community "Yukon". I am not here to distinguish between people who pay taxes and people who do not pay taxes, because in my mind all people are Yukoners. They deserve the right to be working with the government, and that is exactly what the government will continue to do.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it appears we're creating two Yukoners. The message that the minister is conveying by a squatter relocation plan is that it pays to break the law. Squat on land and you shall receive.
Can the minister tell the House how much relocating these 16 squatters will ultimately cost Yukon taxpayers? We're up to almost a million dollars now. What will the ultimate price tag be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to answer a question this time. It's certainly nice when the question does get approached and you don't cover it with a curtain of rhetoric.
Certainly, as the member knows, over the previous year and this year, we have had slightly less than a million dollars to look after this problem. Well, I categorize it as a problem but it's not a problem at all, Mr. Speaker. It's something that has to be done and cleaned up in the Yukon Territory and we'll continue to work toward that.
So, in essence, to answer the question, as the member well knows, we have slightly less than a million dollars in the budget over two years.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's slightly less than a million dollars in the budget, but what is the ultimate cost going to be? The minister is creating a scandalous inequity with his squatter relocation plan, Mr. Speaker.
Would the minister now agree to put his current plans on hold and make major changes to it to ensure that the needs of the Whitehorse Shipyards residents are accommodated in a manner that is fair and reasonable to all Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Sticking with answering the questions, Mr. Speaker, no, absolutely not. I do believe that we have a very fair process - a process that is transparent and a process that is fair to all. So, certainly, I'll work with the successful process.
Question re: Shipyards residents, compensation formula
Mr. Jenkins: Again to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the House the minister responded "yes" when he was asked if it was fair that the Whitehorse Shipyards squatters were moved to the head of the line over hundreds of other Yukoners in relation to their obtaining rural lands. So, today I would like to explore with the minister some other issues of fairness.
Can the minister advise the House if he believes it is fair to charge Yukon taxpayers $35,000 for a rural acreage while it appears the Whitehorse waterfront squatters will be receiving this lot for $15,000? Is this fair?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, again I am appalled, actually - I think I have to use that word. We are working with a problem that has been around since before the member has been in the Yukon Territory. I listened to the member speak quite elegantly in French, so obviously he's not from this community. He has moved here. So, what are we doing? We are working with a problem that your previous administration refused to work with, and why did it refuse to work with it? It simply did not know how to rise to a challenge, I take it.
So, yes, Mr. Speaker, we are going to continue to work toward the bigger picture for the common public good, and we're going to do it in a fair and respectful manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how that is fair to everyone else in the Yukon defies the imagination, Mr. Speaker. Does the minister believe it is fair that those Shipyards residents who did pay taxes would have those taxes returned to them, in addition to all squatters earning $1,000 a year from the government for squatting illegally, while law-abiding, taxpaying Yukoners pay and continue to pay? Is this fair, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, what is fair and what is a challenge is that we work with the people in the Shipyards in a very respectful way; by that we not only show respect to the people in the Shipyards, but we show a greater respect to the community of the Yukon Territory. Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the Member for Klondike speaks for a very limited few people in the Yukon Territory. I do believe that the government speaks for the majority of the people and will continue to speak and act with the waterfront residents in a fair manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's look at Mary Lake. Is it fair for residents in the Mary Lake area to have paid a premium price for a rural lot because it was beside parkland and then have the government come in and attempt to remove the park zoning in order to make the adjoining lot available to a Whitehorse waterfront squatter? Is that fair, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, certainly, Mr. Speaker, what we're speaking of at this point in time lies within the city's jurisdiction. I did answer that question yesterday, and I will answer it again today for the Member for Klondike. It certainly appears that I'm not the only one in this Legislature that has a hearing problem.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to continue to work with people in a fair and concise manner, with all people of the Yukon Territory. Whereupon there lies a different jurisdiction, such as the city, I will respect that jurisdiction and work with the city. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do believe that is fair to work with the different jurisdictions in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Highway construction funding
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions also for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Last year, the Government of Alaska gave the Yukon $11.5 million in Shakwak funding. This year, we received $19 million in funding. Now, you would think that that would mean, doing a little bit of math, that it is $7.5 million more that we would be spending on highway projects. But, it's not going to happen. Indeed, the NDP has cut their contribution to highway construction by about $7.5 million. So, the minister is giving with one hand and taking with the other. The result is that, despite the fact that we're getting all this extra money, we're not getting any more work done on our highways.
Mr. Speaker, it's simply highway robbery. Why has this NDP government cut their capital contribution to highway construction by $7.5 million?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, we are doing good things on the highways. One thing I would like to speak about here right now is putting the rural roads program into the hands of rural communities outside of the municipalities. We've doubled the rural roads program. We're doing roadwork on the Campbell Highway; we're doing roadwork on the Klondike Highway and we're doing roadwork on the Alaska Highway. Also, with our American partners, we're doing work on the Shakwak highway.
So, Mr. Speaker, I do not feel that we've cut. I feel that we're living up to our obligations, as anyone can attest to as they drive our beautiful Yukon highways - the safety and benefits of that.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, we certainly have increased our rural roads budget. We increased it to $1 million, but we took $7.5 million out - you're giving with one hand and you're taking away with the other.
Now, the NDP has taken $7.5 million from the highways capital budget. This $7.5 million would have put an awful lot of Yukoners to work this summer. Mr. Speaker, the government is already taking credit for putting more Yukoners to work this summer doing highway work. But they're not.
They have increased the amount of work on the Shakwak project, but they have cut back the same amount in the same department. It's a shell game.
Mr. Speaker, we have one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada. Why isn't this government doing more to employ Yukoners this summer, doing highway work?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Speaker, I only -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The members opposite continually comment on my weight, Mr. Speaker, and I continually say that I am working on it. I have answered that question, or that comment.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite makes the claim, essentially, that the government is not putting a sufficient emphasis on highways. It was this government that negotiated the Shakwak project in the first place. It was this government that ensured that the Shakwak funding would be advanced to last year and into this year, and that the full extent of the Shakwak project would be negotiated and completed during a five-year period. So we have, in fact, ensured a lot of highway work for this territory.
Now, the member opposite will say, "What about the net capital spending on highways and roads?" Well, Mr. Speaker, there are other priorities as well. There are schools to build; there are all kinds of useful projects to support. Is the member saying, therefore, that these projects should not be built? Or is she simply saying that there should be more spending?
Now, if she's saying there should be more spending, she should talk to her leader, because her leader was saying that we were running too big an annual deficit as it was. So, maybe the members could think it through, hear it out, and come to us with a consistent position.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, thank you for that. Let us remember that the Yukon Liberal caucus strongly supported the Shakwak project and that funding that came to this territory and to all Yukoners.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let's go back to the facts here. The NDP government has cut capital spending on the Alaska Highway by 93 percent. It has cut capital spending on the Campbell Highway by 48 percent. It has cut capital spending on the Dempster Highway by 27 percent, and it has cut capital spending on transportation, planning and engineering by 14 percent.
Mr. Speaker, we're getting a huge pile of money from Alaska for the Shakwak project, and it should mean a big jump in the amount of work that we do on our highways. It should mean more jobs.
Now, under the NDP government, it doesn't mean that; it means there are cutbacks to the territory's roads. So, we're giving with one hand and taking with the other.
Mr. Speaker, highway construction jobs increase safety for the travelling public, and that's for tourists and residents alike - and it means jobs. Why has this NDP government cut their contribution to highway construction?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the question I have, Mr. Speaker, is why the Liberals voted against the capital budget. Why did the Liberals vote against the Shakwak project - funding that is provided for the Alaska Highway and the funding that is provided to the Campbell Highway? Why did they vote against all those projects, as well as the rest of the capital budget?
Mr. Speaker, the member is playing games here. We've cut 100 percent of hospital construction funding. Why? Because the hospital's finished. What more can we do on the south Alaska Highway? We're finishing the south Alaska Highway. It will be completely finished.
So, Mr. Speaker, the member is clearly playing games. The reality is that we're putting at least as much this year in net capital spending as last year. We're directing it not only significantly to highways but also to building construction, because building construction involves jobs too - people working, too. So, there are people both in road construction and building construction who will be employed directly as a result of this budget. It's too bad the Liberals voted against the budget.
Question re: Fuel tanks in rural communities
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and it's about this NDP math, and speaking as a business person in this territory, to me it's absolutely frightening.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: The NDP show is right. It's already trying to put a gas station in Stewart Crossing out of business. Now, it's my understanding that the minister has plans to install government fuel tanks in other rural communities as well - not this year, but in future years. Mr. Speaker, we're going to be going through this same situation in Beaver Creek, Teslin, Carcross and Ross River. How many private gas stations is this government planning to shut down in our rural communities? Who is next?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, a short answer to the member's question is absolutely none. Absolutely none. We're not in the business of competing with people, but what we are in the business of doing is preserving taxpayers' dollars. So, certainly, as the member opposite has said, we are negotiating with the gentleman in Stewart Crossing. Certainly, that's what we're doing, and we're doing it to provide a better service and a better price for Yukon taxpayers in conjunction with the folks that run the business.
Mrs. Edelman: A little clarification then, Mr. Speaker - in places like Beaver Creek and Teslin, the government buys fuel from service stations that have monopolies, and the government buys this gas at a retail price. Now, in Stewart Crossing, the government has decided that they don't want to do this. Now, Mr. Speaker, what Yukon businesses want are rules that are fair and consistent. They don't want one policy in one town and a different one somewhere else. What is this government's policy, and why does the government buy retail in one town and wholesale in another?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I'm not sure where the question lies in that - if we're into wholesale or into retail. I can bring it back to the heading of the story, I guess, if she wants to put it into that type of scenario, and the heading of the novel would certainly be "saving taxpayers' dollars." That's exactly what the content of the story would be, and that's what we're doing. Are we looking to do it singularly in one geographic area? No, we're looking to bring costs down throughout the Yukon Territory, and we're going to do it on a personable basis by talking with people.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about paying wholesale, apparently, in the future in Stewart Crossing and paying retail in Beaver Creek, Teslin, Carcross and Ross River.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the minister is saying that this move is being done to save money. That's fair game. He's talked about saving $21,000 by putting in fuel tanks at Stewart Crossing. The numbers I have indicate that the government can save more money by putting their own tanks in Whitehorse and having government vehicles use those tanks.
In Dawson City, indeed, there'd be similar savings if government vehicles used government gas tanks, and that savings would be somewhere around $30,000.
It's possible to save more money for YTG by doing this - by putting in gas tanks in Whitehorse and Dawson. Why is the government doing this in Stewart Crossing?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: One more time, back to chapter one, and I think I've said this before in the House, Mr. Speaker. We are looking to achieve significant savings, if we can, for the taxpayer of the Yukon Territory throughout the Yukon Territory.
Yes, we will be looking at ways that we can save money and work with people to bring down the price of gasoline here.
Question re: Takhini Hot Springs prospectus
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development, on his very expensive Takhini Hot Springs prospectus.
Mr. Speaker, I've had the opportunity to review this prospectus and, for the life of me, I can't understand why the government would have paid $65,000 for such a document.
Mr. Speaker, in the past, both NDP governments and Yukon Party governments have put out documents telling people what is available in the Yukon, to further economic development. Neither one of them cost $65,000.
Mr. Speaker, the information in this prospectus is taken from documents such as this in government files.
My question to the Minister of Economic Development: why would he pay a non-Yukoner $1,500 a day to compile information that is readily available in departmental files?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, I'll say to the member opposite that we engaged the services of people in the Yukon and outside for developing this model prospectus for developing large sites that have potential for creating a lot of economic benefit for a large number of Yukon people.
Now, the first of these initiatives was with regard to Takhini Hot Springs. There is a lot of information in the document that has been compiled. There is also some that has been, in large part, created as a visioning statement for what this particular facility could be, and can be, for the territory of the Yukon.
We believe, very strongly, that government has to look proactively at some of these potential jewels for tourism growth and development, to help bring Yukon into the next millennium in a very, very strong way - just like the Tourism minister is doing by extending the runway and attracting new flights. Every six months, we're hearing about a new flight and new people coming to the Yukon to experience it. We feel that if we bring up product development in a number of areas, we'll be able to enhance the tourism experience that much more for people who visit the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, when the minister says that some of the information was created in this visionary document - somebody was hallucinating when they were comparing this to the Banff Springs Hotel.
Mr. Speaker, this document cost taxpayers of the Yukon $65,000. This document here, to sell the Yukon Centre, put together by professional people in Vancouver - a real estate firm - cost less than $5,000. It has more in-depth information than what this prospectus has.
Once again, I want to ask the minister: what else did we get for the $1,500 a day we paid a non-Yukoner to compile government information? Is there anything else that he did for us, for that money?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, I will say again to the member opposite that we engaged the services of some Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, and we engaged the services of some people who are non-Yukoners.
