Tuesday, April 21, 1998 - 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?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Anvil Range mine: court-appointed receiver
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have to apologize, to begin with, for the late announcement of this statement, and apologize to the opposition, as it was difficult, given the court proceedings in Toronto today, to give the customary advance notice of this statement.
However, I did feel it was of significant public importance and deserved a statement today.
I rise to provide the House with an update about the court proceedings in Toronto concerning the Anvil Range Mining Corporation. As members are aware, the court granted Anvil Range an extension to work out details of a restructuring proposal that the company presented to its creditors on April 8 at the request of YTG.
The restructuring proposal involved the appointment of Graham Farquharson of Strathcona Minerals, who investigated the Bre-X collapse, as the chief executive officer to work with the creditors committee. They also called for the hiring of Earl Jodrey, a restructuring expert who was instrumental in turning Algoma Steel back to profitability in the early 1990s.
From the outset, the Yukon government has worked with the creditors and Anvil Range to seek effective ways to maintain the viability of the company and to protect the interests of the workers and the Yukon public. Unfortunately, over the past week, it became apparent that Anvil Range could not meet the terms of the proposed restructuring. This resulted in the creditors losing confidence in Anvil Range.
Anvil's largest creditor, Cominco, subsequently followed through on its earlier request for a court-appointed receiver to work with the creditors to decide the future of the mine. This request was not opposed either by Anvil Range or other creditors, and the court has today appointed a receiver.
YTG took no position of support for a receiver, unless its mandate was clearly to work within our publicly stated objectives.
The receiver has 45 days to work with the creditors to develop a marketing plan for the sale of the property and to determine which assets should be sold. Our government will fight to ensure that assets with significant potential for a restart will not be sold.
It is important to note that Anvil Range still has an opportunity, if it wishes, to forward another restructuring plan for its creditors to consider. The company is not bankrupt as a result of the receivership and still exists as a corporate entity.
Since Anvil Range filed for creditor protection, and throughout the core proceedings, the Yukon government has consistently taken positions that have protected workers and that have been in the best long-term economic interest of the community of Faro and the Yukon Territory.
Members may recall that we were successful in ensuring an early payout of vacation, severance, termination and floater pay, and made sure that all outstanding payments for medical benefits and workers' compensation were made.
During these proceedings, the Yukon government took the position that it preferred to avoid a receivership and was disappointed that Anvil Range was unable to convince other creditors that its restructuring plan could succeed. We stated that if the court did appoint a receiver, it should ensure that, number one, the mine is preserved as a whole, so that it can be restarted quickly once reasonable metal prices returned.
Number two, the marketing or selling of the mine is not controlled by one interest but is accomplished through a competitive bid process that meets the public interest and our objectives.
That the environment is adequately protected is number three.
Number four, the interest of non-financial stakeholders, such as mine workers, other Faro residents and the Ross River Dena Council are considered in decisions.
Number five, the creditors are consulted on major issues and the decision-making process is fair, inclusive and open.
I would like to advise the House that the Yukon government is prepared to participate actively with creditors and the receiver and to support this process so that our objectives can be substantially realized.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the minister for his update.
I don't believe this announcement comes as any surprise to most Yukoners. Most Yukoners have lost faith in the Faro mine and its ability to compete in the world markets, and that's unfortunate. It's unfortunate for a lot of people in the Yukon as well as the people in Faro.
I do have a couple of questions of the minister in regard to his statement. One of his bullets here says that his government will fight to ensure the assets with significant potential for restarting will not be sold. I'd like the minister to elaborate on that if he could in his rebuttal, as to what assets he's talking about that he would fight to protect.
I also would like to know now, given that the mine is now in receivership and it will be some time before the final act is played out to the fate of the Faro ore bodies and what's going to happen, whether they're sold as a operating entity or whether they're sold off piece by piece, if his government is now prepared, in light of the fact that the federal government has abandoned the workers of Faro, to help these workers relocate at least to jobs they've located in other parts of the Yukon? I think it would be unfortunate if we were asked to pay for them to relocate outside the Yukon but, nevertheless, I don't believe there is much optimism about the Faro mine going back into production shortly and I think it's incumbent upon this government to do what they can just to help those workers find jobs and get relocated.
Mr. Speaker, one other point I'd like to make and have the minister comment on in his summation is that one of the biggest obstacles facing any company that would entertain buying the Faro mine as an operating entity is the environmental liability. But the federal government doesn't seem to be prepared to accept any of that responsibility and are looking for a new owner who didn't have anything to do with creating the potential environmental liability, asking them to accept responsibility for it.
So I'm asking the minister: is he going to be aggressively badgering the federal government to absorb some of this outstanding potential environmental liability so that the mine property stands a better chance of being sold to a mining company that could put the ore body back into production?
Mr. Cable: I don't think the last several months have been a happy time for the minister, and I don't have any comment on the substance of the statement, but I do have a number of questions.
There are a large number of people out there who are wondering about the future. They're wondering about whether to build a house and buy a car, and they're wondering about their jobs. What they want and need from the minister, who has a better handle on the situation than most of us, is his best guess for the future of the mine. Does he see the mine reopening this year? Does he see the mine reopening ever, if zinc prices remain at the present level?
People need some signal from their government so they can get on with their lives, and hopefully the minister will give us that signal.
There are also people out there who would like to know what's happening with the money owed to the Energy Corporation and the government. What's the minister's best guess? Is there any realistic chance of recovering the money owing by Anvil Range Mining under the security we have?
On a technical question, does the receiver have the power to sell the assets piecemeal without further court approval? It's indicated in the ministerial statement that the creditors have further say, and it would be useful to have that clarified.
Now, on environmental liability, I gather, from what the minister has said previously, that he does not agree with what I think is a $110-million estimate of the environmental liability. It would be useful for him to clarify where we're going on that.
Is his government making any headway on reducing the amount that any purchaser would have to absorb?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I thank the members for their comments. I would begin, I guess, by saying that it has been an interesting process. It has been day and night for me since even before the receivership was appointed, in terms of trying to handle this and help my colleagues deal with all of the different ramifications to the community and the people of the Yukon as a whole as a result of the economic impact, but also trying to steer this process through CCAA and, ultimately, to the point that it is at now.
Fortunately, I do take a somewhat different view, I must say, than the leader of the official opposition. I know that, as he stated, many Yukoners have lost faith in the ability of the mine to compete in world markets. I don't believe that to be the case. I do believe that the Faro mine does have a future.
The problem right now is that it occurs for many different mines around this country, in all base metals. One only has to read the Globe and Mail or the Northern Miner to see that the Asian stock market crisis has had a significant depressing effect on base metal producers around the country. There are other zinc producers who are suffering as well, as well as copper, lead and a number of other base metal producers.
So, I do believe that the mine has a significant future and role to play in zinc production in the world, and I think that the obvious impact of that will be jobs for Yukoners.
The question was asked - I think it's a very legitimate question - by the leader of the official opposition on my stated commitment to fight to protect the assets that are going to have a significant impact on any potential restart of the mine. We ultimately get to better prices, and there has been some discussion, even in Anvil's proposals, about the sale of elements of the property, such as the ore trucks, the Grizzly underground deposit, the issues surrounding the mill in Faro, and potentially some of those assets.
We have consistently taken a position that these types of assets should not be sold off without a thorough cost/benefit analysis as to their effect on a potential restart. Those are the types of issues that I will stand very strong on in terms of defending the public interest in the Yukon economy and those workers, who depend on the mine being sold as a going concern.
We have convinced the court that this mine going down is the equivalent to the gross domestic product of the Yukon, to every mine in northern Ontario shutting down at one time, so the public interest in this particular case is substantial. We will continue to make that case and we will rely heavily on the support of the federal government to do that in the court process. We are going to need their help.
The leader of the official opposition asked if, given that the federal government has abandoned their program that they organized and had in 1993-94 for industrial adjustment and relocation job search training, would we be prepared, as a government, to deal with the relocation of Faro workers. I must say that my first approach to this issue is not to take the position that, because the mine is not operating, there is no community in Faro. I think that some people in Faro obviously need to leave, and our government will be analyzing some options that we may be able to use to address that particular situation. But, I must say that our approach has always been that Faro is a community first and foremost, and we've tried to work on issues of training; we've supported the food bank. We've been providing social assistance, helping with employment insurance, creating jobs where we can in the community, investing in recreation, job creation, investing in the economic diversification initiatives. Also I've been trying to access, very hard, the mine reclamation trust fund and having some work done with the $14 million that exists in that pot already; that work has to be done, regardless of whether we can get the mine going again in the near future.
So, I think that's the sort of comprehensive approach to the situation. It is true: some people have decided that they are going leave. The latest studies are that we will probably go from a school population of about 165 people down to roughly 90 to 95 people after the school year ends and we, as a government, are going to have to deal with that. Again, it would be preferential to have the federal government deal with their appropriate jurisdiction here, which I do believe that is in terms of location, but we will have to respond as a government in some comprehensive way and we are looking at that.
The leader of the official opposition asked a very good question about the environmental liability at the mine and the impact that has on a potential buyer taking over that property. The member is quite correct; now it is a significant impediment to the restart. We have been talking to the federal government and saying that if there is an appropriate deal for the public interest that involves the restart of the operation and involves the public actually having a chance of getting some of the money back on the environmental liability, then the federal government should be looking at that very, very carefully. And we would support some initiative in that direction, but it must be in the public interest. That is the fundamental key to it.
Mr. Speaker, I said also that it is incredibly important that we have the federal government's support in dealing with this. We had made overtures toward them to support and be the sponsor of the receivership as they had been when Curragh shut down. They did not want to do it this time. This has led to essentially a Cominco-sponsored receivership motion. However, we feel we have a significant role to play, as do they, in terms of ensuring that our public objectives, which I stated in my ministerial statement, are substantially realized and that the public objectives that Yukoners have said to me, loudly and clearly, are also worked upon and that, first and foremost, involves the earliest possible restart of the operation.
The Liberal leader asked a question about when the mine will reopen. I submitted in the beginning of my response that I have a firm belief in the future of this mine. I believe the mine can compete on the world market. They are extremely well-known and when operating for a significant period of time, do have a good product to offer the world markets; however, it will ultimately be the price that is the major impact on that.
The projections that I have say that the price is actually a lot lower than it should be. The problem is the psychology around the Asian market crisis right now, which is depressing the price. The price should be somewhere in the 55-cent to 60-cent range. So, I believe that, over the next year, we will see some slow recovery in the price, which could bode well for the property and for the workers.