What I will say also is that this government is very proud that since the dark days of that member's administration, we've increased the total value of contracts that go out from this government to the Yukon people from 59 percent to 89 percent - some 30-percent increase - as a result of the Member for Whitehorse Centre's local hire initiative.
I know that's painful for the member opposite -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, in the debate last night with the Minister of Government Services, we debated the very issue of the 59 and the 89 percent. The Minister of Government Services admitted that the statistics were, in his words, Mr. Speaker, "damn lies". That's what he said yesterday about statistics. And that is the kind of statistics that the Member for Porter Creek -
Speaker: Order please. There is no point of order. Will the member please continue.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Before the rude interruption, very common for the Member for Riverdale North, whose decorum in this House is quite abhorrent, I was saying, Mr. Speaker, that the Member opposite I know also has a very dark spot for this particular consultant, because he was involved in the Taga Ku project, which he killed and cost the taxpayers of the Yukon and First Nation governments $8 million - money that could have been put into a lot of initiatives to put a lot of Yukoners to work in this territory.
Unfortunately, because of his shortsightedness, Yukon First Nations lost that business opportunity and taxpayers of the Yukon lost $8 million.
Speaker: The minister's time has elapsed.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister refused to answer the question as to whether the consultant worked on any other documents for the $1,500 a day.
The minister also said we had Yukoners and non-Yukoners. Yes, we did. We paid a Yukon consultant $500 a day. We paid a Yellowknife consultant $1,500 a day - for a document that is full of errors, which doesn't even know how far it is from the Klondike Highway to the hot springs. There are three different figures: three kilometres, 8.9 kilometres and 10 kilometres. One thousand dollars a day for a document that is inaccurate in a lot of places, with blatant errors all over.
Once again, I want to ask the minister if there were any other services provided by this consultant for $1,500 a day? Did he produce another document for this government?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, as we do this major product site development initiative, there will be more contracts given out: some to Yukoners, some to outside contractors. Some of them are going to be quite expensive, because we will need people both from the territory and outside who have a large degree of experience in these particular initiatives, extensive credibility and networking abilities throughout Canada. We want to ensure that we do a professional job and that things are put together in an appropriate manner, so that we can attract major investment dollars to try to bring jobs and economic activity to the Yukon Territory.
With regard to this particular initiative, we have received support from a number of tourism industry representatives. We have received support on the product development initiatives from the business community.
I don't know what the member's points are. Frankly, I think it's a lack of vision. I think we have to take the next step in terms of product development in this territory. If we think we've got value, we need to set a template for how we're going to set those kinds of visions and build on what we believe are some of the jewels for a Yukon product development in tourism in the future to create economic activity and jobs.
Question re: Bridge conditions
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The minister will recall that I requested on December 9, last year, a copy of the report on the condition of bridges in the Yukon and the paint on those bridges. The minister sent me the report on March 15, 1999.
Mr. Speaker, it took the minister three months to tell me that there are 144 bridges that are the responsibility of the Government of Yukon, and the report assesses 81 of them. The report grades the paint on these bridges on a scale of one to 10 and a rating of four or less puts the bridge on a priority list for painting. Half the bridges are on the priority list. The government has only scheduled one bridge to be painted in this year's budget. Why is repainting these important structures on our highways such a low priority with the government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, as the Government Leader pointed out earlier, we have a very balanced industrial budget. We have bridge painters, we have road workers, we have construction workers, and we also have the community development fund to identify the community priorities, so what we are doing is putting Yukoners to work. That's exactly what we're doing, and we're attempting to do it in every sector.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, half of the bridges assessed to date need paint, according to the government's own priority list. Half again are listed in this government report with flaking paint. Flaking paint is an issue when that paint contains chemicals like lead and cadmium, which we don't want in our waterways. The report says that there is flaking paint on the upper and lower Rancheria bridges, Koidern no. 2, Beaver Creek and the Yukon River bridge and the Klondike Highway - and that is just some of the report. Has the minister had the paint samples that are flaking into Yukon waterways analyzed for dangerous chemicals?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, this certainly brings me back to maybe the year previous, when I had flakes of paint delivered to me here in the Legislature. I certainly admire the courier service of the Yukon Liberal Party in doing such a thing. It's very generous of you to be able to bring in those flakes and to spend your time examining the bridges.
What we will do and will continue to do, Mr. Speaker, is continue to work with people in every sector, including the paint sector. We'll also work, as you know, Mr. Speaker, to protect our environment and to enhance our environment. Yes, those are the mandates of the New Democrat government, and those are the mandates that we will definitely deliver on.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was an interesting statement. It wasn't an answer to the question. The Environment Act states that the Government of the Yukon must ensure that public policy reflects its responsibility for the protection of the global ecosystems. The global ecosystems include the waterways of the Yukon.
The minister's department, in simply assessing the paint condition but not the paint itself or the effect on the waterways it's flaking into, isn't living up to this responsibility. It's no wonder, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP environment committee has resigned.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister commit that the paint will be analyzed and that the results will be made public?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly I will commit to continuing to work with Yukoners. I'll commit to working to protect the environment. I certainly will commit to all of those issues, and I doubt if the day will ever come but certainly, if it ever does, it will be a bad day for the Yukon Territory. Then the folks across the street will be able to start to understand what it is to be able to identify priorities, et cetera, as this government has.
But we will continue to work for the betterment of the Yukon people and, yes indeed, we'll continue to paint bridges where applicable and needed.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Phillips: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, March 24, 1999. They are Motion No. 152, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek North, and Motion No. 158, standing in the name of the Member for Riverdale North.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, March 24, 1999. It is Motion No. 159, standing in the name of the Member for Porter Creek South.
Speaker:We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with the main estimates, Department of Government Services. Is there more general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, last night when we left debate, we were dealing with the Chateau Jomini in Faro and the cost that the government was incurring maintaining this structure. Now, having done a little bit of a review this morning, I've looked at the total situation with respect to this building and I'm very, very curious, as I was last night, as to where the decision was made to maintain this structure, to board it up and keep it.
The minister admitted in general debate that the upgrading was estimated in 1992 to be a $1.9 million ticket item, but basically there was no need for commercial or office space in Faro at that time.
Now, we're talking about three buildings, and the minister, after moving around some numbers, finally admitted that it cost $18,900 just to board up the building and to secure it so that it wasn't a safety hazard. In addition to that, for the complex, the Government of the Yukon is spending some $30,000 a year in taxes to the community of Faro to maintain the structure there.
The minister went on to say that there was some $200,000 budgeted for the removal of the building this year. The $200,000 was budgeted so that they could take the building apart and use it as a make-work project. That, in itself, appears to be questionable; that $200,000 would be spent to tear the building down, stick by stick, when, if we want to do it in a cost-effective manner, there are more efficient ways than to remove it stick by stick.
I'm given to understand that the Minister of Economic Development and the Government Leader attended in Faro and met with the town council there, and were chastised for their decision to remove the building and that this would send a message out to the general public. The Minister of Economic Development, the Member for Faro and the Government Leader were chastised for making the decision to institute this make-work project. What the town council of Faro wanted was that the building be maintained, because if it were torn down it would send a clear signal out to everyone that, hey, Faro is shrinking and getting smaller.
This is in spite of the fact that this building has been out of use for some 12 years - 12 years. It's been reviewed from a standpoint of structural efficiency, and it would appear, Mr. Chair, that the structure would require major, major renovations to the tune of $1.9 million to support its use in another type of environment or another type of use.
When we look at the square footage of the three complexes that make up the Chateau Jomini complex, one would certainly have to question why we would even consider a frame structure for a corrections centre - for a remand centre - as was suggested. We're talking about a wooden structure vis-à-vis the correctional centre, which is concrete-cinder block. These are structures that have a measure of security.
This building is wood-frame construction with a gyproc interior, by and large. It's basically for residential purposes. It was designed for residential purposes and it's been kept for residential purposes with some alterations into office space. That's been about the extent of it.
So, it does give rise to the question as to why a decision would be made by this government to board up the building and continue to pay the $30,000 a year in taxes to the Town of Faro for that structure, when it doesn't make any sense whatsoever for the taxpayers of the Yukon to maintain that building.
We don't have a use for that building. We haven't been able to locate or find a use for that building for some 12 years, and prior to that, it was only used for a short period of time and was reopened. From when it was constructed in 1984, it really had a very short life, and we all know that frame buildings, when they are closed for extensive periods of time, do deteriorate, that they become structurally unsafe. And if you are going to use them for commercial purposes, they require a structural engineer to go through them and certify that they are useful. So, why would the government at this juncture continue to spend that kind of money?
It gives rise, Mr. Chair, to another number of issues surrounding Faro.
Now, I can understand that we don't want to close up the town - there is a potential, because the Anvil Range mine is still going through the bankruptcy procedures. We still don't know what the final outcome is going to be, so we want to hold all our options open.
Now, given that we, as a government, want to hold all our options open for Faro, one has to question a structure like this being maintained, at the cost it's being maintained for - $30,000 a year in taxes.
That is a considerable sum of money going into the coffers of the Town of Faro. For 12 years, this sum of money has continued to flow, and at virtually the same rate. So we're talking $360,000 that has flowed to the Town of Faro to maintain this building. During that entire period of time - that entire 12 years - we haven't been able to find, or locate, a purpose for that building.
Now, we've explored all sorts of options. We've explored office space; we've explored commercial purposes. The Minister of Justice, yesterday, said that the report from the corrections people who visited the townsite is not readily available. I imagine that will come forward after the Legislature rises, Mr. Chair.
As these contentious issues usually do, they are kept from our perusal until such time as it's absolutely necessary to bring them forward. What we're interested in, on this side of the House, is the best interests of the people of Faro - the Town of Faro - but the overriding factor is the best interest of the taxpayers of Yukon.
Is this a wise expenditure of taxpayers' money?
The other issue that the minister might want to take up with his colleagues, because we're crossing boundary lines here once again, is the fact that Faro has not had a reassessment for two cycles. All of the other areas of the Yukon are reassessed on a continuing basis, at least every four to five years - with the exception of Faro.
Now, in order for that decision to be made, if you read the Municipal Act, it has to be made virtually at the Cabinet table. So, somewhere along the line, a number of decisions have been made at the highest level of this government not to do a reassessment, to keep the assessment base of Faro artificially high, and not to proceed with the removal of the Chateau Jomini, which would be cost-effective, but to use it as a make-work project. But this government has decided, Mr. Chair, to continue to spend $30,000 a year to flow to Faro for taxes on that building.
So, what we have, basically, is a building sitting there, doing nothing, costing the taxpayers of the Yukon $30,000 a year. In any other area, any other jurisdiction, unless it's a heritage building - that's about the only other exception I can see, Mr. Chair, that would qualify for an exemption and we'd pay money to keep a building.
Now, maybe in another 100 years, Chateau Jomini, if it's still standing - and I'm sure Harry Jomini, the old townsite administrator whom this building is named after, would roll over if we declared it a heritage building. It might happen but I doubt that building will be standing at that period in time to qualify it for a heritage building.
Now, how are these decisions made? They seem to be made, by and large, Mr. Chair, on the basis of political will or political need to maintain a riding, to maintain a property. The rationale, when you apply common business sense to the equation that we have before us and what the government has decided to do, doesn't fit into anything other than this category: the decision was made for political purposes.
Now, perhaps I'm missing something, but when I look at the amount of municipal block funding that is flowing into Faro, when I look at the assessment base not being touched for two cycles - we have to go back to 1989 to look at the last time Faro went through a reassessment process - we have numbers that we're basing and using in our formulas that are based on information that is quite old. In fact, it would tend to skew the numbers in favour of that community.
Then, one would ask the question: why are we doing this? Why can't we be upfront and say, "Faro needs a helping hand here, here and here and this is the amount of money we're going to put forward." We are instead jeopardizing all of the various formulas that we have in place. The assessment formula, with respect to the value of improvements on property, we're jeopardizing that whole concept throughout the Yukon by not fitting Faro into cycle on a regular basis. We're looking at the municipal block funding and that formula takes into consideration population and yet, we're using last year's population numbers for that formula.
So, when you add up all these things in all of these areas, it does amount to political meddling for political purposes.
Now, why can't the minister be upfront and say that the decision was made, and this government has made a decision to fund Faro and maintain it because they expect, in one year or two years or three years, there will be an opportunity for the mine site to reopen, and then all Yukoners would know upfront what the community is costing us. I'm not suggesting that we don't fund Faro. I'm not suggesting, Mr. Chair, that we do not fund Faro. I'm suggesting that we be upfront in how we fund Faro. What is happening here is that this government is using all sorts of - let's call them "backdoor manoeuvres" to get the money into Faro to maintain it, and it's not fair to the Yukon, because it does skew a lot of the other numbers, and it does disrupt a lot of the other formula bases.