With regard to the arrears, the actual arrears to the Energy Corporation in terms of bills is about $4 million - roughly a little more than two months' power. That is what is owed to the Energy Corporation. The rest of the potential arrears have not yet been decided, because there are Utilities Board hearings that have to take place and the Energy Corporation will obviously argue that the cost-of-service issue should be incorporated into that. That is yet to be decided.
If the mine is sold as a going concern or if there's movement on the environmental liability, there's a possibility of getting a fairly significant price for the property, which would be good for Yukon ratepayers, good for creditors and good for the workers, because most people would realize substantially on any debts that they have incurred. Probably the worst, in terms of priority, would be the convertible debenture holders, who hold some $30 million-plus of the debt, and they are the last - at the end of the line - but they don't live in the Yukon, so they're certainly not my priority.
Mr. Speaker, let me also say that to the question about whether the assets can be sold piecemeal without the court process, the answer is no. It will be led through a court process. We will do our best and fight very strongly to ensure that there's a careful look at those assets and their impact.
Ultimately, we have to see our goals, our public objectives and the public interest realized for this mine, and get people back to work as soon as possible, and take every step we can in the interim to ensure that the impact is mitigated as much as we can, as a government.
Taking action on crime update: Whitehorse safer-city strategy
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, it is the policy of our government to work with a variety of partners to meet our commitment to foster safe and healthy communities.
I am pleased to rise today to inform members of a significant step forward in the taking-action-on-crime initiative that I announced in the House last November.
In January, I met with the mayor and council of the City of Whitehorse to discuss ways that we could work together to combat crime in the Whitehorse area. As a result of that meeting, representatives of the Department of Justice, the City of Whitehorse, the RCMP, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and Kwanlin Dun First Nation have formed a steering committee with the task of developing a Whitehorse safer-city strategy.
The intention of the Whitehorse safer-city strategy is to involve interested local residents and business owners in preparing a community safety action plan that promotes shared responsibility, cooperative responses, early intervention, and an integrated approach to preventing crime in the Whitehorse area. Developing this strategy will involve conducting a citizen survey as well as holding focus group sessions and individual interviews to identify existing problems and possible solutions.
The information gathered through these means will be used to guide the deliberations of the participants in a public round table next month. The Whitehorse safer-city round table is slated for the morning of Saturday, May 23, 1998, from 9:30 in the morning until 1:00 p.m.
The end product from this round table will be a report that will form the first step in the development of a community safety action plan. This report will go back to the steering committee with recommendations on implementation.
I'm very pleased with this initiative. It is the first time that all of these parties have come together to address this long-standing concern in the capital city area.
Mr. Speaker, this initiative is just one part of our government's taking-action-on-crime initiative. Other steps we have taken so far include establishing the crime prevention and policing branch, hiring a crime prevention coordinator, supporting Crime Prevention Yukon in funding the 1998 youth recreation leadership project in Yukon communities, setting up an interdepartmental strategic working group to address Yukon-wide crime prevention issues, and working with the city and the Positive Action for Yukon Youth Coalition in developing youth surveys and strategies.
We have also begun working directly with communities to develop crime prevention and safety plans. A pilot project with this focus is underway in Haines Junction.
The results of the Whitehorse safer-city round table and this pilot project with Haines Junction will be discussed later this year with the commanding officer of the RCMP. In the meantime, the policing presence in Whitehorse is being increased, with more foot patrols and bike patrols in the downtown area. Starting next month, a new RCMP watch schedule will put more officers on the street at the times when most crimes occur.
We are also undertaking discussions with Justice Canada regarding a joint mechanism to allocate funds to Yukon communities through the national safer communities fund. I will be providing more details on that initiative in the near future.
Mr. Speaker, these are a few of the actions this government is taking with its various partners to pursue and address public safety issues in Whitehorse and throughout the territory as part of our commitment to foster safe, healthy communities.
Mr. Phillips: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, I'm pleased to respond to the minister's statement regarding taking action on crime. Mr. Speaker, we're pleased to offer our continuing support to this initiative and for following through on the work completed by the previous Yukon Party government.
As the minister's aware, many of the initiatives to take action on crime in the Yukon that have been undertaken over the past years and which are currently being undertaken are, in fact, initiatives that evolved from the Talking About Crime Committee.
As Yukoners may recall, the committee was essentially a citizens advisory group charged with the task of travelling to each community to hear the concerns that Yukoners had, from community health to safety to the position on crime prevention and making recommendations respecting improvements. From these comments evolved the Talking About Crime report, which was produced in 1995, and recommendations from that report resulted in the series of five papers dealing with youth crime, property-related crime, family violence, impaired driving and offender management. Some of the recommendations have been implemented and others are in the process of implementation. While much of the work has been completed, there is much more to be done.
The initiative to develop a Whitehorse safer-city strategy is certainly worth merit and is a step in the right direction as a means to identify existing problems and possible solutions regarding crime prevention initiatives in our city.
I'm pleased to hear that the preparation of a community safety action plan will involve all interested individuals, including business owners.
In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis upon community policing initiatives, such as Neighbourhood Watch and Crime Stoppers. These programs have worked well and, I believe, are becoming more popular as individuals are having and wanting to assume more responsibilities for keeping their neighbourhoods safe and healthy.
Last month, there was an article in one of our local newspapers regarding community policing initiatives. Interestingly, the article explained how property crimes in Whitehorse have actually gone down this year, and that both businesses and residential break-and-enters had dropped in January and February compared to the same two months last year. Part of this success was attributed to having community policing initiatives in place, having more RCMP involvement, and a real diligent effort by residents of the city to take care of each other and of their properties.
The involvement of the Yukon communities in matters such as crime prevention and community justice has enabled members of each community to get involved and take a hands-on approach to the underlying problems at hand.
Perhaps the minister could tell me if similar initiatives will be introduced in our rural communities, and what efforts are being made to prevent crime and vandalism, as we are well-aware that criminal acts do not occur solely in the City of Whitehorse.
The minister mentioned that a pilot project is underway in Haines Junction. Perhaps the minister could elaborate on that particular project. Are there any other communities that have expressed an interest in developing crime prevention and safety plans similar to what's being done in Whitehorse and Haines Junction?
I'm pleased to hear that discussions are being held with Justice Canada regarding the possible allocation of funds to Yukon communities through our national safer communities fund. I look forward to hearing more about this from the minister. The important thing to remember is that, whatever initiatives are adopted, they may be tailor-made by the residents of the community in such a manner that they will suit their needs, expectations and demands. To do so, we must ensure that everyone is fully involved in the process. I look forward to hearing about further progress of this initiative and look forward to participating in the upcoming public round table next month.
On a final note, I am also pleased to hear that the Government of Yukon has been working with the city and the Positive Action for Yukon Youth Coalition in developing youth surveys and strategies. In conjunction with these groups, perhaps the minister may wish to include the Youth Empowerment and Success organization in helping to design strategies to address problems associated with youth at risk. I know they had many ideas in a conference that I attended back in 1996 that was held out at the Whitehorse cadet camp. As the minister is fully aware, YES has proven to be a tremendous program over the years, serving hundreds of our many youth at risk in the Yukon. The young people have much to offer and I would encourage this government to give consideration to what YES has to say and, in turn, provide support to YES so that it may continue its valuable services to our youth.
Mr. Cable: The minister said, in November, that effective crime prevention requires local action and local solutions. We, in the Liberal caucus, agree with that principle. It is our view that crime is everyone's business and that everyone be encouraged to get involved, rather than sitting on the sidelines, which is a necessary first step in developing any crime strategy. That kind of involvement will empower people and will help funnel some of the anger many people feel about crime into productive energy.
We agree with the minister's approach in encouraging involvement. I'd have to say if the minister walked down the street and talked to 10 people, she would probably get 10 different solutions for dealing with crime. So, I think that it is important to gauge the effectiveness of any crime initiative, not just in the sense of a periodic review of crime statistics, but some in-depth review of each program. It would be useful to hear from the minister what approaches she is taking to measure the effectiveness of her department's various initiatives so at the end of the day we can say that this initiative worked or this initiative didn't seem to have worked. We can then determine where we are getting our best return on our crime prevention dollars.
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank both the opposition parties for supporting the government initiative that I have just spoken about here. MLAs on both sides of the House, as leaders in their communities, have the ability and the responsibility to participate in effective crime prevention actions. We're supporting public participation in solving problems - not just in Whitehorse but in our rural communities - and preventing crimes. This particular round table that's being planned for Whitehorse is pulling all of the actions together in a collaborative working relationship with a number of organizations that should be involved and that now will help to effect good solutions for us.
I would also remind members opposite that we have put in place the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act to allow for funding of further crime prevention and victim services programs. It's because we have the participation of all of the groups that work in the legal community and with other community organizations that we can have an effective measure of the usefulness of the programs we're offering and the new programs that we're undertaking.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This, then, brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Finlayson caribou, predator control
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Yesterday, in this House, Mr. Speaker, the minister indicated that predator control was not acceptable to Yukon community people and that this government would not consider implementing the predator control program within the Finlayson herd area or anywhere else in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised to hear the minister make that statement in view of the about-face that his government did in relationship to the Aishihik caribou recovery program. The Member for Faro wasn't thinking very good before he opened his mouth and said that they were going to kill the program, so government had to do a flip-flop on it and reinstate it because the minister found out that Yukoners were very much in favour of the program out there.
The minister made the statement that community people were not in favour of it. I would like to ask the minister today if he's prepared to table the results of the poll or the survey that he bases his opinion on, that Yukoners are opposed to any and all predator control programs. Could he table that survey or poll that he did?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Just to respond to the facts, during the election we did say that we would do a moratorium on the wolf kill in the Aishihik herd, and we've done that, and we haven't been flip-flopping in our positions. We've stayed along the position that was given to us, the members, by Yukoners. All through the election they said that they did not want to see a wolf kill.
I know the leader of the official opposition would like to see this government dust off the Yukon Party gunships and go out and slaughter wolves, but that's not the way we're handling things, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the previous government supported the wolf conservation management plan, and I'm wondering where that support is right now. The direction we have been given by the members is not to do a wolf kill, and we've carried out that direction from the people.
Mr. Ostashek: The wolf management plan does allow for predator control. The minister should read it, and he should listen to what Yukoners are telling him and do his job. That's what he should do.
Mr. Speaker, we know the Friends of the Wolves are opposed to the predator control program. We know the Sierra Club's opposed to the predator control program. We know the Yukon chapter of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is, as well as other conservation groups, but is the minister claiming in this House today that these environmental groups and the anti-hunting lobby know better what's best for Yukoners than Yukoners, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, know? Is that what he's claiming?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I wish that the opposition would go out to the communities and start listening to the people, because they're giving us the direction. They've supported the wolf conservation management plan, and if the member is asking that we would implement the wolf conservation management plan, if he read in there, it would mean that we would have no hunting of any kind for a two-year period before considering wolf control or control of some type.