Everyone in the Yukon, if you want to look at the communities, knows that the formula is based on certain factors - the municipal block funding formula - but not in Faro. Faro is treated differently. Why? One has to ask the question. If this building - and I can cite a similar building in Dawson City, similar to the Chateau Jomini that was occupied by the seniors for their drop-in centre, and a previous NDP government said, "Whoops, it's condemned." The government said that they had, I believe, 30 days to get out of it. It could have been a lesser period of time, and then the building was sold for scrap. The contractor who bid on it removed the building from the site. Everything happened that fast - bang, bang, bang, bang. One of the major reasons given was: "We see no purpose for this building." I believe at that time, the grant-in-lieu or the taxes paid by the Government of the Yukon, the previous NDP government, to the City of Dawson, wasn't in the amount of some $30,000. I believe that they were about $6,000 or $5,500 for the structure, Mr. Chair.
So, here we have two identical situations - virtually identical. One is considerably less than $30,000 in annual amounts flowing to the Town of Faro and the municipality of Dawson. But the principles are the same. What is different is the treatment of the two buildings in question and the way that this government and the previous NDP government dealt with these respective structures.
The Member for Faro was sitting there chomping at the bit. He can go back into the records and into the seniors complex in Dawson. It was occupied by the Dawson City Seniors Society and it was a drop-in centre for the seniors. It was used extensively. It used to be the actual residence for the seniors in Dawson, and the new complex was built next door. This was adjacent to it and was connected by a passage to it. All of a sudden, the hammer was dropped by the previous NDP government and that was it. That building was condemned, everyone had to be out and it was scrapped.
It's amazing how much we change between municipalities.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Chair, the Member for Klondike is supposed to be debating the budget. What he's doing is engaging in a bash of the people of Faro and the community of Faro. He's drifting all over the place. We're supposed to be debating the budget. He's talking about some senior citizens home in Dawson City.
What does that have to do with anything?
Chair: Order please. There is no point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. Now, just before I was so rudely interrupted by the Member for Faro, rising on his point of order, I was on the comparison between a building in Dawson similar to the Chateau Jomini in Faro as to why this government treats the Chateau Jomini differently from how a previous NDP government treated Dawson City's senior complex.
Now, it's just amazing, and perhaps it's coincidental to Dawson being represented at that time by a lightweight backbencher in the NDP government, and Faro is, by all accounts, represented by a heavyweight frontbencher in this current NDP government, and he tends to want to - it doesn't matter what's right or wrong, it's just the fact that we win.
Now, I'm looking, Mr. Chair, for a win-win situation in which Faro comes out ahead and the Yukon taxpayers know full well what we're spending to maintain that community for the future.
I wouldn't have any quarrel if the minister in charge of Government Services came right upfront and said, "This is what it's going to cost our department to maintain X, Y and Z structures in Faro." Same for the Minister of Education, same for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
But let's put this information upfront as to what it's going to cost to maintain Faro. Let's be upfront and honest about what we are doing there and how we're going to accomplish it, instead of taking the numbers and burying them through a number of budgets all across the various departments, Mr. Chair.
Now, we got into debate here previously about, "Well, that's in another department." And we do tend to get the runaround and get bounced between one department and another when there's an overlap in responsibility.
And what we have here, Mr. Chair, is certainly an overlap of responsibility. On one hand, we have the Minister of Economic Development making decisions for Faro and persuading his cabinet colleagues to go along with him. Sometimes they don't know why, but they do, and the costs are borne and buried. Now that, Mr. Chair, is certainly not fair. It's certainly not fair to Yukoners.
So, what I want to know from the minister, Mr. Chair, is where the decision was made with respect to maintaining the Chateau Jomini. The information I have is that it was made by the Member for Faro, along with the Government Leader, on one of their visits to Faro. If that's the case, I don't have any quarrel with it - if they get up and say that that's the case, that that's why it was changed from demolishing the building to maintaining the building. Because we are looking at a significant sum of money over the years. We are looking at $360,000 so far that has been spent maintaining that structure. That's just the tax component alone, never mind every time we go to Faro or send a group to Faro to see what it's going to cost to explore putting it into commercial space or offices or change it over into part of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Look at the costs there. Every time we turn around, there's a cost there that's not identified.
The Member for Faro is practising his fishing without a licence once again, and he's sitting there just heckling in the background, Mr. Chair. For what purpose? It's just amazing.
I'm somewhat appalled that this government can't be more sincere and more upfront with the taxpayers of the Yukon and tell them what they're doing and why they're doing what they're doing, rather than bury it through so many different areas of so many different departments.
We only have to look at the situation with respect to the Whitehorse waterfront squatters and what it's costing there. We start off with a figure of $294,000, and we're up to just shy of $1 million, never mind the costs associated with the purchasing of new lands and the ongoing negotiations. All of those costs are being borne by the taxpayers of the Yukon. In addition to that, the City of Whitehorse is refunding some of these people their taxes.
So, we add up all these costs, Mr. Chair, and we certainly are looking at a lot of hidden costs and costs that are not identified and costs that the general taxpayers of the Yukon are not aware of. If we go back to the Chateau Jomini, it is just another example that was well-buried in the budget. It was very, very hard to find information as to what this government's intentions were and what they were planning on doing with it - and even the actual cost of boarding it up. We were initially told by the minister it was $30,000. Now, he knew somewhere that he was incurring that $30,000 cost. He didn't know why and he didn't know where. He suggested initially it was to board it up, but the actual cost of boarding it up and securing it turned out to be $18,900. The $30,000 was an ongoing, recurring cost to pay the Town of Faro for the taxes.
So, I'd like the minister, Mr. Chair, to stand up and tell the House today at what level the decision was made, where it was made and why it was made - and to be upfront with the cost associated with the situation in Faro, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'm so pleased to enter into this budget debate in Committee of the Whole, Mr. Chair, as the MLA for Faro discussing this budget item.
First of all, Mr. Chair, the member opposite spoke so much gibberish, it's hard to know where to begin, but I must say that I'm so offended at the constant opposition attacks on the community of Faro. It's not even thinly veiled. The people of Faro read this Hansard and they know exactly where the opposition is coming from in this Legislature - whether it's the desire by the opposition parties to eliminate the riding through boundary redistribution or whether it's the desire of the opposition to eliminate the block funding to the municipality.
Mr. Chair, I want to tell the members opposite that this community is a community.
It is not just a mine. In the last couple of months I think there are 10 or even 15 people who are purchasing homes in that community. People from other communities are buying homes there.
They have just almost finished the school survey, the principal was telling me on the phone this morning, and it looks like we expect to have 90 to 100 students next year. Presently, we have 121. They are almost finished interviewing the entire community on their plans for the next school year.
We are very, very close to finalizing some arrangements with the federal government that will keep the mine assets in place so that when we see the price of zinc rebound, we will see that mine - hopefully, with an operator - go back into production.
This particular initiative on the Chateau Jomini, much the bane of the opposition of this House - I must tell them that it has important significance to the community. There was some discussion with the minister and the MLA with the community about what they would do with the Chateau Jomini. There was some discussion that the facility could be demolished. There was a sense among some of the council that that should not take place. Some of the council felt that it should; some felt it should not.
We listened to the people of the community on that issue. Because of some security reasons - because some young people had been in the Chateau Jomini and had gone in and were undertaking some activities that were of concern to some parents - it was felt by the minister that there should be some initiative taken to further secure Chateau Jomini. That's the reason for the contract for some $18,000 to do some security work to ensure that the young people would at least have more difficulty entering the facility. There were some concerns about fire hazards and those types of things, and if some of the people wanted to do that, they would have a more difficult time.
Mr. Chair, let me say that it is very clear that the member opposite has just made a mockery of the town council's proposal, which I believe is born of good faith, to try and consider the location of the jail in Faro in this area, and he has scoffed at it.
The Department of Justice has taken a responsible approach. They know it would be a long shot, but they weren't prepared to dismiss outright the people of Faro and the suggestion of this initiative. So, they went and looked at it.
Now, Mr. Chair, I don't see anything wrong with that. I think it would have been a mistake to completely dismiss the people of the community and their thoughtful suggestion. That's not to say that it will happen, but at least the Government of the Yukon has enough faith in that community and faith in the ideas of people to put some resources into trying to deal with that situation.
Now, Mr. Chair, I also want to say that the town and the people in the community feel that that asset, the Chateau Jomini, is an important one for the community. Now, some people who are prepared to go to work at all costs because of extremely tough times - actually, a large number of people, I'm sure, would engage in work if it were demolishing that building or some other make-work initiative that would have a productive value. But I must say to the members opposite that the building does have a value, and people are actively looking at that building for any number of initiatives, for business ventures on an ongoing basis, and eventually, some people feel, something may come of that that will tangibly result in work being done.
Now, the member opposite has said that it has been a waste of money for the Government of the Yukon to keep that building in the community. I think that's ridiculous. First of all, there was a plan up until 1992 to do some work in the Chateau Jomini for the Yukon Development Corporation. It was killed by the Yukon Party when they won the election in 1992 - or, the plan was eliminated in 1992. I apologize for the use of the word "killed". And that was another direct action against the community by the Yukon Party government. Now that they are in opposition, we have seen calls from the opposition parties to do boundary redistributions and all kinds of things that are going to affect the future of that community, and I want to stress that it is a community.
Mr. Chair, what I think is important here is that the Chateau Jomini is still considered by many to be an asset that can be utilized for that community. People were not, on the whole, ready to remove it from the community.
It's interesting to listen to the Member for Klondike. The Yukon Party government was in for four years. In each of those four years, they paid the Town of Faro a grant-in-lieu of some $30,000 a year for that building.
Now, they're criticizing this minister for not tearing it down. I have to ask them the question why they didn't tear it down, particularly after they halted the multi-million dollar renovation that was going to take place at the Chateau Jomini. If you follow through on their logic then, based on what the Member for Klondike said today, then the minister of the day in the Yukon Party government should have torn that down.
Mr. Chair, I find the constant attacks on anything that is done in Faro - if the Government of the Yukon decides to pave some of the road to Faro, that's a "political manoeuvre by the MLA for Faro." Well, what I say it is, is respecting the people of the community of Faro and Ross River and Carmacks, and trying to do some roadwork, just like every other Yukoner, and every other community deserves their government to try and do.
If the Government of the Yukon puts some money into recreation facilities in the community of Faro, the opposition stands up and says that that's political larding by the MLA for the community.
I say that the people of Faro deserve, as Yukoners, their government to respect them as a community, and to put investment into that community. I'm bloody proud of the fact I've been able to be a part of the government that recognizes the contribution of that community to the economy of this territory and the culture of this territory for 30 years.
Now, Mr. Chair, I get so angry when I hear the constant attacks on the community and the people that I represent. It is not fair. When we decide that we're going to do roadwork on the Campbell Highway - which we've done the last couple of years, after four years of non-action by the Yukon Party government - when we invest in the community development fund, in the baseball field, and the skateboard park that the kids are using, we're proud of that.
When we invest in the arboretum, and the sheep-viewing facilities, we're proud of that. When we talk to the town council about make-work initiatives that will help the people of the community, we're proud of that. And we'll do that against every call by the opposition to eliminate that community, get the bulldozers warmed up, and drive 'em right on through - and then blow up the bridge on your way out.
That's not the approach of this government toward dealing with people we respect.
Mr. Chair, I want to say that the members opposite also - in the opposition - talked about the money that was set aside initially in the capital budget for demolition of the Chateau Jomini. It was set aside pending further discussions with the community. That was debated openly and fully in this last legislative session by the Minister of Government Services with the opposition. It was decided, after consultation and talking to people, that that was not the route and that there was a broad consensus to go on. There were people, I know, who would go to work on almost any project because they are hurting right now, but there were a lot of people who felt the asset had worth for the territory.
So, Mr. Chair, let me just say that I'm proud of what our government's doing in that community to support the school, to support the municipal council, to put work into fire suppression initiatives, to employ people, to do work on the Campbell Highway, to invest in that community through the community development fund, to work with the community of Ross River, to come together to ensure that the block funding is there for the community so that the municipality can operate, to put together an arrangement to preserve that critical asset, the mine, for the community, for the people of the Yukon, which has contributed billions, not just millions, but billions of dollars to the territorial economy for 30 years.
Mr. Chair, I'm so proud of the association I have with that community, and I resent very much the constant, constant attacks and undermining of people who have gotten so little for so much that they've contributed to this territory for so long.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That was satisfying on all fronts, and we'll carry on here.
Mr. Chair, yesterday there were some questions asked in general budget debate by the leader of the third party with regard to Queen's Printer agency and in regard to increases and decreases in expenditures.
With regard to the increase of $52,000 in salaries, that resulted from position vacancies in 1998-99 being filled and the impact of the collective agreement amendments.