Yes, he's right, it is in there and, Mr. Speaker, we're still sticking to our position of not going out and killing wolves by gunships. We'll continue to work with First Nations and the communities. They are coming up with other solutions, other than going out and slaughtering wolves.
We're working with the Ross River Dena Council on the Finlayson herd. We feel that we have a lot of positive direction that we can take, without going to the extent of killing wolves.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, this minister has a very narrow vision of what wolf control is. He doesn't understand the problem. That's it. He doesn't understand the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister says that I should go out and listen to Yukoners. I did. I listened to many presentations at the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Almost 100 submissions - about 90 percent or better were in favour of some sort of predator control program, and he says that we're not listening to Yukoners. I suggest to him that he's not listening to Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, in light of the minister's comments, I'm going to ask him today if he will go out and undertake a survey of Yukoners' views on this issue so that he can speak on it in a more informed manner in this House instead of just using them as scapegoats because he doesn't want to do his job
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the official opposition leader seems to have a rifle-scope mentality here. We have been speaking to the people in the communities, and we have been working with the renewable resource councils, and they have been giving us direction, and we're carrying out those directions that come from the RRCs and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. There is a process in place to deal with these things.
Question re: Finlayson caribou, predator control
Mr. Ostashek: It's unfortunate that the board isn't listening to what Yukoners are telling them.
Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Renewable Resources is on the Finlayson caribou herd. Yesterday in this House, the minister effectively blamed the non-native hunters for the low calf survival rate of the Finlayson herd, and he will be considering recommendations to further restrict the hunting of bull caribou by non-aboriginal hunters. In view of the fact that non-native hunters, by law, cannot hunt calves or cows, can the minister explain how a further restriction of hunting bulls is going to lead to a better cow-calf ratio and ensure the survival of more calves?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: First of all, we did not blame the low calf ratio on the non-aboriginal people. We said that we were taking the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to do a permit hunt and that would give us more clear numbers as to the people who are out there taking the caribou from the area. We need to work with numbers and be more realistic about what's really out there in order to make good decisions.
Mr. Ostashek: The minister ought to be very clear with the Yukon public. The recommendation came from his department, not from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. They were asked to review that recommendation with the general public and they got overwhelming submissions that said that Yukoners wanted no part of the permit hunt. This is totally absurd.
Will the minister be prepared to say that the real reason why further hunting restrictions regarding the Finlayson herd are being placed on non-natives is purely to appease the left-wing anti-hunting lobby within the NDP?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I think the member is way off the mark with regard to this issue. I think he should really go back and do his homework. We are taking the Fish and Wildlife Management Board recommendations. I must remind the member again that this is the recommendation from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. This permit hunt is not a limitation to anyone. It's keeping track of numbers. I wish that the member would realize that, in order to make good decisions, it is good to really know exactly what is taken out of the area.
We are working with the First Nations. They are quite willing to do things with us. They have made some recommendations on how they could help better manage the Finlayson caribou herd. One suggestion that was made is that their members could be taking caribou from other caribou herds in and around that area. They've also - again I say this to the member - asked the Government of Yukon for assistance in teaching new trapping methods to members. So, we're continuing to work with the Ross River Dena Council on this issue and, Mr. Speaker, we're continuing to work with local people on management issues.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, what this minister is saying here today is that compulsory reporting is not working, because they've had compulsory reporting for some time and his department knows full well how many caribou are being taken - and the minister wants to cut that for non-aboriginal hunters. That certainly doesn't seem fair to me.
What's very clear is this minister is clearly afraid of the anti-hunting lobby and lacks the political courage to face the tough decision, the real problem of some type of predator control. And what's worse, this minister is asking non-native hunters to pay the price for his lack of political courage by ruling out any form of predator control.
Is the minister prepared to shut down all non-native hunting of the herd entirely before he's forced to implement a predator control program? Is that what he has in mind?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is trying to draw a line between non-native and native hunters. What a shame to do that when we're looking at doing some management of the caribou herd and, Mr. Speaker, we're continuing to act on the recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, and carry out the permit hunt this year.
Question re: School busing, kindergarten
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education regarding the proposal to eliminate the noon-hour kindergarten busing. Yesterday, the minister indicated that school administrations and school councils need input into this issue. If noon-hour kindergarten busing is eliminated, that means a switch from half-day to full-day kindergarten for Whitehorse schools. Day care arrangements, including costs, will have to change. The City of Whitehorse preschool programming is affected. It's not as simple as saying, "That bus is gone."
According to the minister yesterday, the consultation with schools and school councils is going on this week. What is the time frame for the consultation? Are changes in kindergarten structure anticipated for September 1998 or September 1999?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the member, in her preamble, made it clear and corrected the record that the department is not requiring all-day kindergarten. That is a decision that ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: ... will be made with the participation of the school councils and the school administrations.
I should make sure the member is aware that there is a mix of programs available now and that there is also no kindergarten busing service for some of the Whitehorse schools. So, whether or not there is a bus service does not mean, in and of itself, that a school must go to an all-day kindergarten program.
The rural communities have both half-day and full-day kindergarten programming possible, without busing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a real problem with a government that's saving money on the backs of five year olds, and I'm outraged with the lack of consultation. We're talking about children who will enter the school system for the first time. We're talking about parents whose first contact with the Yukon school system will be, "Welcome to a partnership in education and, oh, by the way, we wanted to save $100,000 so we're making a fundamental shift in your child's introduction to school."
At what point does the minister or the department intend to provide Whitehorse area parents of children three and four years of age the opportunity to discuss these options of full- or half-day kindergarten? At what point do parents get consulted on this issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being alarmist and completely inaccurate in her representations. This is very irresponsible. We are not rushing the decision, which lies with school administration and school councils. They have the opportunity to talk to their communities, to talk to parents about whether they would want to change to all-day kindergarten or offer half-day kindergarten.
I would point out for the member that many schools already offer full-day kindergarten classes.
There has been a historic inequity in kindergarten bus service, which some areas of the City of Whitehorse have never had. Our priority is maintaining and improving educational programming.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister and the department officials are driving change, not because it is right or wrong for children, not because it was recommended by the busing committee, but to save $100,000. The minister has said consultation will take place, but not with the parents most affected - those whose children aren't in the school system yet. Why doesn't the minister stop pretending to be open and accountable and just admit that the decision's been made, and give parents, schools, day cares, the appropriate notice so that they can make arrangements for September 1998? Why doesn't she just admit the decision's been made?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Because, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. The decision has not been made, and because school councils and school administrations are making that decision.
Now, the member is talking about funding. I would remind her that the federal government cut billions of dollars out of education across this country, including cuts that affect the Yukon education budget. Mr. Speaker, at a time of limited financial resources, we need to make programming a priority, and that's exactly what we're doing.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Mrs. Edelman: My question's for the Minister of Justice, and it concerns legal aid funding.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a quote from the minister when she was in opposition. This is from June 2, 1994, and the minister was asking the Yukon Party about increasing legal aid funding, which they had just cut, and I quote, "Will the minister promise to improve legal aid delivery by restoring the funding to last year's levels?"
Mr. Speaker, in opposition this minister thought that more money should be spent on legal aid. Now she's the woman in power. When is she going to come up with the money?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the researchers are busy now in going back to asking questions that have been raised in this House before just because they're not able to get out on the street and come up with their own questions.
Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, we have made the commitment to continue to support legal aid, to support the native courtworkers program and to support Yukon Public Legal Education Association. There are agreements in place with the federal government, and these programs are funded 50/50. We have not increased the funding beyond the 50-percent contribution. We provide the money that we have available, and the member knows that we're continuing to face financial cuts to our funding, in large measure as a result of the federal cuts to funding for the territorial administration.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, it didn't take long for the minister who is responsible for this issue to start blaming the federal government again. But the fact remains that the NDP has done nothing in two years to change this situation.
Surely, this government, which has wasted thousands of dollars on an energy commission, which continually asks people whether they want their bills to go up - and guess what? They don't - will this minister endeavour to find the money to put toward increased legal aid funding?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is being completely inaccurate in standing there and saying that nothing has been done. We have made improvements to the maintenance enforcement program and administration. We have supported mediation services for families to provide an alternative to an expensive legal system. We continue to fund the legal aid program.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that in some other jurisdictions in Canada, there are actually two separate pots of legal aid funding, and these are under different negotiating jurisdictions. Now, one is for criminal and one is for civil cases, and the result has been that there is more money available for civil cases like child custody.
Has the department examined these models from other jurisdictions and made any recommendations to the minister to help solve the same problem here, which is basically a lack of legal aid funding, particularly in the civil area?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, and perhaps the member opposite should examine the model that's in place in the Yukon, where the Legal Services Society makes the final determination on the rules that govern the legal aid funding. There is funding available for both criminal and civil matters and the Legal Services Society has the ability to make the decisions on how to allocate the funding.
Question re: Carcross caribou recovery audit
Mr. Ostashek: My question, once again, is to the Minister of Renewable Resources, on caribou.
I want to give the minister a chance to use all the notes that have been passed to him by the armchair wildlife managers sitting around him, who don't think he's competent enough to answer these questions on his own. He just got another one right now. Unfortunately, this one's on the Carcross caribou recovery audit.
Mr. Speaker, on March 25 in this House, I again raised the issue of the alleged misappropriation in relation to $25,000 that was supposed to be used for the recovery program. As everyone knows, the allegation stated that it was used to purchase a pickup truck. I raised this allegation back in November, and the minister undertook to have an independent audit. He's come back twice to this House now with different dates - still no audit. The last time was on March 16, when he said that the audit would be completed by March 31. So much for promises. It's now almost the end of April and there's still no audit.
Can the minister tell this House what he's trying to hide?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I would ask the official opposition to be patient with this and let the auditors do their job if they need time to put together this information, even though this contract was relatively small.
The last time the member asked me a question, he talked about the pickup truck, as he did today, and about wanting to get a hold of it before it was worn out. He had already drawn a conclusion that somebody was guilty on this.
Mr. Speaker, I've been approached by the auditors again. In gathering information, they asked that some extension be put in place until they got the proper information from the First Nation, which they were having trouble getting. We granted them an extension - actually today - and they were supposed to be giving us an audit today. I haven't seen the audit yet. As soon as I get a hold of it, I will forward it to the official opposition.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister's really been dragging his feet on this one. He was aware of this issue. I didn't raise until November. He was aware of it almost a year ago and did not take any action until it was raised in this Legislature. He had representation made to him by the six people from the Carcross First Nation and he refused to act on that until the opposition raised it, and now, six months later, since we raised it, still no answers. This paper trail is going to be getting cold and getting cold very fast.
Mr. Speaker, the minister now says that the audit will be here today. Can I ask the minister: has he been made aware that there is something out of the ordinary with this audit that's taking so long? Why the extension?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we did not refuse to act. We conducted and had given direction that an audit be done on this contract. We did not believe in the beginning at all that there was any wrongdoing. I haven't got any feedback on what's in the audit. I know that they needed a couple more pieces of paper for information to conclude their report, and it had taken a long time, I guess, to get this information from the First Nation. They were basically awaiting that. It's not that they were doing all kinds of work in between that time. They needed this information to conclude the audit and I'm told that they have it and they should have had the audit in today.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, six members of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation felt strongly enough to sign their names to a letter to this minister asking him to investigate it. It's unfortunate he didn't act quicker than he has, because the longer these things go by the harder it is to get to the bottom of them.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister at least give the House the undertaking today that he will make the audit public when he gets it, no matter how sanitized the whole process may have been up till now? Will he at least make it public so Yukoners will know what the outcome of this is?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member asked me this question about the audit and wanting to get it done as quickly as possible. We said we would do just that and we did have a deadline of March 31. Unfortunately, the auditing company wanted more time to get proper information to make sure that the report is complete. It would not be in our best interests to rush them without this information and have an incomplete audit.
So, Mr. Speaker, I did tell the member that we would be tabling it in the House and I would forward him the audit as soon as we get it. I don't think that this issue right now is in the public, and I don't believe to this day that there was any wrongdoing, but we certainly will get clarification from the audit.
Question re: School busing, kindergarten
Ms. Duncan: My questions are again for the Minister of Education.
In the previous questions, the minister suggested in her answer that the decision hadn't been made to eliminate the noon-hour kindergarten busing, that there'd be due consultation.
What the minister seems to really be saying to schools and school councils is, "You have a choice: full-day kindergarten for five year olds."
Consultation implies options and choices. What options are being offered to schools and school councils in light of this decision or consultation on noon-hour school busing? What other options?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, as I think the member should be well-aware, schools have the option of having half-day kindergarten or having full-day kindergarten on alternating days. Within the Yukon, schools have the ability to have either half-day kindergarten or full-day kindergarten programming. Some schools have kindergarten bus service available, and some schools do not.
The fact is that the schools themselves, with input from their school councils and their school administrations, have the ability to make a decision about what kind of kindergarten programming they want to offer.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister fails to understand is that in those schools that are offering half-day kindergarten, 76 percent, 80 percent, 90 percent, in some cases, of kindergarten classes use that bus system. Eliminating the option of the noon-hour bus means eliminating half-day kindergarten as an option.
The minister has not indicated that any other options were offered to school councils, so what the minister is really saying is we've cut the bus, so now you have a choice, you can offer full-day kindergarten.
Is the decision effective September 1998?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I've pointed out for the member that, even in Whitehorse, there has been a historic inequity of kindergarten bus service, and that the kindergarten bus service has never been available, for example, in Riverdale.
Our priority has to be maintaining and improving education programs and services. In tight times, choices have to be made, and transportation is an auxiliary and secondary service to the duty of providing education to our students.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister has just said is that to save $100,000 she is fundamentally changing the first year of school for five year olds in the Whitehorse area. That's what the minister has just said, and she has failed to answer what is now nine questions: is it effective September 1998 that there will be no noon-hour bus for kindergarten children? Is it effective September 1998?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, we are considering discontinuing the noon-hour kindergarten bus service in the Whitehorse area for September of 1998.
That does not mean that schools must select full-day kindergarten programming. Schools that have half-day kindergarten programming do not all have bus service available.
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 would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition be called on Wednesday, April 22. They are Motion No. 115, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike, and Motion No. 122, standing in the name of the Member for Klondike.
Ms. Duncan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, April 22, 1998. It is Motion 125, standing in the name of the Member for Riverside.
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.
Is it the members' wish to have a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 - First Appropriation Act, 1998-99 - continued
Deputy Chair: We are just about to start with the Department of Health and Social Services.
Department of Health and Social Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm pleased to introduce today the operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Health and Social Services for 1998-99.
This is a budget based on building foundations for the future, a budget that looks ahead to the end of the century and into the next millennium.
One of the five principles of this government, against which we are and will be held accountable, is a commitment to foster healthy communities for the people of the Yukon. We cannot do this alone. In order to fully realize this commitment, we must ensure that the work that we do, the decisions we make and the planning we carry out in the future are based on the fundamentals of teamwork, partnership and public participation.
Increased pressures for health care costs and other social programming present a challenge for all governments in Canada. The Yukon government is no exception. In planning for the future and building the right foundations for healthy communities in the Yukon Territory, we must continually maintain a balance that reflects sound financial decisions and which responds to the ever-changing demographic and social needs of the Yukon. I believe that this budget, Mr. Chair, reflects that balance.
In the 1997-98 supplementary, I outlined the need to increase expenditures up by just over five percent to reflect volume demands in health care, social assistance and child care. I also drew the Legislature's attention to the demographic changes that we've been experiencing and the future projections for these demographics within the territory. The need to maintain access to these fundamental services by the people of the Yukon is not questioned by this government.
For the fiscal year 1998-99, I am pleased to indicate that we are projecting less than a one-percent increase in funding. This budget reflects not only sound fiscal management but also a rebalancing that reinvests expenditures into priorities, social and health program areas for the Yukon.
I would like briefly to draw your attention to some of this budget's highlights.
The overall budget request for 1998-99 is $108,765,000 in operations and maintenance, and $3,154,000 in capital expenditures. This budget reflects an increased contribution to the Whitehorse General Hospital of $530,000 this year, Mr. Chair.
I'm also pleased with the progress that has been achieved through the combined efforts of the hospital administration, the board and the department in reaching a stable operational position. This year's increased contribution, along with last year's increase of nearly $1 million, has resulted in a level of funding that we are confident is both realistic and manageable.
Mr. Chair, the new chair of the Yukon Hospital Board and the new CEO have worked hard to achieve this stability and I applaud both and the efforts of others within the board and the management of the hospital as well as the staff in this evolving partnership. This confidence is reflected in our mutual decision to enter a three-year funding agreement.
As mentioned recently in this session, this budget contains additional money to initiate the home IV drug program, another collaborative effort between the department and Whitehorse General Hospital. This program, we believe, is a wise use of investment in that it benefits patients and care givers and will realize savings over time in our health care costs.
I've also informed the Legislature of new partnerships we've formed with the Whitehorse General Hospital, the Council of Yukon First Nations, family physicians and the Canadian Diabetes Association to initiate a diabetic education program and of the steps we've begun to initiate the chronic disease self-management program.
Mr. Chair, these initiatives are concrete examples of new partnerships with other health care professionals through a managed and coordinated effort in wise fiscal management of our health resources and improving the health of people and communities in the Yukon.
As many of you are aware, the demographic trends and future predictions for the Yukon see an increasing seniors population. Services to our seniors is another area that we are planning toward in the future. By the year 2001, the seniors population is predicted to have increased by five percent over actual 1997 population figures. Population change by 2006 could be as high as 42.5 percent, as compared to 1997-98.
Mr. Chair, we're aware of this trend and the increasing pressure that this trend presents for both present and future programming and services. These are trends that are felt throughout Canada and, most recently, these were trends that were discussed at a meeting in Toronto on social policy renewal.
These are pressures that will be felt in a number of program areas in the Yukon, and we are taking steps now to look closely and carefully at these questions. There are a number of new and enhanced initiatives that will impact seniors in this budget, such as increases to the home care program.
Other areas worth highlighting at this point include increased mental health services.
A review of hospital admissions carried out by Whitehorse General Hospital and the department indicated a need for additional out-patient and community-based mental health services to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions. The department will be increasing staff in mental health services to respond to the growing demand for these community-based services, and this budget reflects a $128,000 increase for this purpose.
If we turn our attention briefly to other programs, I'd like to remind members that in July of this year the new national child benefit will come into effect. This new benefit, primarily for low-income families, will be enhanced over the next two years by the federal government.
In response to the first wave of the federal investment, the Yukon has implemented its children's drug and optical program for low-income families. As more funds become available, the Yukon will be re-investing these programs realized by federal contributions into additional programs and services to address issues of child poverty.
In this budget, we have also provided funding for an additional child abuse treatment services worker, and we've increased the foster payment expenditures to respond to volume increases.
Over the coming year, we will continue to participate in other national efforts that could impact on our future programming. For persons with disabilities, we'll continue to work cooperatively with our national colleagues in our commitments to provide a more integrated and effective system of programs and services, and to map out the future vision of these services nationally.
We'll also continue to be involved in the national children's agenda and negotiations of a new national framework with the federal government on the social union.
With respect to the capital budget, the department is continuing with the replacement and expansion of its information systems, including adjustments to deal with the year 2000 problem. Other planned capital expenditures include renovations for Macaulay Lodge and funds for the ongoing maintenance of the building and replacement of equipment and furniture at the Thomson Centre.
Funds are also requested for McDonald Lodge renovations and equipment, renovations and ongoing maintenance to No. 2 and No. 4 Hospital Road; $300,000 is provide in this budget for the Yukon Hospital Corporation to replace equipment as part of its annual replacement cycle; and $764,000 is budgeted for community nursing equipment and facilities.
These are some of the highlights of the Health and Social Services budget for 1998-99. I would like to thank you, Mr. Chair, and I would be pleased to answer questions.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could just explore with the minister a couple of the issues surrounding the Whitehorse hospital, can the minister advise how many beds are actually in use? The original design was for 77, and this broke down to 59 care beds, to include 24 general medicine and three special-care beds, 10 day procedural beds, four self-care beds and four elder rooms. Currently, we're told that there are only 49 beds, but that does not include the same-day surgery beds, which are another nine. What is the actual count of beds at Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There are 49 acute- care bed spaces available - to open an additional eight acute-care beds should future occupancy trends indicate that a higher number of beds are requested.
The general number of patients continues to range between 33 and 36 per day at Whitehorse General Hospital. Occupancy level is about 67 percent to 73 percent.
Mr. Jenkins: So, that brings the count, Mr. Chair, to 57 beds. Does that include the nine beds that are kept for same-day surgery or is that in addition to this number?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No -
Deputy Chair: Mr. Sloan, can I remind you to wait until you are identified?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, Mr. Chair. In addition to the beds previously mentioned, the hospital has nine short-stay surgical beds, five self-care beds and three First Nation elder beds. One additional First Nation elder bed space has yet to be constructed. All these beds can be pressed into service during an emergency.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister tell me how many acute-care beds versus non-acute-care beds there are in the Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: That would be 49 acute-care plus an additional eight possible, so that would give us 57, and I suppose, in a pinch, one could use the nine short-stay beds and the self-care beds which, at this juncture, have not been used, as well as the others.