On contract services, there is an increase of $30,000. The increase in services over funding provided in 1997-98 was for the Bureau of French Language Services. This is for the printing of forms and statutes translated into French. This is offset by increased recoveries from the Bureau of French Language Services, and all of the work will be contracted to the private sector.
There is a $5,000 increase in advertising. This consists of $2,000 for advertising of Gazette notices and $5,000 for initiatives to market the Queen's Printer agency services, such as flyer service guides, information seminars and the Web site.
There is no increase in program materials from the amount spent in 1997-98. Forecasts for expenditures in 1998-99 is the same as the combined total for program materials and printing in 1999-2000 - $7,100 plus $13,500.
With respect to questions on the decrease in the security and grounds maintenance by property management, the 1999-2000 estimates for expenditures on security and grounds more closely matches historical expenditures in these areas. The 1998-99 forecast was high and a positive variance is expected.
With respect to the secondment to Tourism, a Government Services employee has been seconded from Queen's Printer to the position of tourism planner at the Department of Tourism.
With respect to domestic versus foreign vehicles, I'm advised that one of the primary reasons why domestic vehicles are utilized is that they can be more easily serviced by C&TS, particularly in communities, and that there are some economic advantages to bulk-buying parts for C&TS.
With respect to the question by Mr. Jenkins regarding the lease of the administration building in Dawson City - the Dawson City administration building, located at 994, 998 and 982 Third Avenue. This building was transferred to Yukon Housing because they used the main floor as the warehouse. The building was transferred to the corporation. The offices on the second floor were unused. In November 1996, the Yukon Housing Corporation entered into a lease agreement with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation for the second floor of the old liquor building. This agreement was extended in 1997, and the First Nation vacated the premises in 1998 when their new offices were completed.
I'm working from Yukon Housing Corporation information. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in were left without government offices after the fire destroyed their building. Under the terms of the agreement, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in agreed to reinstate the heating system, pay all heat, electrical cost and repairs to the electrical and heating systems, insurance and snow removal.
Essentially, I have a letter here from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, just outlining the terms of the agreement and what the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in were prepared to do in utilization of that building.
That's my response. Thank you.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to thank the minister for that information. I am looking forward to reviewing it in written form. I just have one question that I picked up on immediately.
The minister's response regarding the Queen's Printer agency and the increase in funding that is cost-recoverable and then contract services - the minister indicated it would largely be contracted to the private sector. Is it the contracting for printing or translation services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That would be printing services.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a couple of questions arising out of the answers that the minister has offered here today with respect to the property released by Yukon Housing Corporation to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. I checked land titles just over a year ago as to the titled owner of that property, and that gave rise to my question of the minister. Could the minister advise the House when the property was transferred from Government Services to Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The building is loaned, rather than transferred, to the Yukon Housing Corporation. Yukon Housing Corporation was utilizing the main floor as a warehouse, and so there was an agreement between the Government Services and Yukon Housing Corporation - that was on November 26, 1996: "This is to allow the Yukon Housing Corporation the use of the old administration building", and then the building number. "As long as the following conditions are adhered to, all O&M and capital expenditure upgrades, repairs and insurance are the responsibility of the Yukon Housing Corporation in both costs and arrangement. Where the facility is no longer needed by Yukon Housing Corporation, the facility will turn back to asset control, Department of Government Services, for disposal. The building is for use of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Any structural changes are to be approved by us at control", and then subsequent to that, because the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation needed space, an agreement was struck between the Yukon Housing Corporation and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation.
So, the building is actually on loan.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that would explain why, when I did research it through land titles, I couldn't find any transfer of ownership to Yukon Housing Corporation.
Could the minister send over a copy of the agreement and specifically outline the section where Yukon Housing, when they were loaned this building, had the right to sublet? Could the minister just send over a copy of the agreement, because I'm not aware of any Yukon Housing agreements that allow the subletting of space, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can provide the letter between us and Yukon Housing Corporation and, if the member wishes, I can also send over a copy of the letter to Yukon Housing from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation outlining the conditions there.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd further like to know what costs were incurred by the various parties to this agreement. Who is paying the taxes or the grant-in-lieu on the building now that it's loaned to Yukon Housing Corporation?
The other question I have is, from my recollection, the heat was never shut off in that building. The office spaces were occupied until the transition was made from the upstairs offices to the old federal Parks Canada building on Front Street, and that was ongoing at the same time as the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in were moving in.
So, I'd like to get a handle on the costs that all the parties assumed during that time and during the last couple of years, as to what Yukon Housing is actually paying for loaning the building. Are they paying the taxes on it - the grant-in-lieu - or is that just thrown in? And who is paying the heat now? Who is paying the electrical bill? This is a different arrangement. Is the minister aware of any other buildings that are loaned to Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I'm not aware of any other arrangement like this. With regard to the grant-in-lieu, that would be paid by Yukon Housing.
Just in taking a look at the question of reinstatement of the heating system - just by the tenor of the letter, I would presume that Chief Taylor basically makes reference to the second floor of the building, so perhaps the second floor was shut off for some reason. I don't know if that was indeed the case, because they've said, "Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in is responsible for the reinstatement of the heating system and the cost of any repairs to the heating system. Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in is responsible for all the heating and electrical costs, and the future repairs on the system. Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in is responsible to acquire insurance to protect against any public liability and/or loss of contents. Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in is responsible for snow removal, and cleaning of the second floor."
So it looks to me as if the reference is primarily to the second floor, because later on there's reference to "waiting for an inventory of the contents of the first floor to be finished to inform our insurance company, and hopefully this will be completed next week and we'll send you confirmation."
So it looks to me - just from reading this - that the references are being made to the second floor in that case.
Mr. Jenkins: But what we have is a building, the ground floor of which was the old liquor store, the upstairs that were government offices. Both the second floor and the ground floor are all heated from one boiler. So, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in moved in in the late summer, early fall of the year.
I understand the tone and intent of the letter, but I would like to ask the minister to provide specific details as to how much each party paid to this agreement, because the intent is one thing and the actual reality could be something else.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member will appreciate that we'll have to do some consultation with Yukon Housing Corporation. We would certainly have to find out the specifics. It's just that when the issue was raised yesterday and it didn't show up in our inventory - that particular arrangement - we took a look into it, and that's why it seemed so unfamiliar, because it was an agreement with Yukon Housing Corporation. So, what we will have to do is get some further information from Yukon Housing Corporation in that regard and provide it to the member.
I couldn't tell the member at this point what the costs incurred by anyone were, but we will certainly contact Yukon Housing Corporation and find out what those were and pass them on to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: To avoid this kind of a situation in the future, how does one know or determine when buildings are loaned from Government Services to another agency of the government? Like, when the various parties first moved into that building, I checked land titles as to who was the titled owner. The titled owner never changed for the whole period, and I was told that the downstairs was rented by Yukon Housing Corporation for a workshop and storage rooms, and the upstairs was rented by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, and no one said that the landlord was Yukon Housing Corporation. Now, how does one find these things out in the scale of government? I know that the minister even was amazed that it had been rented out. How did it come about, and how does one ascertain how these things occur, and where are they documented, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would presume that some discussions had been going on about this earlier. Now, this is before we came into government. I would have to go back and check on some of the history of this building, but prior to the agreement, which was on November 1996, I guess there had been some discussion with Government Services about whether or not the building should be disposed of.
Since Yukon Housing had used the main floors as a warehouse and workshop, the building was loaned, if you will, to the corporation, and the offices on the second floor were unused. It just happened to occur, by unfortunate circumstances, that the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in was left without offices. This became a space that they could access and the Yukon Housing Corporation was just trying to respond, I think, in a very positive way to a need. I think it was just a series of circumstances at that particular time.
With regard to how one determines these particular relationships, I think we can certainly see if maybe the error is ours in the fact that we didn't list this building in our inventory with a notation on its status.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much for the information, Mr. Chair, but what we have is a situation where you can't really ascertain who owns what. After the liquor store moved to its new location, Yukon Housing, which had a current workshop in a heritage building on Front Street, moved into the old liquor store, and office spaces above that were still maintained for Government of Yukon. So, at what juncture did this transfer to the Yukon Housing Corporation take place? I'm still curious as to how this is noted and documented internally, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The correspondence took place in November 1996 and there was an asset control disposal or transfer form that was dated, actually, December 1, 1995.
There was a request for disposal or transfer in December 1995 and then, subsequent to that, asset control made the arrangements to transfer it over to Yukon Housing.
So, it should, in theory, be a loan. It looks as if, in 1995, there was some sense that the building could be disposed of in some way and then, subsequent to that, because Yukon Housing made, I guess, a bid for the building, it was loaned to them through an agreement and then, subsequent to that, Yukon Housing itself thought they would provide a service for the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation in their time of difficulty.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, unlike the Chateau Jomini, this building has been devalued over the years, and devalued significantly for asset purposes just a couple of years ago, Mr. Chair. What I'm looking for is a consistent application of all of the rules across the whole gamut of government assets.
That building has been in use. The fire hall used to be adjacent to it at one time. Municipal offices used to be up on top, but over the years that building has deteriorated, and the asset has been written down. In Faro, the case we just discussed earlier, the Chateau Jomini has never been devalued since 1989.
Does the minister feel that that is fair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess the member is questioning the idea of constituency. I thought we went through a fairly detailed discussion on the whole question of Chateau Jomini and I guess, if he wants to go through it again, we can.
On the question of Chateau Jomini, we were prepared to look at some other options for that building. Certainly, the entreaties that I had from the Town of Faro suggested that they felt that there could be other uses for the building.
It had been offered to the town, but they were unwilling to undertake it, no doubt because of their somewhat precarious economic position. But they were very concerned that the building would be removed and destroyed, and they felt that there were some options with regard to that building that could be explored. So, that's what we chose to do. After receiving the entreaties of the mayor and the town council, we said, "Okay, we can put this on hold for now until we get a greater determination of what some of the options are."
Subsequent to that, I mean, we've had some options proposed that had some private sector utilization suggested. We've had, as the member has noted, some suggestions from the mayor about the possibility of a corrections facility. So, we've basically just taken the position that we will stand by and see what the future will hold in terms of that particular facility and follow through when we've had a greater chance to explore all the options.
Mr. Jenkins: I probably have just one last question with respect to that building, Mr. Chair. How long will it be loaned to Yukon Housing Corporation before a determination is made as to the end use of that structure?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With respect to the building in Dawson City?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is not a period of time listed on the agreement. There is no particular date listed as an end date, so I would imagine that at some future point, if Yukon Housing Corporation doesn't require this space, it will come back to Government Services. At that point, we will have to make a determination of what the value is and should the building be disposed of in various and sundry ways, but at this point, we haven't put an end date on the agreement with Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's very interesting. No expiry date. Could the minister point to another building or another lease that the government has in place with any group that doesn't have an expiry date?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would imagine that the stats are somewhat different, because, in a sense, it's an exchange between a government department and a government corporation, in this case.
But, in taking a look at this, there's nothing in terms of a lease type of agreement. In other words, there is no cost involved. There is no charge being levied. The agreement is simply to allow the Yukon Housing Corporation to use the old administration building in Dawson, as long as the following conditions are adhered to. O&M and capital become the responsibility of Yukon Housing Corporation, as does insurance.
When the facility is no longer required by the Yukon Housing Corporation, the facility will turn back to asset control, Government Services, for disposal.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we've been told that this building in Dawson was loaned to Yukon Housing Corporation. Now, we're told it was an exchange. Now, just what is it? I'm still very concerned, for ample reason, that there is no expiry date on this loan or exchange of this building.
Now, every other lease that I'm aware of runs for a certain period, and it does a number of things. You renegotiate the terms and conditions of the lease after the expiry of that lease, or you review it as to whether you wish to continue it. It triggers a couple of occurrences.
This kind of an arrangement, Mr. Chair, just lends itself to falling through the cracks, and no one really knows what's happening or what's going on.
Now, does the minister feel that this is a reasonable way to conduct business? I would suggest to the minister it is not. Because it lends itself to just falling by the wayside, and not being dealt with down the road.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I would suggest that this is somewhat different from the normal lease arrangements, where a building is leased, and there's a subsequent charge for the building.
In this case, there's nothing in terms of a lease payment back to us. Basically, it's to allow the Yukon Housing Corporation to use the old administration building, and it sets out the conditions. The Housing Corporation in this case has to bear the costs of the upgrades, repairs, insurance, O&M, and when the facility's no longer required by Yukon Housing, it will turn back to the Department of Government Services for disposal.
It's fairly straightforward; there appears to be nothing in terms of charges, in terms of costs. So, in other words, the Department of Government Services is not getting a net benefit from the building, in terms of any particular costs back. It's not a charge-back; it's just the use of the facility.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's give the minister a for instance. For instance, the Government of Yukon wants to construct something on that very expensive corner lot, and the lots adjacent to it. What recourse does the Government of the Yukon have to tell Yukon Housing Corporation that they're no longer allowed in that premises; they've got 60 days or 90 days or 180 days?