Mr. Jenkins: It's my understanding that the reason that the number of beds made available in the hospital has been decreased is that we're utilizing the space for other purposes, but they can be readily converted back to hospital space and beds.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm advised that this was part of the original plan, that this was always the intention - that there were supposed to be 57 and 19, so that is unchanged in terms of the original design.
Mr. Jenkins: It's my understanding, Mr. Chair, that as of March 24, there are a number of 13 non-acute patients that the hospital technically should not be caring for because the hospital primarily takes responsibility for acute-care patients. Of these 13 non-acute-care patients at the Whitehorse General Hospital, there are seven patients waiting for long-term care, two for palliative care, two for rehabilitation and two for chronic psychiatric care. What plans does the department have to alleviate this situation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I presume from the tenor of the member's comments, he's asking what is planned in terms of extended care. I can tell the member that we are looking at a whole variety options, both on a short-term basis and on a long-term basis, for dealing with the question of extended care. However, I should point out that, for example, individuals such as chronic psychiatric patients would probably not lend themselves to an extended-care facility concept at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, currently there are seven beds empty at the Thomson Centre. Why do we have seven beds empty at the Thomson Centre and individuals in the Whitehorse General Hospital requiring the type of care that the Thomson Centre provides? Why aren't they being moved to that centre?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can give the member a rather detailed chronology of how this originated, but suffice it to say that during the construction of the Whitehorse General Hospital there was a decision made by the previous government to remove the in-patient rehabilitation unit and to install offices there instead. Subsequent to that, those beds have become available. The area has been revamped.
The member is probably aware of the fact that this would be a very substantial cost - somewhere in the neighbourhood of $685,000 plus - to activate the seven beds, and what we are doing is looking at a whole variety of options there. Some of those options, I think, are also part of what we're considering in terms of long-term utilization and development of facilities.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's not lose sight of the fact, Mr. Chair, that we still have seven empty beds at the Thomson Centre, and we have individuals in the Whitehorse General Hospital who could certainly be moved over there, which leads to a policy question on the issue of the Whitehorse General Hospital and the Thomson Centre. Is there a move afoot to bring the Thomson Centre under the umbrella of Whitehorse General Hospital, and if not, why not? If there is, what progress is being made? It makes an abundant amount of sense that they both be contained and managed by the same umbrella group. We could then have the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, whereas, in this case, there appears to be a lack of dialogue between all the entities to best serve the needs of Yukoners. This would be, in my opinion, quite advantageous, Mr. Chair. What's the minister's position on that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I should point out that back in November 1992, there was a major philosophical shift when the Yukon Party took power, and the design plans for Whitehorse General Hospital were revised very substantially.
The revised design did not allow for the construction of the second phase of the long-term rehabilitation facility, which would have actually given us considerably more - probably 40-some-odd beds would have been constructed. However, the decision was made by the minister of the day to actually split off these two facilities.
The Whitehorse General Hospital has an acute-care focus. That's their orientation; that's what they're designed to do. The Thomson Centre itself has an extended-care focus. That, in itself, creates a different, if you will, atmosphere, a different orientation, even a different, I suppose, staffing orientation.
At this point, there are no plans to amalgamate the two. There will be clearly some shared-facility options; there will be clearly shared staff. There are obviously, in terms of medical staff now - I'm not speaking of nursing staff - opportunities. We've had some contracts with the hospital, for example, on food services, and things of that nature, but there's a different orientation.
Also with the phase 2 transfer, what we've really done is begun to move into areas such as home care, and things like that, in a larger way. That would preclude us working, I think, to try to amalgamate the two institutions. It's our feeling at this point that Thomson Centre functions best on its own, as a separate facility, and I think the orientation will be to keep it in such a manner.
Mr. Jenkins: This minister knows full well that, had the original design for the Whitehorse hospital been proceeded with, we would have had a 1960-designed hospital here in the 1990s, and it wouldn't have served the needs of Yukoners in an appropriate manner. The minister's fully aware of that.
Now, could we just explore a little bit further the policy decision not to amalgamate the Thomson Centre into the Whitehorse General Hospital? What is the compelling reason for keeping these as separate entities?
We have two management groups. Why keep them separate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to this, it's more of a function, as I indicated earlier, of an orientation. For example, within the department, we have Macaulay Lodge, Thomson Centre, McDonald Lodge; we have home care programs, many of which are oriented toward that longer term health delivery goal.
An acute-care hospital, by its very nature, is set up and staffed in such a way as to treat the patient, to keep the patient for a period of time, and deliver the necessary therapies, but ultimately the orientation is to direct that person home.
An extended-care facility, by its very nature, implies a continuum of care. A person moving from, say, a home care supportive network perhaps to something along an independent living model to something more supported, as a level one or level 2, then onward onto a level 3, level 4 care.
So, the orientation at this point is to keep our extended-care services as a unit for better integration, and the acute care by itself.
As well, I think, for us to be seeking the hospital's orientation on this, they've indicated already to us that their orientation is primarily toward acute care and I think we have to respect that and we have to respect what they've done.
With regard to the original design of the hospital, we can also discuss that in some further detail but, suffice it to say, that probably many of the staff morale problems, many of the administration problems, many of the management problems, many of the financial problems over the last couple of years, I think, have been largely exacerbated by the decision to make that change. And certainly, from our point of view in terms of extended-care facilities, if we had proceeded with the original concept that we were looking at, we would probably have a lot more ability to accommodate some of our extended-care patients. However, the decision to radically revise the hospital precluded that.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to compliment the minister, once again, for his ability to hide behind and make excuses from a previous undertaking, blaming it on a previous government or a previous minister. This minister is notorious for hiding behind boards, groups and committees or agencies. Now he's hiding behind a previous minister and a previous government. But, let's explore this budget, because I don't think that's going to lead us anywhere, Mr. Chair.
Would the minister not agree that the number of beds in Whitehorse General Hospital, by the minister's own definition, are being used for a purpose that was not intended?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, to be frank, yes, there are some beds in there that probably are handling extended-care patients that would more appropriately be extended toward acute-care patients. However, I think that as we work through this I have already indicated as to what the utilization rates are in that hospital.
I think we can make those kinds of accommodations. There will be points of stress, but it is an issue that we are working on. We are coming up with a variety of both short-term and long-term solutions.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister indicate the cost per day per person in the Thomson Centre and the cost per day per person in the Whitehorse General Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The charge-out rate at the Thomson Centre is somewhere around $300, whereas the rate at the Whitehorse General Hospital ranges somewhere between $700 and $785.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, given those figures as to what it costs to keep an individual housed in the Whitehorse General Hospital versus what it costs to keep an individual in the Thomson Centre, a case could be easily made, based on the numbers that the minister has just provided to this House, of opening those seven beds in the Thomson Centre. Now, why is this not being done, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can get into a whole variety of issues there, but I think the member is fully aware of the fact of what the cost for opening the seven beds is. We should also be cognizant of the fact that the previous government managed to take away beds from this institution, both initially with the design of the hospital and then further when the decision was made to minimize the number of beds opening in the new facility in 1993. Those original seven beds were taken away by one of my predecessors in the Yukon Party government who decided they would be far better put to use as offices. Had they been kept within the stock of beds, we probably would have some surplus at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, irrespective of what previous governments have done, this minister is now responsible for this department and this minister is charged with providing these services in the most cost-effective manner. We've just learned that the Whitehorse General Hospital is housing patients for purposes it wasn't originally designed for at some cost of $785 per day when these same individuals could be housed in the Thomson Centre for less than half that amount of money.
Now, we're charged with prudent fiscal management. I would hope the minister's not going to rise to his feet and say that this is prudent fiscal management.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the member, I think, has misapprehensions here. Many of the costs that are borne by the hospital are, indeed, fixed costs. They are staffing costs, et cetera. There are some variable costs, such as food and things of that nature. We would be bearing those costs at any rate with the Whitehorse General Hospital, with most of those costs within our fixed costs.
I think it's fair to say that we're not alone in this area. As the member is aware, yesterday Elizabeth Witmer, the Minister of Health for Ontario, responded to the fact that, within Ontario, they have had a major problem with extended-care people occupying a fair amount of space within their facilities, and they are now being obliged, at least on a temporary basis, to try to open up 1,100 beds in Ontario at not an inconsiderable cost. This is something that is being shared by my colleagues across the country and, as a matter of fact, an element of discussion occurred on it this past Friday.
We are aware of the problem. We are aware of the need in this regard. We are developing some options. As I said, some of those options on a short-term basis also have some implications on a longer term basis, but we are looking at what we can do in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: So now we have the minister suggesting that we're better off than people in Ontario in the same situation, and I would tend to agree with him, but it should be pointed out to the minister that, if it weren't for the people in Ontario and the rest of Canada, where virtually 75 to 80 percent of our funding comes from, supporting this government, we'd be in a real pickle up here if we had to pay-as-we-go, like the other provinces do. We're fortunate, extremely fortunate - and we'd better be fiscally prudent in the management of our dollars in this regard or, you know, ministers can go the way of his fine example that this minister brought into the House yesterday - I think he referred to it as the NDP mascot, the dodo bird.
So, we can just look at the other areas, Mr. Chair, and I'd like to explore further the potential of bringing the Thomson Centre under the umbrella of the Whitehorse General Hospital, and operating both of these facilities through one facility management group, rather than two separate and distinct groups.
This has been explored and, I'm told it almost came to fruition. I'd suggest to the minister that this would be very advantageous as a cost-saving measure for providing our health care service and providing it in a more cost-effective manner and probably to a higher degree, or certainly to no lesser degree than we are currently providing. Can the minister indicate whether he is prepared to entertain that kind of proposal?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure what the member is suggesting. Is he suggesting that we do away with an autonomous board and an autonomous corporation, and we take over both facilities? Or, is he suggesting perhaps that the board take over the management of the Thomson Centre? If that is indeed his contention, I can tell him that the previous board indicated that they had very little interest in that, that their focus was on acute care. Their focus was on getting the facility up, running, operational and hitting budget targets. The board, the board chair and, I believe, the CEO are working well toward that goal, but I think for us to look at trying to reimpose this responsibility on them would be an unrealistic option at this time.
They have some distance to go to be a fully functioning, fully operational board and management team, and I think they are making tremendous progress, but I think it would be unfair to them to put this kind of task upon them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have a fundamental disagreement on the one issue, but I don't think I'll be able to prevail at this juncture. After the next election, things might change.
Probably, we can explore with the minister the operating deficit for the Whitehorse General Hospital. It looks like it was $2.6 million at the end of March. The government, at that time, provided a one-time sum of approximately $1 million and recently another some $530,000 - just over half a million dollars - was sent over to the Whitehorse General Hospital.
What's the operating deficit expected to be for the Whitehorse General Hospital, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The original agreement for '97-98 was $15,400,000. There was addendum funding of $979,000 and additional addendum funding of $497,000, for a total of $16,876,000. That would put the current deficit, I think, for the hospital somewhere around the $200,000 range at this point.
I can tell the member that I've met with both the CEO and the chair and they feel that this is a workable amount for them to do. We have entered into a three-year agreement with them that will provide funding in the amount of $16,739,000 and $300,000 for the purpose of acquiring routine capital equipment in each of the fiscal years.
So, our discussions with them have indicated that this is very much along their needs and they feel that they can operate within the financial guidelines.
Mr. Jenkins: The operating cost of the hospital is directly attributable to the patient admissions and there was a six-percent rise in the admissions between September 1996 and September 1997. Do we have a recent figure as to the number of patient admissions since last September? What are the trends currently, Mr. Chair? Are we looking at an increase or a decrease?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, as I indicated earlier, there are points at which the population goes up and there are points at which the population is relatively low. We have 67 to 73 percent on average. There is an escalator within the agreement in case, for example, the hospital found itself being asked by us to undertake particular tasks or to respond to particular demands. For example, say we had an issue where we had to put in some extended care folks, that would be built into their agreement.
There are some provisions in here; for example, where new programs or services result in reduced out-of-territory travel or hospital costs, where the workload volume exceeds that indicated in the main budget and reflected in 1999-2000 fiscal years and subsequent years where the weighted cases increase relative to previous experience. So, this could be weighted cases increasing when the relative acuity of the cases treated and the population rises. For example, an ageing population can increase the demands on nursing or where significant increases occur because a specialist visits our clinics.
So, we've built an escalator in there that reflects those needs. We are committed to making sure that the hospital has stable funding, that it has sufficient funding and, during my discussions with the hospital CEO and chair leading up to this, they have indicated that they find this very adequate.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the issue of admissions, could the minister indicate what the waiting lists are? We know that the Thomson Centre is full in its present configuration. We know that Macaulay Lodge is full in its present configuration and we know that McDonald Lodge in Dawson City is full. We know the situation of the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake's. What are we going to do with the waiting lists for all these facilities? Move them in to the Whitehorse General Hospital at $700-and-something a day? What's the game plan here?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, no, we're not planning to do that. As I've indicated to the member, we are looking at ways to accommodate needs throughout the community. The member has made reference to, for example, Watson Lake. Watson Lake is an interesting institution, because it's a hospital that currently operates at some 35- to 40-percent capacity. An aspect of that hospital was formerly a nurses' residence that is unused. There probably are some options around using that facility.
I think we're looking across the board at a whole variety of ways to address the problems of an ageing population. This is, as I said, nothing new and nothing exclusive to us. It's a bit new for us in terms of the territory, as the demographic balloon has hit us somewhat later than perhaps other parts of Canada. But, for example, we know, just from our statistical information that many more people are retiring here, and many more people are bringing up aged parents. What we'll have to do is adapt to that and we will have to make the necessary accommodations.
Mr. Jenkins: I did ask the minister for the number of people on the waiting list for the Thomson Centre, Macaulay Lodge and McDonald Lodge, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: On the Thomson Centre list, there are 28 - eight from the community and 20 that are from Macaulay. They could be levels 3 or 4 and could be transferred to the Thomson Centre. At Macaulay, there are 17. Four patients are on the Thomson Centre waiting list. There is a heavy palliative care patient, another client who is a young male with MS, and three or four that end up in Macaulay on a fairly regular basis. So, there are 17 at Macaulay and 28 at Thomson.
Just as a matter of interest, there was a comment made the other day sort of on the side saying that we never had waiting lists under the previous administration. That really isn't the case, because I've gone back and done an examination of the statistics, and there had been waiting lists back as far as 1994 in both the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister provide the waiting list for McDonald Lodge also, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have a figure for McDonald Lodge, but I can provide that for the member in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: There was also the Signpost Seniors; could the minister send that information over? That was all contained in my original question, Mr. Chair.
Well, the options being explored, I guess the juncture that we're at, Mr. Chair, is that the minister has to start making decisions. You know, that might be an uncomfortable situation for him to be in.
When are these decisions going to be forthcoming? What are the time frames for the minister to make decisions on all of these areas that he's outlined - these various options - Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated earlier to the member, and I should probably just correct the misapprehension before we go on further, there seems to be some sort of faulty concept in the member's mind that Signpost Seniors is some sort of facility. In reality, it's a community group that delivers services to seniors and cooperates with the Department of Health and Social Services in the delivery of home care services in the community - just to rectify that.
But with regard to what I indicated earlier, we're looking at some short-term goals within the next few weeks in terms of trying to do some rectification of some of our immediate problems. But in terms of the longer term issues, I think there's a whole variety of suggestions and scenarios that we can take a look at, and these are things which I'll have to be discussing with my Cabinet colleagues in some fair detail because it could not only, as the member can appreciate, involve considerable capital outlay, but also some substantial O&M - ongoing expenses - but I think we're also looking at some ways in which that could be minimized and defrayed to some degree.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, in the Yukon we have two sets of processes. There's the normal process that we go through where we consult, we come to assemble all the information that we've gleaned from consulting with all the affected parties and we put together a game plan and endorse that game plan and go on. And then there's the NDP way of consulting where we consult and consult and consult and when we have the answer we want, then we start to implement it.
But what are the time lines for some of these decisions to be made?
Now, we can use either a consulting process - the minister might have goals already defined, or he might want to work the normal routine way. But what are the time lines for some decisions to be made in this area to address this urgent need for housing for our seniors?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Once again, the member is never quite clear. He's mixing up housing with extended care, and I would recommend that he clarify that, at least in his own mind. He's also indicating that he sees extended care solely in relation to seniors. I might point out, for example, that we have a number of people who accessed extended-care services who are not seniors. We have, for example, high-level needs children and we have young adults who also access those services.
To return to the central issue, we would be looking at a consultative process with some of the groups that would be primarily impacted, and we've already identified groups that we should be doing some consultation with. I think it would be remiss; I think it would be irresponsible, if we did not come forward at least with some concepts that we could be discussing with these groups, as well as the pros, the cons, some of the issues surrounding expansion or extension of extended care needs. These are all a variety of things that I think we need to be discussing.
I'll also be very frank and tell the member that I had some very candid discussions, along with my colleagues from the provinces, with the Hon. Anne McLellan, in which we outlined our concerns with the approach that the federal government has taken in regard to home care, and what I think is a very myopic, a very poor concept in putting out an idea of home care without consulting with the provinces and territories as to what our needs are. We have expressed that, if the federal government intends to move into this area, if they do intend to make this part of the overall Canada health and social transfer, that we - being provincial and territorial jurisdictions - need more leeway in being able to direct funds, being able to identify our own needs, and being able to direct any forthcoming monies in that regard to where we see it going.
So, from a local point of view, we're looking at some short-term goals, as I've indicated. From a long-term point of view, we're looking at something that will carry us into the next millennium. That's going to mean that we're going to have to sit down and look at what existing services we have and what projected services we would need, what kinds of changes, et cetera, we would have to go through. That we would be doing in consultation with some of the people who would be most impacted. Also, on a national front, we'll have to continue to press for at least some understanding by our federal counterparts of the pressures facing the health care system.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to thank the minister for his extensive response that didn't answer the question. The question was quite specific. For the record, we're referring to extended care and extended-care facilities.
Now, what are the time lines? I have it clear, Mr. Chair. Unfortunately, the minister wants to waltz all around. The minister is the one that doesn't have it clear or is looking for excuses to not respond.
What are the time lines for decisions to be made? Can we look forward to a decision being made as to what we're going to be doing by the fall of this year or the spring of next year? What are we looking at? What is the window? Is it going to wait until the next election, so it will be a big campaign game plan for the next election?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not quite as cynical as the Member for Klondike. Plus, I think that he has an interesting habit of being able to latch on to an issue, expound on it at great length and not have a clear understanding of what the issue involves.
What I did say is that we are looking within the next few weeks for some short-term goals. I'm going to be bringing forward a paper to discuss with my colleagues as to where our needs are in this area to get their support in bringing it forward. We would be looking then at doing some targeted consultation with communities, hopefully to get some decisions and to get some planning underway.
Well, one can never predict what the consultation process would be or how this works, but certainly by the end of the year I'd be hoping to have something in terms of a longer term plan coming forward, and that's still our goal. In the meantime, we are working on some options for the more immediate needs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, now we've had the minister confirm that we're going to have a plan in place by the end of the year. When will something happen? What is the decision time and when will the government be addressing the needs?
What we have is 28 people waiting to get into the Thomson Centre and another 17 for Macaulay Lodge. We're still housing 13 extended-care patients in the Whitehorse General Hospital - it's an acute-care facility, according to the minister's definition. We're spending some $700 to $785 a day housing these 13 individuals in the Whitehorse General Hospital, where we could be housing them in the Thomson Centre at less than half that cost, and the individuals might and probably would be a lot more comfortable in a facility like the Thomson Centre than in the Whitehorse General Hospital.
So, when will the decision be made to address these needs? We know the time lines for the study. We know when the minister is going to bring back a game plan, but when will this government make a decision on this issue to address the responsibilities in this regard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, first of all, I have to point out that the member is doing a bit of double counting there, but I would point out to him that I have indicated that in the next few weeks we're going to be looking at our short-term goals, our short-term plans, and that we'll be moving on a longer term scenario.
Now, if he wants to pin me down to a date, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint him, and I will continue to disappoint him repeatedly because I have no way of predicting that. There are some decisions that have to be made in terms of funding. This is not the kind of thing where one snaps their fingers. There are issues around recruitment of long-term-care staff. There are issues around some physical modifications, some of which have been done. There are also issues around funding for this, so it's not something that I can predict immediately, and I will continue to tell the member that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is absolutely correct. He's going to disappoint me. He's going to continue to disappoint me, but what I don't want the minister to do is to disappoint these individuals waiting to get into this extended-care facility. Those are the individuals that I'm concerned about and care for.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
And the minister is standing back there laughing and laughing - laughing away in the back benches.
All I'm asking the minister to do is address his responsibilities, and it's obvious by the rhetoric coming out of the minister here today, Mr. Chair, that the minister doesn't have a handle on his area of responsibility. That's becoming more and more clear. He doesn't have a game plan and he doesn't have time lines when he's going to address his responsibilities. The record will clearly indicate that.