That mechanism isn't in that arrangement. The mechanism, or the arrangement, is totally in favour of Yukon Housing Corporation, and that is not a fair and reasonable way to do business.
That's why I'm suggesting to the minister that this is a very unusual arrangement, even though Yukon Housing is supposed to be an arm's-length corporation of the government.
I'm still concerned that there's not a lease in place, even though it's a dollar a year. I'm not even questioning the terms that it's leased for. They appear to be more than reasonable. I'm just covering the overriding factors onto this property as to what if the Government of the Yukon wants to do something with that land down the road? Yukon Housing could say, "Well, fine, but we're not finished with it." So, why isn't there a lease in place? And would the minister not pursue having a lease in place on it? A buck a year or a buck for a decade, it doesn't matter, but there should be something to trigger a review of these kinds of situations every so many years, Mr. Chair, and a lease does that. This arrangement does not, and it could come back to haunt future governments. I'm sure the minister can see that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It hasn't been an issue to this point, so presumably the relationship has been reasonably amicable. I can have some discussions with the Minister for Yukon Housing, and I'll ask my department if they feel that this leaves a measure of exposure for the Department of Government Services or limits them in any way. I'm sure we can raise that with Yukon Housing if that is, indeed, deemed necessary.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, Committee will go to Corporate Services. Is there general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Corporate Support Services
Corporate Support Services in the amount of $2,070,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I ask the minister to provide, for the Hansard record, an explanation as to the 50-percent increase in cost in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That is for the telecommunications innovation centre, the contribution that we're making to the Northern Research Institute.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I had quite a discussion with the minister with respect to changes in the focus of the department and the responsibilities for communications, and so on. Is there an established link between Government Services and Community and Transportation Services on communications issues? For example, is there a regular series of meetings or any sort of exchange process?
For example, communications aren't just by telephone. We've got e-mail. We've got one part of the government responsible for systems and another part responsible for communications. There are a lot of issues in the communications field. Is there a link between Community and Transportation Services and Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, indeed, there is. For example, we've cooperated on a number of ventures, including preparing a joint proposal for the CRTC on the high-cost serving area. So, that was an initiative by both our department and C&TS.
C&TS, of course, has interest primarily in community telephone infrastructure, but the member is right when she identifies that Government Services, because of our role with ISB and because of our role in such things as telecommunications with schools and computer systems and so on, we have an interest there.
We have been working fairly closely together, and I know that on a number of these issues we've cooperated.
Telecommunications in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. Under the corporate services contract administration estimates, there are no changes, and it would seem to me that there certainly have been some changes in terms of the Yukon economy, and I'm not going to get into the statistics argument again in this House. Could we just have a short explanation from the minister as to why there is no change in the forecasted statistics?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's generally anticipated that the volume of contracts, particularly construction contracts, awarded will remain the same as in the previous year, and it's similar with regard to the value of construction contracts. It's estimated to be in about the same range.
Corporate Services in the amount of $2,145,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Administration and Finance
Administration and Finance in the amount of $366,000 agreed to
On Production and Network Services
Mr. Jenkins: Where do we anticipate the decrease in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The two -ercent, or $77,000, decrease is due to the following: a $56,000 increase in repairs and maintenance, primarily for systems software; a $36,000 increase in personnel costs due to the impact of the collective agreement; a $6,000 increase in training costs; $4,000 for miscellaneous decreases; a $36,000 decrease in advertising and outside travel costs due to an expected decline of outside recruitment, since many of the vacancies are already filled; a $52,000 decrease in communication costs, including long-distance charges and wide-area network charges; a $286,000 decrease in the use of technical contractors, as vacancies due to secondments are expected to be filled; the $203,000 increase is a result of position vacancies in 1998-99 due to secondments to capital projects.
Mr. Jenkins: The $286,000 decrease and the $203,000 increase appears to be just personnel movements, Mr. Chair. Could the minister be more specific as to what areas this encompasses? Where are we moving these people around to and from?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have been using technical contractors to fill some of the vacancies that had occurred in the department in this particular branch. Since those positions have now been filled, we are anticipating that there will be a decrease in the use of technical contractors.
Production and Network Services in the amount of $3,205,000 agreed to
On Client Services
Client Services in the amount of $278,000 agreed to
On Records Management and Communications
Records Management and Communications in the amount of $304,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister provide an explanation as to the increase in this area?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The 19-percent, or $70,000 increase is due to the following: $76,000 increase in personnel costs is due to the filling of positions vacant in 1998-99; a $10,000 increase in personnel costs is due to the collective agreement wage impact. There is an $11,000 decrease in outside travel costs for training and $5,000 in miscellaneous decreases to regular program support costs.
Planning in the amount of $442,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the statistics?
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The number of help-desk calls shows quite an increase between the 1998-99 forecast and the 1999-2000 estimate - a 23-percent difference. Is this attributed to major changes in software? What is the anticipated increase attributed to?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The increase is due to an increase in the number of workstations, servers, printers, and an anticipated increase in the number of more complex applications in use - common systems such as HRIS, FMIS, et cetera.
Information Services in the amount of $4,595,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Administration in the amount of $227,000 agreed to
Purchasing in the amount of $405,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer
Queen's Printer in the amount of $327,000 agreed to
On Asset Control
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide an explanation for the increase, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The 11-percent, or $19,000, increase is due to $18,000 due to a negotiated collective agreement, filling of vacancies and merit increases of $1,000 and miscellaneous.
Asset Control in the amount of $191,000 agreed to
On Transportation and Communication
Transportation and Communication in the amount of $920,000 agreed to
On Central Stores
Central Stores in the amount of $195,000 agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $2,265,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Realty Services
Realty Services in the amount of $11,241,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on statistics?
Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Property Management in the amount of $11,241,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $20,246,000 agreed to
Chair: We'll go to capital. Is there general debate?
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister state, for the record, what the decrease is attributed to?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The decrease of $81,000 is generally seen as fewer projects eligible for business incentive rebates than were identified in the 1999-2000 year. It's expected that there will be goods manufacture rebate, $50,000; rebates in 1998-99 forecast for previous year's projects, $24,000; and miscellaneous, $7,000.
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $322,000 agreed to
On Community Access Program
Community Access Program in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Technology Innovation Centre
Technology Innovation Centre in the amount of $200,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $135,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $757,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $1,365,000 agreed to
Information Services in the amount of $1,365,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
On Acquisition of Used Assets
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister just outline what assets we're looking at acquiring? The only used assets I'm aware of are in C&TS.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: An increase in the request from the department for used assets resulted in an increase in the budget of $3,000. Supply Services will acquire surplus used assets from the federal government and corporations, as they become available.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give me an example of what we'd be buying from the federal government? If it's not in the transfer of the devolution process, why would this be in addition to it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: These could include such things as furniture, desks - that kind of thing - that would take place prior to devolution, as the federal government scales back and abandons us to our own devices.
Acquisition of Used Assets in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
On Queen's Printer Equipment
Queen's Printer Equipment in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Special Operation Agency: Queen's Printer Agency
Special Operation Agency: Queen's Printer Agency in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Supply Services in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $271,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $1,606,000 agreed to
Pre-Engineering in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $229,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Common Facilities in the amount of $600,000 agreed to
On Property Management Equipment
Property Management Equipment in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Project Management Services
Mr. Jenkins: This area was somewhat contentious. We did get into a heavy program of project management last fiscal period and we seem to have backed out of it somewhat and awarded larger contracts. What do we envision getting involved in with project management this go-around, Mr. Chair, that's going to cost us a million bucks?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is $1 million that will be recoverable directly from the federal government because Public Works Canada and Government Services entered into an agreement to provide project management services on three forestry infrastructure construction projects, consisting of an upgrading of the air tanker base, aircraft parking and bulk storage at Whitehorse, reconstructing an air tanker base and initial fire attack facilities at the Dawson airport and reconstructing the seasonal initial attack base at the Haines Junction airport. The management of these projects will extend over a total of five years, with an estimated annual expenditure and offsetting recoveries from Public Works, Government Services Canada, of $1 million a year, of course subject to the federal budgeting process. There's no change in the level of expenditures anticipated for this year.
Mr. Jenkins: I was just anticipating seeing this in C&TS, more than in Government Services. Why is it in this location?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is primarily buildings and such things as bulk storage facilities - things of that nature - so we've entered into this agreement between Public Works Canada and Government Services.
We also have some agreements with the federal government for the maintenance of some of their facilities in and around Whitehorse, as well. We have been discussing with them, as well, the idea of us taking over the maintenance of the Elijah Smith Building, for example. So, we have several of these agreements in place.
Project Management Services in the amount of $1,000,000 agreed to
On Prior Years' Projects
Prior Years' Projects in the amount of nil agreed to
Property Management in the amount of $3,806,000 agreed to
Chair: Any question on recoveries?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the sale of government surplus equipment - was the estimate reduced simply to account for a reduction in what we've actually realized? Is that the explanation for the reduction? Why has that amount been reduced from what was estimated last year?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The decrease of $35,000 from the 1998-99 forecast to the 1999-2000 estimate is due to an increase in the recycling of equipment by government departments.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It was just recycling.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $6,018,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I wonder if I could beg the Chair's indulgence for a few minutes to get my other materials here.
Chair: Does Committee wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Five minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is now turning to the Department of Health and Social Services. We are on general debate.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce today the operations and maintenance and capital budgets for the Department of Health and Social Services for 1999-2000.
This is a budget that strives to meet the present needs of Yukon people while we continue to consult, plan, and work together to ensure future health and social priorities are met now and into the next millennium. This budget introduces a variety of new and exciting initiatives which balance our commitment to foster healthy communities.
The budget provides a balanced social agenda for youth, seniors, families and low-income people, building on our anti-poverty and senior strategies, health promotion and prevention, and our healthy families initiative.
For the fiscal year 1999-2000, the department is projecting a three-percent increase in O&M funding, for an overall budget request of $113,076,000. Contained in this overall budget is $2,050,000 for new health programs that reflect this government's commitment to the health and well-being of Yukon people.
Mr. Chair, I'll now touch on some of the significant health and social initiatives contained in this year's O&M budget.
A $200,000 professional development fund has been created for practitioners actively working in the fields of health and social services. The government recognizes the growing need for practitioners to practise their skill level and gain exposure in emerging areas of program development, delivery and evaluation. These resources will be available to practitioners of health and social services within the Yukon government, non-governmental organizations, private agencies, and professional organizations that provide direct services to the Yukon government.
In keeping with our commitment to foster healthy communities and to assist children at risk, we are pleased to provide $200,000 in additional funding to the Child Development Centre. This will increase our total funding commitment to the Child Development Centre to $1,150,989. This funding will go to support the Child Development Centre's outreach work in rural communities to ensure that children in rural communities have better access to the services that the Child Development Centre provides. This will focus on children with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Last year, the government implemented the healthy family initiative, which offers support to parents from the time of the child's birth until they reach five years of age. An additional $228,000 will be available for this initiative in 1999-2000, and $183,000 will be allocated to family and children's services for three new family support workers.
An enhancement of $45,000 will go to support resources in the Whitehorse Community Health Centre to ensure that all components of the healthy family initiative can be functional without shifting resources away from other priorities. This will bring a total commitment to the healthy families initiative to $400,000. This initiative is fostering healthy communities by providing services to children at risk.
We are aware that many people, young and old, find it difficult to make ends meet. It has long been recognized that poverty can lead to a host of other problems - poor health, substance abuse, family breakdown, neglect, violence, disability, and shortened life expectancy. The government believes that everyone has the right to have a basic minimum standard of living that ensures adequate food, shelter, clothing, safety and an ability to fully participate in society.
The anti-poverty strategy released last year sets out the framework for the government to ensure that linkages between various initiatives are made and improvements realized. While not contained in the Health and Social Services budget line items, I'd be remiss not to mention the introduction of two new anti-poverty initiatives that complement each other and make more disposable income available to Yukon families and individuals who need it most.
The low-income family tax credit, or LIFT, will provide $300 a year of non-refundable tax relief for people with net incomes less than $25,000. In addition, we will be setting aside a half a million dollars for the new Yukon child benefit. This program is aimed at families with children whose net income is less than $22,000 a year. It is estimated that approximately 1,100 families and 2,000 children will benefit from this new initiative.
As well, this new benefit will not be considered as income in calculating social assistance payments. We are presently exploring partnership possibilities with the federal departments of HRDC, Revenue Canada and DIAND on the design, delivery and harmonization of our program with the national child benefit. Together, these two initiatives commit $1 million to low-income individuals and families in the Yukon.
Turning our attention to community-based alcohol and drug treatment, I am pleased to indicate that an additional $200,000 will be added to the program to provide support for community treatment centres. This brings the total for this program to $300,000.
Working in partnership with the First Nations and CYFN, a strong, community-based addictions program is being developed.