While we're on the issue of individuals waiting for access to the extended-care facilities, how many are from rural Yukon, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Eight from the communities.
The member there, by the way, is doing his usual bullying, posturing and big macho stuff. If he cares to go back and check the record, it was the social myopia of the previous government that put us in this point.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister's understanding of reality is somewhat tainted by his glasses, I'm sure.
The minister has indicated that the number of individuals that we're looking at from rural Yukon is eight. Is this the total number from all Yukon communities, and which communities? Those numbers appear to be on the low side, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't have a breakdown of the numbers, but we have eight people indicated as folks from the communities for the Thomson Centre. Macaulay, we don't have a breakdown. I believe, though, that at least one of those individuals is from Teslin. I don't have a further breakdown as to geographical location.
Mr. Jenkins: What I was looking at exploring with the minister is the number of individuals from Watson Lake and Dawson who could be housed in their own communities, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is one from Watson Lake. However, I think we need to recognize the fact that the individual, in this case, is a young person, or a young adult, from Watson Lake. It's a rather acute case, and it's not likely something that, given the medical demands, could be properly dealt with - given the level of care required - in Watson Lake very successfully.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm aware of the level of care being provided in rural Yukon and at the various operations throughout Whitehorse, but it just goes back to the number of individuals being housed in the Whitehorse General Hospital - the acute-care facility - who are extended-care individuals, and I think that has to be addressed, and it has to be addressed forthwith. The cost - it's twice the cost, Mr. Chair, more than twice the cost, and it certainly skews the statistics, and the minister knows full well it skews the facility.
So, I don't know when the minister's going to bring forward a game plan, Mr. Chair, but I'm hoping it will be in the very near future and that he can advance his time lines from the end of this year to some time more appropriate to address these needs that are very, very alarming in their trends - and growing. It's never been that high, as to the number of individuals waiting to get into these centres.
Those numbers are alarming, and that trend continues to grow.
I'll just turn the floor over to my colleague for awhile, Mr. Chair, and then we'll get back into general debate.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to say that I've been looking forward to this all year. It makes my year. I love this particular department. It's a true interest of mine.
We were talking earlier about myopia, which brings us to the issue of the Optometrists Act. Now, the optometrists in the Yukon have been trying to make changes to this act, such as it is, for the last six years. It's been their understanding that this issue is going to come forward on the fall legislative agenda, and I've asked the minister about this in the House before and have received a less-than-full answer, and I'm wondering if we can get a bit more detail at this point.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think I've gone over this in substantial detail before, pointing out that the Optometrists Act is, as all professional acts are, regulated by Justice, and I would have assumed that that had been raised with the Minister of Justice in discussions.
Mrs. Edelman: This is starting to get to be kind of tiring. It's tiring already, and this is just the first question.
Now, when we were in Justice, we were told this was Health and Social Services. Now Health and Social Services is saying this is a Justice issue. It's getting very, very confusing.
Now, the point at which the optometrists and the pharmacists and the nurses and the doctors all interact with departments is at Health and Social Services, so it's really confusing to keep getting this back-and-forth business between the two departments. And, if it's confusing to me as a legislator, I can only imagine how thrilling it is for someone who is dealing in these areas every day, knowing that changes have to be made - some of these are life-saving changes. They make life for people in the Yukon better.
Some of these acts are very, very old. The Pharmacists Act that we're working with is almost 50 years old. These are things that have to be done.
Now, I suppose that, if I ask the minister again, he's going to say it's the Department of Justice, and when I ask the Minister of Justice, she's going to tell us it's the Department of Health and Social Services. Can we get some sort of indication of where this is going? Who do we ask about these acts, in your opinion, Mr. Minister?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We do some consultation and certainly some advising of Justice with regard to these professional acts, but I believe that the Minister of Justice said that they fell under her purview and I don't recall her saying that these acts were not her responsibility. We have neither the capability legally to do the necessary drafting or modification. We just don't have that within our scope. We do other services in terms of medically required services and things of that nature.
There may be - and I emphasize "may" - some argument for the idea of shifting some of these professional acts into the appropriate departments, but then that would also mean a radical shift of probably some personnel, not to mention legal staff, to deal with it. So, at this juncture, unless there is some anticipation of change in that regard, I can't see it happening.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand that the Department of Health and Social Services is presently not going to be putting a presentation forward to the federal government on the Young Offenders Act either?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that is somewhat different, because young offenders do fall under our responsibility. There is some joint responsibility in that regard. For example, the Minister of Justice attended some meetings in which the Young Offenders Act was discussed, largely because within certain jurisdictions the Young Offenders Act, in some cases, falls under Justice and in some cases it's shared. In our case, we have responsibility within Social Services.
I think we're one of three or four jurisdictions where it does fall under Social Services. For example, our ADM of Social Services has met to discuss such things as funding arrangements and things of that nature. But when one talks about perhaps the overall legalistic changes, while we may make some representation on that, those are the kinds of discussions that go on at Justice minister levels. In this case, there were some discussions with Minister McLellan on some possible changes in that regard.
Mrs. Edelman: During the Justice debate, the Minister of Justice indicated that the Department of Health and Social Services would be presenting a position, as a government, to the federal government on the changes to the Young Offenders Act - and that's right out of Hansard. Now, I wonder if the Minister of Health and Social Services could give us that position.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we'd be happy to announce what our suggestions for the changes would be. However, the federal government has not announced what their intentions are in terms of the Young Offenders Act. They've announced their intention, but they haven't announced the details and they're responding to the Standing Committee, which came up here and have indicated that they are looking at - if I interpret them right - probably such things as issues around naming young offenders in certain cases and moving young people to adult court in the case of violent or serious offences.
Both the Justice minister and I met with the Standing Committee. The Standing Committee went away. They made proposals to the federal Minister of Justice. Now we understand that there are some changes in the works but, at this point, we're not aware of what those changes will be. We don't have the details. When we get the details, we'll be drafting our response and relaying that to the federal minister.
Mrs. Edelman: Can the minister give us an indication of what those changes were - the request for changes that the territorial government made to the federal government in the last round and some of the suggestions that they made for changes to the Young Offenders Act?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Some of the changes that were made were made under the previous government; however, the parliamentary standing committee - is that what the member is suggesting - came and - how can I characterize this - it was an interesting process because there was a tremendous amount of argument and dissension even within the committee process.
For example, there were individuals such as Jack Ramsay of the Reform Party, who had basically the position of wanting to abolish it, where the chair of the committee, Ms. Shaughnessy Cohen, of the Liberal Party, wanted to retain most of the young offenders in their present position.
We discussed the idea that we preferred to keep it, and we thought it was most appropriate within the social realm. We thought that there needed to be some consideration for alternative sentencing models. That was something that we emphasized. We also indicated that we would be opposed to the publication of names, except in cases of serious or violent offences and things of that nature.
I think we basically just expressed our desire to keep the young offenders as oriented as much as possible in trying to keep young people out of, I suppose, the more serious or adult justice system, and that's why we felt it was more appropriate within the social services realm.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think what I'm hearing from the minister is that the Young Offenders Act is okay with this government the way it's written right now. Is that the understanding that I'm getting?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I wouldn't say that it's okay. I think there are always issues that we can work on cooperatively, and I think there are always ways to improve it. I guess one of our concerns, quite frankly - and I'll be very frank with the member - is that we think there needs to be some provision for more alternative sentencing models, particularly for young people with disabilities - perhaps developmental disabilities - something that keeps them out of, I suppose, the more mainstream, sort of punitive aspect of justice.
The success that we've experienced with alternative sentencing models, particularly the diversion model, indicates that there are some benefits that can be obtained in that area, and that was a message that we conveyed. I think there are probably a number of concerns that the community has, and I think they need to be respected in terms of the issues around violence and violent young offenders, and I think those are some things that the federal government needs to take a look at.
What they're proposing we don't know at this point, we really don't. We have inklings of it but we don't know, and we don't know if those are at tremendous variance with how we see the program or not.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I really haven't gotten a clear answer yet. The Young Offenders Act, the way it's written right now - there are opportunities within that act to use alternative sentencing methods, and we already do use that and we've won awards across Canada - the diversion program, for example.
Now, is the minister saying that he's heard or that he has heard nothing from the communities about the changes that they'd like to hear or the changes they'd like to have implemented in the Young Offenders Act? We've spoken about alternative sentencing and about a reluctance on the part of this government to publish names unless there's a serious offence - and of course there's been no definition as to what a serious offence is - but I haven't heard anything from the minister about anything that he has heard, as a legislator, from the communities about what they want for changes in the Young Offenders Act.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think there is an issue here dealing with the kinds of things that are being proposed that we would need to get from the federal government so that we could take those up for a measure of public consultation or public discussion. I mean, certainly, to be sure, I do hear from people and I have heard from people, particularly on issues around young people on probation violating probation. Those are issues that I've heard.
I've also heard about the - I mean, I've heard such things as people suggesting that young people be sentenced to school, and I think that's a rather peculiar sort of concept. I've also heard people - and I think to be very fair sometimes people have said, "Well, you know, why aren't these kids learning anything?"
I think what's not clearly understood is that, at the young offenders facility, there are educational programs; there are programs to deal with all kinds of emotional problems, and things like that.
I think, in the minds of the public there are frustrations when they see young people sometimes perhaps violating the law, and that the consequences are, in terms of the minds of the public, not severe enough or not stringent enough.
I think sometimes there may be, perhaps, a lack of knowledge about the kinds of programs that are being offered and some of the things that we are already doing. That's perfectly understandable. I think most people feel a measure of frustration with the justice system. I can appreciate that.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, you could probably identify with this, speaking of someone who went through the Yukon educational system: yes, indeed, it did seem like we were sentenced to school.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: He wasn't teaching then; he was a child.
Mr. Chair, I'm very slowly getting this information out from the minister, but he did seem to indicate that one of the biggest frustrations of the Yukon public is the lack of knowledge. It's a lack of knowledge of the programming available and the lack of knowledge of what's actually happening in the system.
Now, in the Northwest Territories, despite the Young Offenders Act, they have been gazetting, or putting out for public information, the names of young offenders and where they are located in open custody facilities in the community. I have an example here from the Northwest Territories Gazette, where a child, I guess, is living at a certain house in open custody.
In the Yukon, the government designates private people's homes as open custody homes for young offenders who break the law. We use that system here, and we're putting high-risk young offenders into these open custody homes, which are situated right in the middle of residential areas like Porter Creek and Riverdale.
We're also placing adolescent sex offenders - 12 to 18 years of age - in the middle of these neighbourhoods.
We don't notify the neighbours. We don't gazette. We don't notify and we put every child in that area - particularly if these sex offenders are pedophiles - at risk.