Mr. Chair, families and children in low-income families are not the only ones needing extra support. One of the areas this government has moved to address is the opening of additional continuing care beds for those who need a high level of care on a long-term basis. An investment of $645,000 will be used to open seven additional beds in the Thomson Centre. In addition, $108,000 will be available for an outpatient day program at the Thomson Centre. This program helps clients remain in the community and provides much needed respite for caregivers.
Mr. Chair, the Department of Health and Social Services continues its commitment to provide quality health care to the citizens of the Yukon. We have kept our promise by not imposing medicare premiums, while offering some of the best health care services in the country. We continue to work with First Nations, community groups, parent advocacy groups and public health professionals to develop preventive programs.
We are committing $98,000 to expand the diabetes education program introduced last year. Diabetes is one of Canada's most prevalent health problems, affecting nearly 1,500 and 3,000 people in the Yukon.
The diabetes education program has been extremely successful, with broad community support, and additional funding will allow the program to continue beyond the pilot stage.
In order to support hospital-to-home linkages, the government is providing an addition $140,000 to the Whitehorse General Hospital. This funding will reduce unnecessary hospitalization and approve community support for two patient groups: the frail and elderly, who need long-term support services and people with chronic mental illness, who are frequent visitors to emergency and in-patient services.
The hospital will be able to work more effectively with families, community-based programs, and non-government organizations to avoid or shorten hospital stays when needs can be better met without an admission.
The medical social worker funded by this program will also ensure that discharged patients have the necessary supports at home. This will help reduce re-admissions.
In order to protect the level of health care provided to Yukon residents, the government is funding two critical areas. The Whitehorse ambulance service has seen call volumes increase dramatically, and the number of multiple calls now exceed 300 per year. In order to ease the situation, we will provide $131,000 for backup ambulance services.
To provide the level of service necessary to the communicable disease unit, the government will commit an additional $100,000 to cover the cost of lab fees charged to us by the province of British Columbia.
With respect to the capital budget, a total of $5,611,000 - or a four-percent increase - has been allocated toward capital projects in the Department of Health and Social Services. I'm pleased to announce two major construction projects.
Two million dollars has been allocated for the planning, design and specification work for a new 74-bed continuing care facility. These funds will also cover any required site acquisition and servicing costs.
The draft senior strategy, released in February of this year, sets out current and planned initiatives to meet the needs of older people.
The construction of a new continuing care facility will form a major cornerstone of the strategy by addressing the need for additional beds for Yukon residents requiring extended care. Construction of a new facility is expected to commence in the year 2000.
The second major construction project that has been undertaken by the department is the completion of the new Teslin health centre. A total of $1,500,000 will go toward the completion of the new facility, which will provide a much-needed centre to serve the people of Teslin.
Other capital expenditures include $450,000 to cover the cost of furniture, operational equipment and systems development. Family and children services will receive $220,000 to assist with the purchase of foster home equipment, funds for the start-up of enhancement grants to the Yukon childcare centres and family day homes, renovations and equipment to provide for ongoing maintenance to young offender and child welfare facilities.
The social services capital budget will be $2,507,000, which includes $2 million for the planning of a new continuing care facility; $507,000 to cover the cost of renovations and equipment for social services, alcohol and drug services and home care at Thomson Centre, Macaulay and McDonald Lodge.
In addition to the completion of the Teslin health facility, the social services capital budget will see slight increases in the expenditures for equipment in the chronic disease and extended care benefits program, as well as the increase in funding for equipment for hearing services and for the communicable disease unit.
These are the highlights of the O&M and capital budget for the Department of Health and Social Services for the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd be happy to entertain questions.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, Mr. Chair, one of the issues that surrounds our community that I would like some response from the minister on is the issue surrounding our dentist in Dawson City and our doctors in Dawson City. Can the minister advise why the dentist still does not have a contract in place nor a lease for his office? What is taking the department so long to put one in place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With respect to the dentist, I can take a look into that and get that. I don't have a note on that particular issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's an issue that's been ongoing and there have been repeated requests of the minister's department to provide a copy of the lease that was promised a considerable time ago, Mr. Chair. It still hasn't been forthcoming and it would appear, from what I'm given to understand, that some of the terms and conditions are being altered in this lease.
While the minister has a chance to review why the lease is not there, could he ascertain why they're looking at changes, what those changes are, and why the department wasn't upfront in mentioning these potential changes? Can the minister undertake to bring back that information?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will undertake to bring back information. I do have to suggest, though, that I take exception to the inference that the department was not upfront. There may be some issues around this lease that have yet to be clarified. I will take a look into that.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but the minister doesn't have to take exception to anything. The terms and conditions of the lease were spelled out. Then, when it became known who the proponent was, the lease kind of fell between the cracks. It wasn't as readily available and as forthcoming as it was prior to that period.
Now, Mr. Chair, this dentist saves the department a considerable sum of money over the arrangements that were previously in place by the department to provide dental services for the community of Dawson and the region surrounding Dawson.
And why the lease hasn't been put in place to this point just defies me. And the minister can stand up and suggest that he takes exception to what I'm having to say, but be that as it may, the fact still remains that, from the time that the dentist was moved into this office space until the present, there is still no lease despite repeated promises from the department that there was a lease, it was there, and it was to be signed before he was to move in. That has never occurred. Why?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I gave the member an undertaking that I would look into it. My taking exception is to the inference that the member is most noted for, and that is the inference that public servants are somehow deceitful or underhanded. I think that is a disservice to all public servants, particularly to the people at Health and Social Services, in whom I have tremendous confidence and tremendous faith that they do try to act on the best behalf of all Yukoners. If I take exception, I take exception to the member's characterization and somewhat pejorative tone.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I share with the minister my regard for his officials and for their ability. What I have the lack of confidence in is the minister's ability to provide adequate direction to his officials. I believe that is where the problem lies in the department.
But, we have an undertaking, Mr. Chair, from the minister that he's going to bring back that information, and I guess we can move on to the next issue in Dawson City that is of paramount importance to my constituents, to the people who live in the area surrounding Dawson, and to the department, and that is the provision of adequate physician coverage in our community.
From the information compiled by the minister's own department, Dawson had in 1997 - and I don't expect that it's altered much - the lowest cost per person to this government for providing health care services; that is, total payments for medical services paid out to Dawson.
The population base to the end of 1996 worked out to a per capita cost, for each resident of Dawson and area, of $147.36 per person. In Faro, under the two physicians that were there at that time, it worked out to $191 per person. Watson Lake came in the highest of all rural Yukon communities, at $248.20.
It would appear, Mr. Chair, that we have a considerable variance in what the government is prepared to pay to provide health care in rural Yukon and what it is currently paying.
We start looking at the coverage that we're receiving in Dawson - it used to be virtually 100 percent of the year; I guess it's going down, Mr. Chair - and if we look at the cost for Faro, that per capita cost is based on about 55- to 60-percent coverage for the year.
Now, these are the minister's department's own evaluation of the various types of delivery of physician services in Yukon.
It was specifically targeted and done to analyze Faro, but it did point out considerable cost disparities among the three Yukon communities that have resident doctors.
I would like to know what the minister is going to be doing to address the issue of on-call services in our community.
Now, I know the minister is going to get up and he's going to bandy about some numbers. We've had an opportunity to analyze the numbers that the minister has used in the House and in the newspapers. In the history of a doctor in Dawson, there has never been a full-time doctor who has ever billed close to the rural average quoted by the minister. The minister quoted $188,000 per year for average annual billing. I'd like the minister to provide that information for Dawson, because that is not the case. The best year for a Dawson doctor was 40 percent less than that figure, Mr. Chair.
That's where we're going to start, and I'd ask the minister to bring an undertaking forward to provide that information and correct the record. Can the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, the average rural fee-for-service physician makes approximately $188,000 for treating Yukon residents alone. In reciprocal billings for attending to Canadians from other jurisdictions, the average rises to about $220,000, and this doesn't include earnings from treating non-Canadian visitors.
The issue, I suppose, really depends on how much time the individual physician is present in the community, how much they are willing to do such things as call-outs and so on. In some communities, the physician responds to every call to the hospital or the nursing station.
In some, such as Faro, the resident physician there, Dr. Fast, has a very strong working relationship with the nurse practitioners, and consequently the nurse practitioners see to many of the initial treatments.
So, it really can vary. It can vary based on, as I said, the length of time that the physician is present in the community; the nature of the practice, and so on. The figures that we have are $188,000, and that's been calculated on an average of rural doctors.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the inference was there, Mr. Chair, that the Dawson doctors are earning $188,000, and that $400,000-and-something was paid out last fiscal period to the Dawson doctors.
Now, I'd like the minister to bring forth that information, because it is spread over quite a number of doctors. We're not talking two doctors receiving that sum of money. That's what we're referring to.
And could the minister please correct the record, with respect to Dr. Fast in Faro? Dr. Fast works four days a week, 10 hours a day. So his availability is not 24 hours a day, seven days a week. His work schedule is for a four-day week, at 10 hours a day.
Could the minister just confirm those facts?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will confirm the fact that Dr. Fast is on-call when he is in the community.
With respect to the actual physician remuneration in Dawson, I am restricted from revealing individual physician incomes. I can tell the member that in the Dawson practice there was $411,000 billed to Yukon residents, and an additional $49,000 in reciprocal billings. Beyond that - beyond, for example, what was billed to American visitors - we have no way of tracking that.
I am restricted by certain issues of privacy at revealing individual doctors' salaries. I can tell the member that, in some jurisdictions, this can be revealed. Manitoba, for example, B.C., and, I believe, Saskatchewan all have public disclosure acts where a person can go and see what physicians are billing the system. We cannot in our particular system.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, can the minister tell the House how many doctors in Dawson billed for $411,000? We're not talking two doctors. We're not talking three doctors. We are talking more than three over the period of time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, well, that really does depend on how many doctors are billing over a period of time and for what period of time. It also is impacted by the amount of time that the resident physicians are away. I believe that in 1997-98, the resident physicians were not there for - I believe it was 20 some-odd weeks. So, it really does depend. I basically said that the practice in Dawson is largely dependent upon the amount of time that the doctors are there and how much they bill in the practice at any given time. I can get the statistics on how many weeks of billings we've had for the resident physicians there, and I can pass that on to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I have that information, Mr. Chair. What I'm looking for is the minister setting the record straight with a total number of doctors that were on the billing system for the last billing cycle, last year. How many doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it depends on how the calculation is done, in terms of full-time equivalents. You can divide up the number of doctors in a variety of ways, but the fact is that the practice still generates $460,000 in billings. That's the simple matter. I suppose if you had three doctors who are billing, that would be divided three ways. If you had five doctors billing, that would be divided up according to how much time the doctor was in the community and what kind of billing the doctors were willing to do.
One of the big issues on this is the actual call-out. We have a call-out fee that is $93 between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. and a call-out premium that is $108 between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. This premium is about 149 percent higher than the Canadian average. What we often find is that when physicians are in a community on locum, they will instruct the nurse practitioners that they want to be contacted at every occasion - I suppose because they are there for a limited amount of time - to maximize their income.
So, it really does depend on the kind of practice. There's no universal way. I don't think we require doctors to practise in all the same mode. Those are the figures that the practice billed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it might surprise the minister if I were to suggest to the minister that the reason most doctors start a practice or occupy a practice is to provide health care. Most doctors come on a locum for a change of venue and a change of area because they like the area, not to maximize their income, as the minister has stated here in the House. That certainly has not been the case. That is quite evident by the minister's department's own statistics, which clearly identify Dawson as the lowest cost per capita of any of the three Yukon communities served by medical practitioners.
Now, something has to be wrong for the minister not to understand what's going on in his department. Here you have Dawson City, where the doctors there are providing the lowest cost health care in the Yukon, out of Faro, Dawson and Watson Lake. In fact, it's $100 per capita lower than Watson Lake.
Now, what I want to know from the minister: how many doctors billed for the $400,000-odd last year in Dawson? How many was it? Because the inference is out there that you have two doctors in Dawson City earning $400,000 or more a year and that is completely false, Mr. Chair. That is not an accurate reflection of what is going on in the community of Dawson.
You have the second largest population centre in the Yukon and you have two doctors there in the winter, yes, but seasonally, there's more than two. And doctors do like to take some time off, do require holidays, do require going out and taking additional training. How many doctors billed for that $400,000 amount in that period, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, we can provide the member with some information in terms of what the full-time equivalents were in that community. I can tell the member that in taking a look at the number of call-outs, one of the physicians there, who was on locum, has a particularly high call-out rate on the evening, daytime premium and the night premium, so there appears to be some interest.
There were also some other physicians who had a high call-out rate, so I would say that there is some interest in physicians when they come into a community, of practicing a different mode. Some of them do ask to be called out for virtually everything that comes to the clinic; others don't.
Dr. Fast, for example, in Faro tends to not have as many call-outs for the simple reason, I think, that he has a different working relationship.
The fact that Dawson has the lowest cost, I think, is perhaps a reflection of the health of the community overall.
I guess the member is arguing that the physicians in Dawson are not well compensated. That seems to be his inference - that they are not well compensated. He suggests that, in terms of time off, the physicians in Dawson don't have any time off. I can tell him, quite frankly, that that is not the case. We know how many weeks were billed, and the physicians in Dawson seem to have an adequate amount of time off. I believe it was somewhere around 14 weeks last year and 28 weeks in the previous year, so if it's an issue of time off, the physicians seem to have an adequate amount of time off, and I would suggest that, given the compensation rates, they are well compensated.
Is the member suggesting that they are not well compensated?
I would also suggest that he's ignoring a salient point in the fact that these physicians, unlike other fee-for-service physicians that we have in the community, don't bear the expense of office rent, utilities, et cetera, because they operate out of a portion of our health station there. When one takes a look at the fact that, for the average physician in Canada, their average cost is somewhere between 36 and 40 percent in overhead, the overhead in this case for these physicians is considerably reduced.
If I'm not mistaken, I believe the town of Dawson also compensates the physicians in terms of issues such as free housing and some other issues.
070So, I would suggest that the physicians in Dawson are compensated well. We have call-out fees. We have attempted to negotiate arrangements in several cases that we feel would give the doctors some guarantees of locum coverage, vacation time, guaranteed income, et cetera.
Unfortunately, those have not been as well-received as we had hoped. We have also said from the very start that our priority was to have a third physician in Dawson. We've indicated that we were willing to go for an arrangement that would provide a third physician in Dawson, which would have reduced the on-call demand, we believe, to a very manageable rate.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister bounced all around the issue of the number of doctors that shared in the $411,000 worth of billings last year.
How many doctors are we talking about in Dawson City who receive that $411,000? Because the inference is out there by this minister that we're talking about two doctors, and I can assure the minister that is not the case.
So, could the minister kindly stand on his feet, and advise the House: how many doctors in Dawson shared in the $411,000 worth of billing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We calculate it on weeks of service, and according to weeks of service, we have 2.7 equivalent FTEs.
Mr. Jenkins: That's not the question. The question to the minister: how many doctors in Dawson shared in the $411,000 worth of billing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess it really depends on what the member is getting at. Is he getting at the fact that $411,000 plus $49,000 reciprocal billing is not enough? Because the physicians in Dawson have asked for an on-call equivalent, which would add an additional $220,000 to $400,000 on top of the amount already billed in the community, and that seems to have been the bottom line.
We have offered options which we would feel would provide the doctors with a good level of income, guaranteed remuneration, guaranteed coverage for locums, guaranteed coverage for holiday periods, professional development, et cetera, equivalent to our arrangement in Faro, and that has been consistently rejected. The fact is, regardless of how many doctors one has, the practice still bills $460,000, and that's the way it works.
Now, if the member is suggesting that on top of that we double the amount billed in that community, I would suggest that's neither practical nor is it a particularly wise use of public money.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question. The question: how many medical doctors in Dawson City shared in the billing of $411,000?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Maybe I'll let the record reflect the fact that I've already told the member that there was $411,000 in Yukon billings and $49,000 reciprocal billings. We have no idea what the foreign billings are, and the amount being asked for would add on anywhere from $220,000 to $400,000, depending on how it is calculated.
Now, that is simply unacceptable. What we think is more acceptable is the idea of having a third physician in Dawson to reduce the demand on the physicians there, and we have suggested that we could either do that through a contract basis or we could offer a similar arrangement to the physicians there. If it's a question of guaranteed time off, if it's a question of guaranteed income, we can do those kinds of things. We have offered that. Unfortunately, the physicians there have not responded positively in that regard.
From this point on, I would say that our alternative is to take that to the YMA to make it an issue of contract negotiations, and that's what we've indicated we will do.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question. The question once again for the minister: how many medical doctors in Dawson shared in the $411,000 worth of billing and the reciprocals - the $460,000, or whatever it was? How many medical doctors? I'm not looking for FTEs that he calculated. I'm not looking for anything other than the number of doctors who served the communities. How many individuals?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's not a particularly practical way to calculate it, because the number of doctors who are there, you know, could be a locum. He could be there for one week, two weeks; he could be there for a more extended period of time.
The fact is that we calculate this on an FTE, which I gave the member earlier. I have also told him how much the practice bills. If he is suggesting that we should be adding on yet additional money because some of the physicians have chosen not to be there on a full-time basis, and that we should be compensating them for not being there, I would suggest that that's not a particularly good logic.
If a practice is there and it bills a certain amount, the physician can take those options as to whether to take a locum or not. But, if a physician chooses to bring in a number of locums, then it would suggest to me that the individual physician has taken a decrease in salary or income in response to time off.
I indicated earlier that there were some 14 weeks where the physicians in Dawson were off last year, plus an additional, I think it was, 28 weeks the previous year. I would suggest that that would have a major impact on a physician's income.
Is he suggesting that we have an obligation, therefore, to compensate people for not being there? I think that is seriously flawed logic.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Mr. Chair, let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question. The question, once again, to the minister is: how many medical doctors shared in the billing of some $411,000, plus reciprocal, in Dawson in the last fiscal period? What's the total number of doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've indicated to the member that that's a very poor way to calculate. If I said, for example, there are four doctors sharing that, then the assumption would be that all four doctors shared equally in the practice and that may not be the case. One physician may be there for a couple of weeks, one physician may be there for a month and one physician may be there for two months. That's simply not a logical argument. For the member to imply that if you take the billing and you divide it up, then everyone gets an equal share - that's simply not the case. Some physicians will get more; some will get less, depending on the length of time that they're there for the locum.
I think the important thing is that the practice itself generated $411,000 plus $49,000 for a total of $460,000 for the entire practice. That is, I think, the salient issue. The member was very quick to talk about how much it costs to service the people of Dawson in terms of medical services, pointing out, you know, that somehow it's more economical than other places. I would suggest that he really needs to take a look and ask himself how long the physicians were there at any given time and take a look at the number of locum that came in, the length of time that the locum were there and the form of practice because that, as I indicated earlier, has a major impact on the amount that is billed by a particular physician. There is a difference in the scope of practice. There's a difference in the way that individual physicians practise and that also would have an impact.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it looks like we're fighting an uphill battle. I'll probably get my dog to speak before I can get the minister to answer the questions here in the House.
But let the record reflect, Mr. Chair, that the minister has failed to answer the question, and the question is: how many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing? How many doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member is merely being insulting. I have given him the information before in terms of the full-time equivalents that we have in the community. I have given him information on how much the billing is. I've given him the information on the nature of practice, the fact that the locums vary. I've provided him that information, and I would suggest that if he has other salient points he wants to discuss in this case, we should move on.
I should point out that in the spring of 1998, the Physician Resource Planning Committee, which includes one of the Dawson City doctors, approved the hiring of a third doctor in Dawson, and we believe that this would help reduce the burden of responsibility, but, I would imagine that if you have a third full-time physician there, that will impact on what an individual physician makes, because then, in this case, what you'd be doing is taking the practice, which is normally approved for two physicians, and dividing it three ways. So, I think that's an issue that has to be recognized.
I believe we also have to recognize the fact that, in general, our fees are higher - anywhere from 40 to 60 percent higher - than in other parts of Canada, and part of that has been to recognize the sort of unique nature of medicine in this territory, and that has been negotiated by the YMA on behalf of their members. So, I think that there are a number of things that have to be taken into account.
077I think as well, as I mentioned before, that the fact we provide practice space for the physicians seems to have been completely forgotten in this equation. As I indicated before, the physicians do normally have an overhead, and what we've done in Dawson is that, by providing a space, is actually reduced the overhead. And, as I said, I also understood that there were some issues around some incentives that the City of Dawson contributes for the physicians. As a matter of fact, I should also note that those are not amenities that are available to other physicians in the territory. Particularly rural physicians. I know the physician in Watson Lake pays for his own clinic facilities, and his own utilities et cetera. The doctor in Faro - while he operates out of the clinic, that's reflected in the contract arrangement with him.
So, just to say that I don't have a tremendous problem with the idea of compensating physicians for service - what I do have is some concern when the only option that the physicians there have been willing to consider is something that would raise the cost of the medical services there very, very substantially.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, once again let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question. He's bounced all around it.
What I want to know, Mr. Chair, is: how many doctors shared in the $460,000 billing? The inference left out there by this minister is that there are two doctors. I want the minister to set the record straight as to how many doctors we are looking at. Because it's not two, it's not three, it's not four.
Now, how many doctors are we looking at who shared in that $460,000? The way the minister would describe it, it sounds like a windfall amount flowing into Dawson.
What the minister is failing to recognize is that, of the total payments for medical service paid to the three rural Yukon communities, the total amount paid out in Dawson City is the lowest per capita by far, based on his own department's analysis and assessment. It's $100 less per capita than it is in Watson Lake.
Now, those numbers speak for themselves. The coverage is there; the service is there. But let's get back to the question. I want the minister to state for the record here today, Mr. Chair, how many doctors share in that $460,000 amount of billing?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The practice is approved for two physicians. It has since been approved for three physicians. There is $460,000 in there. I have never inferred - never inferred - that the two physicians in Dawson received the full amount. What I have said is how much the practice bills. The member is drawing his inference.
He also tries to make some rather spurious comparisons between other communities. The nature of medicine varies with the nature of the physician. Some physicians prefer to see patients on a more frequent basis. Some physicians prefer to be called out for every case that's brought to the hospital. Some physicians prefer to practise in a manner utilizing a greater use of nurse practitioners. The Dobbin report, which is sometimes being identified as something having to do with physician compensation in northern British Columbia, recommended - recommended - greater use of nurse practitioners in communities. We have nurse practitioners in all of our communities.
The nature of medicine is not fixed. It is not a simple stamp on the head and you say this is what you can do and this is what you can't do. Physicians' billings vary, one, because of the nature of the community, I think, two, the nature of the practice, and, three, the nature of the actual operations - is there a greater use of nurse practitioners or is there less use of nurse practitioners? I've never inferred that the physicians there, the two physicians together -
I will note that the physicians there do appear to have had adequate time off. Frequently, I hear this is not about money. I've heard time and time again that this is not about money. This is about time off, quality of life. We have gone forward with some proposals that we believe would give the physicians more personal time, more time off, more quality of life.
That's what we've offered. That unfortunately has not been accepted.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're starting to get there, Mr. Chair. My question for the minister still remains the same: how many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing in Dawson City? What's the total number of doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I've indicated to the member before that there are some issues of confidentiality. We will take a look into them and see what we can provide for the member.
I would suggest, however, that he is still missing a salient point; that being that there was $460,000 billed in Dawson City. That is a fact. The way that doctors choose to practise, the way they choose to utilize their time, the amount of time they choose to have their offices open and the number of locums they choose to bring in will all impact on their income. If I were a physician and I chose to take off half of the year, quite clearly there would be a large number of locums and my income would reflect the fact that I was off for half the year.
As I indicated, we've given the member some information and he has chosen not to use it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there's no confidentiality surrounding the issue of how many doctors practised in Dawson City during that last billing period. There's no confidentiality whatsoever, Mr. Chair.
What I would like the minister to state, for the record, is how many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing in Dawson City during the last fiscal period.
We know from the minister's department's own statistics that the cost on a per capita basis for total payments for medical services flowing into Dawson is the lowest of the three rural Yukon communities. These are facts and numbers assembled by the minister's own officials. They were assembled by Ron Pearson for Malcolm Maxwell. Now, if he wants to dispute those figures, he can take it up with his officials.
Now, these numbers hold true and fast, and clearly reflect the amount of dollars being paid out to the respective communities for total payments for medical services.
Now, all I'm looking for, Mr. Chair, is the total number of doctors in Dawson who shared in that $460,000 worth of billing.
The minister has gone around in circles. He's jumped through more hoops than any clown in any circus could ever endeavour to do, but he still has not answered the question. I want to know how many doctors shared in that $460,000 worth of billing. If the minister doesn't know - which he probably doesn't - could he have his officials get that information - it shouldn't be hard to ascertain - and bring it back tomorrow? Could the minister undertake to do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the member continues in his insulting manner, he really brings down the tenor of this House by continuing on with his antics. He may be playing for the audience back home, but I think that he really does need to temper his remarks. He is, quite frankly, insulting and, I believe, rather patronizing.
I guess the question that I would ask is: what is the point? He makes a comparison with Faro. We have offered the physicians in Dawson an equivalent arrangement to Faro, which provides them with an income of, I think, somewhere around $160,000 individually, plus guaranteed locum time plus guaranteed PD time, et cetera, et cetera.
We've made that offer. It has been rejected. We've also indicated that we would seek a third physician in that case to reduce the amount of on-call that they would be subjected to.
We've made those offers, and basically the only thing we've got back is that the physicians there have asked for a block of money and, basically, let them determine how that money would be allocated.
What is the issue that the member is trying to prove? Is he trying to prove that there are some problems with the continuity of service there, that they have to have more physicians there? Is he trying to prove that the physicians in Watson Lake tend to be there in the community a greater amount?
I'm at a loss to understand what his point is, because I think if he's trying to suggest that perhaps there are more doctors sharing the practice in Dawson, I think that would beg the question then - and a logical inference from that would be - well, wouldn't that really defeat the idea that the doctors there don't have time off? So, in other words, if you have a practice that has more physicians, then that would suggest that there is less demand on the physicians at any given time.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, let the record reflect, Mr. Chair, that the minister has failed to answer a very simple question. The question for the minister is how many doctors in Dawson shared in the $460,000 billing? How many doctors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's 2.75 FTEs.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, what I want to know is how many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing. How many people?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I've indicated, that's a false argument, because we would have to break out each physician by the length of time that they were there, the number of on-calls that they had done, the number of respective weeks that they practice.
I suppose it could be done; there are issues of confidentiality that we would have to respect, and we would have to do some calculations in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, what would be the issue of confidentiality in stating the total number of physicians practising in a community? Can the minister explain that?
Once again, Mr. Chair, the minister has failed to answer the question. The question is a simple question.
How many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing in Dawson City? It's a simple question.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member is trying to make a simple question out of an issue that is a lot more complex, because the issue really doesn't involve "how many doctors".
In other words, if you said that a practice billed $500,000 in a particular year, and that you had two resident physicians, and perhaps three locums, the logic would suggest - well, if there were five doctors in the community, then that would suggest that each one received $100,000. That may not be the case.
Indeed, it may be that the two resident physicians billed a certain amount, and locums billed a certain amount. It would be calculated on weeks; it would be calculated on call-out fees, and so forth. That would have to be factored into the equation.
The member is playing a rather simple game. He's suggesting that if there are a number of doctors there, then you divide up the money, and everybody receives the same amount. That is not the case, and as long as he persists in asking the question in that manner, then I will have to respond in the same, and like, manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, once again let the record reflect that the minister has failed to answer the question, and the question is quite a simple one. It is: how many doctors shared in the $460,000 worth of billing in Dawson for the last fiscal period?
The minister is an expert at using averages and using numbers to his advantage.
Now, the minister is quoted as saying that the average annual billing for Yukon's rural physicians is $188,000 per physician, and everyone would come out of a briefing - or a radio broadcast - after hearing that figure quoted by the minister assuming that the doctor in Faro made $188,000, at least, and that both doctors in Dawson made that kind of money.
Such is not the case, Mr. Chair, but what I'm looking for is for the minister to state in the House how many doctors in Dawson shared in the $460,000 worth of billing last year.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have indicated before that it doesn't work in that simplistic a manner. What it works on is the number of clients, the number of services, the cost, and so on. That is the kind of information that really goes into determining what the practice is and what the cost is.
The fact of the matter is that one can use salient facts for everything. I have been told, for example, that physicians don't get any money for being available. That was the impression that was left. In reality, that's not the case. There is a $93 evening call-out fee and a higher one for after 11 p.m. That's something that hasn't entered into the equation, nor has the fact that the doctors there do not have some of the normal costs of a practice. That's been surprisingly absent from this whole debate.
I haven't heard the member acknowledge the fact that that's probably a positive benefit of a considerable amount. I haven't heard him mention, at all, that the physicians in Dawson received some substantial subsidies in terms of water, sewer and other issues in terms of support for their housing.
I think one can point at facts and use them to support a case on both sides. What I've simply said is that this is the amount of money that has been billed in the community. Here is the amount that the physicians have asked for on top of that, and they've asked for it in a manner that, quite frankly, we didn't think added anything to the level of medical service in the community.
So, we felt that that was not appropriate. Therefore, we have suggested that it needs to be resolved in a different manner. We've offered, on several occasions, programs that we feel would be of net benefit to physicians there, such as the idea of going on a contract basis and the idea of some guarantees. I'm not really sure what the inhibition is in terms of going on a contract basis, since we have a physician in Faro who seems to be working very well on such a basis and seems to be content with the arrangement there.
We've offered some things that we think would add some benefit to the physician's lifestyle in terms of time and so on and so forth. I'm not really sure where the member is going with his argument, but I would suggest that maybe we need to move on in this process.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we need to move on as soon as the minister answers the question. The question that the minister once again failed to answer - I was hoping he would promise to bring back the information tomorrow - of the $460,000 annual billing for Dawson, how many physicians is that money shared among? What was the total number of physicians who shared in that $460,000 billing.
Now, if the minister can provide an undertaking to bring that information back tomorrow, we can certainly move on.
The fact still remains, Mr. Chair, that once you analyze the total payments for medical services going into the three rural communities - Dawson City, Faro and Watson Lake - the cost per person is the lowest for Dawson City. It's $147.36 per year versus $191 in Faro per year per person and $248.20 per person per year for Watson Lake. We all know what has happened to the population in Faro and we know the statistics for Watson Lake are down. We know that they're marginally down in Dawson City, but the cost per person is really a true indicator of what it's costing the Government of Yukon to look after the medical needs of that community.
So, what I'm looking for is an undertaking from the minister to bring back the total number of doctors who shared in the $460,000 worth of billing for Dawson last year.
The other area where some information has been put out by the minister that doesn't accurately reflect the true cost is the number of medevacs originating out of Dawson in a year. Now, from the historical data that I'm aware of, it averages between 50 and 60 a year - not 19, as the minister stated in this House, nor is it 30 or 40 as he corrected the record to. Last year it was 51.
Now, the information that I've had assembled - and the information comes through the actual departure and arrival time of the aircraft - is that 70 percent of the medevacs were after-hours or on weekends or on statutory holidays, and 83 percent of those after-hour medevacs were for Yukoners. That's for the last fiscal period.
Now, the minister put out a number for the cost of a medevac as being some $1,700. What the minister has failed to recognize is the true cost. The government pays $1.5 million a year for a three-year contract just to have the air ambulance on standby. That's not factored into it. All we're looking at is the cost per flight.
Now, what the minister has also failed to recognize is that usually there is a team of two nurses accompanying that aircraft when it flies out of Whitehorse to Dawson. If it's nurses, nurse practitioners or a trauma team, it's $300 for most medevac teams, Mr. Chair. If there is a doctor, which there sometimes is, accompanying the aircraft, it's an additional $814 for the medevac out of Dawson. So, the true cost of the medevac is way in excess of the $1,700-odd that the minister quoted in the House here.
Now, I'd like the minister to bring back an overview of what the true costs of medevacs are, because the information that has been put out there in the public domain is only partial information. It does not paint the true cost of medevacs.
Now, that's a simple request. Can I ask the minister to undertake to bring back the number of doctors in Dawson who shared in the $460,000 worth of billing, and the true cost of medevacs, and can he have that information for tomorrow, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll try to provide the member with some further information in that regard. I should mention that the figure that he quoted as a global figure for the territory also includes the federal involvement.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is a commitment to bring back all of these true costs.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, we'll try to provide the member with some further information in this regard.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I want to go back to the minister's opening comments about the Department of Health and the budget that's here.
He spoke about the retention of nurses. What I'm wondering about at this point - I've asked the minister about this in Question Period, of course, before, and he indicated at that time that he had gone and consulted - indeed, I think I ran into the minister on the road when he was doing some of those consultations -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: - and I know that he has been talking to nurses, but there are some parts missing from that consultation process. Parts of that are talking to YRNA, talking to nurses who have left the Yukon, finding out why they left, talking to the nurses who are here and finding out what sort of incentives make sense to them for staying in the Yukon, and, of course, talking to the private sector and the people who employ nurses, like the hospital and the doctors in town.
What is our plan to deal with the issue of retention of nurses, particularly in the rural communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there has been some positive progress in this regard. As the member is correct in saying, I have gone around and visited communities and talked with them.
Some of the issues that we've heard, for example, have involved such things as, basically, quality of life, ability to get away; in some cases, housing; in some cases, just recreational opportunities - particularly in small stations.
One of the things that I've heard is the idea of being tied to the radio. It sort of limits the personal possibilities that you have there.
So, those are some things that I've heard. Certainly, the income issue was one. I had heard, prior to the reclassification, that there had been some expectation that when nurses came over to the territorial government - nurse practitioners, that is - there would be an increase. I think there had been that expectation, and part of it, I think, was a pent-up sort of demand due to the fact that there had been a number of years, particularly under the federal regime, where there had not been increases and I think people assumed that, when they came over, there would be some kind of a commensurate increase.
We have had some discussions with the hospital. I've had some discussions with the YRNA. We've talked about such things as the idea of getting young people into the nursing profession. We've talked about such things as professional development opportunities. Some of those things are reflected in the budget here.
Certainly, the YRNA has made me very aware of the demographic crunch with nurses. It's an ageing workforce, by their own admission, and one of the things has been that there have not been new people going into nursing, so that's something that we've discussed.
With regard to what we've done in terms of recruitment, we've hired 25 CNPs to provide short-term relief, and the availability dates vary from January through August 1999. We've done the reclassifications, as I've said before. We've developed a substantial database of contacts. We've developed recruitment activities such as videos and so on and so forth. We've done a very aggressive recruitment. Even today, I heard that there was some considerable dissatisfaction among nurse practitioners in northern Quebec, particularly in some of the more remote communities.
Being opportunistic, that is something we would want to follow up on. We have some very aggressive recruitments there. We have done advertising in Canadian nursing journals, small-town national papers, we've done a survey of CNP staff to identify issues affecting retention. So, we've actually gone around and talked to them. We've asked them. What kinds of things help keep them here and what kinds of things should we be doing in terms of recruitment?
We've done some things in terms of housing. When the nurses came over, there was going to be a housing policy which would have seen housing move toward more of a market rent over a period of time. We've actually deferred that for a period of time, just to improve the retention climate. The planned increase in rent is not going to be phased in.
As I've said, we've done some very active recruitment nationally - in October, in Nova Scotia and November, in Toronto and at the University of Alberta, in Newfoundland, at Memorial. We've done recruitment in Vancouver, doing direct sourcing by telephone contacts, full-time.
We have a full-time resource person organizing and facilitating recruitment. We've been working with the PSC to develop competitive employment employment offers. We developed a Web site. Actually, there has been considerable interest in the Web site. The number of hits has doubled on this one in January.
We've tried to provide some more adequate staffing levels to offer less of a workload for nurses and something such as the ability to bank compensatory time and also some changes to the collective agreement, which allow for job sharing.
I can just tell the member, if we're taking a look at the community nursing services, we do have staffing in all of our communities. There are still some full-time vacancies that we have to work on, and that's going to be our priority.
Essentially what we've found is that there tends to be greater retention, the larger the community, and I think that just simply makes sense. The greatest turnover tends to be in the communities that are much smaller, where the ability to move, I guess, is somewhat greater.
So, that's where we're going to focus. We're going to focus on getting permanent folks in some of our very small communities.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, some things that I have spoken to nurses about over the years - one of the feelings that they had was that when they were with the federal government, they had a real sense of team and morale was fairly high, even though I must admit that some of the places where nurses live in the territory are not great by anybody's standards, to say the least. Indeed, I have spoken to Yukon Housing Corporation about some of the stuff that was transferred over from the federal government to the territorial government, and that housing stock is very poor, and I would have some trouble charging market rents, if there is any market for those particular facilities.
The minister still hasn't talked about talking to nurses who have left and finding out why they left. I think that might be a very good indicator of how we can retain nurses, and I wonder if he's done that, or if that has been done by the department.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, actually, my official advises me here that they did track some of the nurses who had left - in the Collier report - and many of the issues that I've identified here, where the issues that nurses who had left identified were the same kinds of issues as some of the nurses that I've talked to in communities have identified - the idea of being continually sort of attached to the community; the idea of sort of being on your own for very long periods of time; the lack, sometimes, of professional collaboration, or professional opportunities. Those are some things that we identified out of the Collier report, and those are some very common themes that I get when I go out to the communities.
And I can tell the member that one of the things that nurses - particularly in very small communities - have said, is that this combination of being sort of attached to your job, being attached to the radio, really limits what you can do. If you're within a certain range of the community, you can't go out and, say, go fishing at a lake that's maybe 15 or 20 kilometres out of town.
Because you're attached to the radio, you have to get back, and one of the things that they've sort of suggested is perhaps some amenities to make life just a little bit better. There may be such things as housing, there may be the idea that you could bank up some of your time and take a longer period of time. It may be the fact that you could do such things as share a job in a community, if there were some other staff you could share a position with.
So, those are some things that we've heard.
Mr. Chair, I move you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker 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. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has 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.
The time being 5:30 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.