What kind of risk assessment or classification is going on, on the part of the government, to determine whether these children or these young offenders are appropriately placed within residential areas?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There is fairly well-developed risk management with regard to the individual that the member is referring to. This individual is placed there and is subject to 24-hour supervision. I would suggest that the member might be at considerable variance with the federal Liberal Party, because there was a very strong tenor, at least from the Liberal members, that they were very concerned about the publication of names. We aspire to minimize the risks to the public and also try to protect a measure of confidentiality for young people.
I can assure the member that anyone who has concerns about an individual or concerns with a particular home, if they're in contact with family and children's services, they can explain the process and the kinds of security measures that are being taken. I would urge them to do so.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting, because it isn't just one case. There have been a number of cases over the years and our community has been put at risk. That's the community of Whitehorse, and goodness only knows what's happening out in the communities.
Now, the issue of publishing names is not a federal responsibility under the YOA. They are doing it in the Northwest Territories, under open custody, which is the responsibility of the territorial government. Why can't we do that here?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would suggest that, in the Northwest Territories, they are probably doing it in violation of the Young Offenders Act and probably in violation of the law.
I can tell the member some of the things that we tried to do to inform members of what's going on. We do have community open houses.
I wonder if the member can bring forward incidents, since she made reference to incidents, of cases where community members were put at risk or perhaps suffered damage or perhaps suffered injury at the hands of one of these young people. If she has specific incidents and she can give them to me, I can certainly look into them, but I haven't been aware of them.
We're certainly aware of issues of young offenders. We're certainly aware of issues of young people, for example, at the former Northern Network of Services going AWOL, and things like that. We take the appropriate actions. We do whatever is necessary. A young person who violates the guidelines finds himself back up the YOA or find themselves having other actions taken. But if the member has an incident, I would certainly appreciate having that relayed to me.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, regardless of individual cases, this is an issue. In the Yukon we have young offenders in residential neighbourhoods, some of whom are pedophiles - over the years they have been - living just down the street from people with young children who are at risk and nobody knows. Now, that is a big issue.
Now, in Saskatchewan in an open custody designated home - and quite often I think the other thing that a lot of people don't realize is that a lot of these open custody homes have a single household head, usually women - one of those women who headed an open custody facility was just recently killed, murdered by the young offender in that home.
That is more often the case in the Yukon where we have a single family head who is a woman and she is at risk and this is really dangerous. I think that we have to be aware of that fact. It is not appropriate.
The bottom line is we don't want to have adolescent sex offenders residing in open custody in designated care giver homes in residential neighbourhoods where there are a lot of children. That doesn't make sense. If the department insists on this sort of activity, which they obviously do, then there has to be a classification system of who is the most dangerous.
There has to be a level. Which sex offenders or which young offenders are we going to be putting into which neighbourhoods? I know the minister is probably going to be told that that never happens, but indeed it does. And what is the minister going to be doing with it - at least in assessing the level of risk to our communities?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would appreciate it if the member could get me the incidents. I would certainly look into them. I can tell the member that there are designations by the judges, for example, in terms of young people. There are risk management systems that go on in family and children's services.
We would never, never - and I'm surprised that the member would suggest that family and children's services would deliberately or, by neglect, try to put young children at risk in any neighbourhood.
At the same time, I think we also have to be cognizant of the fact of where do we put these people. Where do we put them? We've certainly seen negative reaction to the suggestion of looking for another placement for the young FAS folks that we have - none of whom, incidentally, have re-offended while they've been in that facility and none of whom have created any incidents. But where do we put them? Do we find an area where we exile them? Do we build more secure facilities?
Many of these young people whom we have within our care are not there by virtue of their own fault. Many of them are children who have backgrounds that involve abuse, involve neglect, involve a whole plethora of problems. We have children within our care who, literally, parents have given up on and have handed them over to us, saying, "We can't manage them; we can't handle them". What do we do with these children?
Do we cast them off on the ash heap of social refuse? I mean, we obviously have a responsibility to these young people. We have a responsibility to try to provide as normal an environment as possible, and I'm quite surprised that the member suggested that family and children's services is so negligent that they would put children or families or care giver parents or neighbourhoods at risk. I just don't think that's the case.
I've taken a look at the kinds of processes that people have gone through, and I've taken a look at how these young people are dealt with, in terms of violations of conditions, and I'm satisfied that family and children's services is trying to do the best job that it can under some very difficult circumstances.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there is no question that there are sex offenders and young offenders out in the community in open custody. That is happening, and those open-custody designated homes are in the middle of residential areas. What my concern is, and the concern of my constituents, and my personal concern, is that my children and I are at risk in the community because we don't know who those kids are and where they are, and that's a real danger. Regardless of the horrible lives that those children may have, it doesn't give them the right to go out and victimize my children to start the cycle with them or to victimize any other child in my neighbourhood. That's not right.
Now, if people have knowledge of those children, or if they can at least be assured that, in designated open custody homes within the community, that there is going to be 24-hour care, not a single care giver - that those children, or young offenders are going to be watched - that the children in that area will not be at risk, that's another thing. But that's not what's happening.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can tell the member that young people who have had sexual acting-out problems for the most part do not go into open custody. They, in fact, go into a more supervised setting. I'm not aware - I have to be very frank - of incidents where these young people have victimized either care givers or children or neighbourhoods. If the member does have an incident of it, I would appreciate being made aware of it, and I can look into it.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think what we're talking about is putting people at risk. Is the minister saying that he's not going to do something until there is incident where a child is brutalized or is in some way put in danger or is attacked? Is that the only way that this minister is going to act in this situation that puts so many children and so many adults at risk in our community?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we have a whole variety of issues around risk management and risk avoidance. I can only presume that what the member is suggesting is that: a) we don't have open custody; b) the only people who should be available to do open custody would be two-parent families, and; c) individuals who have any risk of offending have their names gazetted. Those are the assumptions that I'm making.
I can tell the member that we do take our responsibilities in this area very seriously. Family and children services does not enter into this lightly. Many of the dispositions, I have to tell the member, are not determined by us. There is a court system, and in some cases, the judges will make those determinations, and in some cases, the judges may choose to ignore recommendations that we make from our youth probations.
So, I can tell the member that we take this very seriously. I suppose, further, perhaps if I could allay some of her fears, I would be very happy to set up a meeting with family and children's services, where they could outline what they actually do in this case. Would the member be interested in that?
Mrs. Edelman: I already had a briefing in that area, thank you.
Mr. Ostashek: I'm very concerned with the attitude that the minister has taken with respect to this very serious situation and that "the government knows best" for the residents and that they ought not to fear, because he said it's safe. I think that's a very arrogant attitude to be taking. "We wouldn't put anybody in there that would be a threat to society." I believe that he's right; the department wouldn't intentionally put somebody in there. But, Mr. Chair, mistakes are made and there are ramifications from those mistakes.
I want to approach this in a little different manner from the Member for Riverdale South. I had a constituent complain to me about this a short time back. It was about an open facility at 77 Tamarack Drive. The concern of the resident was not so much that there was a known sex offender staying at that open facility, but nobody informed the neighbourhood that there was an open custody facility in the neighbourhood. Now I understand that there are two of them in the neighbourhood.
The residents are not taking the position of "not in my backyard". All they're asking for is that the government make them aware that there is an open custody facility and that there may be sex offenders staying there.
I think that they're fully prepared to let the department make the judgment that this person will not be a threat to the neighbourhood, but they would love to have the ability to be able to conduct their lives in a manner that makes it comfortable for them, when there's a known open custody facility in the area, with a known sex offender staying there.
I relayed to my constituent what the minister passed on to me, and I also told her that I wasn't satisfied with the answer I got. Further to that, this constituent has now written a letter to the minister, asking what the policies are. When I approached the minister, he said they left it to open custody to notify the neighbours. Well, give me a break.
Does the minister not feel that's a responsibility of his department to let the people know that there's an open custody facility in their neighbourhood? Let them act according to whatever makes them feel comfortable. Maybe some parent doesn't feel comfortable, even though they have all the assurances in the world that this person is not a threat to society. Maybe they want to escort their children to school for awhile. All they're asking for is the ability to make their own decisions in respect to this.
Does the minister not think that that's a reasonable request of a neighbourhood to be notified that there are open custody facilities in the neighbourhood, and yes, there is a known sex offender staying there who is not considered a threat to society. My constituent agrees that they have to go somewhere. My constituent doesn't want them segregated somewhere else. All my constituent wants - and her friends and neighbours - is the ability to make their own decisions as to how they act in view of the fact that there are open custody facilities within their residential area.
I'd like to ask for the minister's thoughts on that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess I'm a little bit puzzled because this policy on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services has not substantially changed in a number of years. This is how it has been. This particular policy was not changed previously, and I supposed I'm a bit puzzled as to why it has emerged now.
As I told the member at the time, we do encourage people who have open custody homes to meet with their neighbours, to talk with their neighbours.
There are some issues, however, and I think the assumption is that any child that ends up in an open custody home is somehow an offender, an offender perhaps of clear severity, perhaps having been engaged in criminal action, or something like that. I can tell the member that that's not often the case. I have known of young people who have made transitions from sometimes closed custody to open custody where they've gone through a series of treatments. Sometimes they're trying to make a transition back to their own families.
I think what we would seriously get into there is the whole question of stigmatization. Is every child who goes into open custody home necessarily a criminal? Are they necessarily an evil person? The vast majority of the children in our care facilities are children who have gone through some very difficult circumstances. Yes, some will have gone through the juvenile justice system, but a large number of those children are children who are there because of some severe family, personal or emotional difficulties.
I guess I'm just surprised at why this has emerged as an issue at this point. We do everything we can to minimize the risk. As I indicated to the member, we would encourage all of our custody homes to at least have a dialogue with their neighbours, especially if there are issues such as young children or school proximity or things of that nature in play. So, I can just say that I'm somewhat at a loss to understand why this has suddenly emerged now.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, does the minister think that we're just standing here saying this just to keep the debate going in this Legislature? We've had some very legitimate concerns raised by constituents, and we have the minister again saying, "They need not worry, because I know what's best for them."
I think that this constituent that filed this complaint was being very, very reasonable. This constituent was not asking that nobody to be put in their neighbourhood. All that they were asking is for the abilityto know that there was open custody in the neighbourhood and know the type of people that were there, so that they could take whatever actions they felt comfortable with. Now, is that an unreasonable request?
For the minister to say, "Well, it's never been a problem before; why should it be a problem now?" The fact is, Mr. Chair, that it is a problem, and it's this minister's responsibility to deal with it, and there has been a breakdown at least on Tamarack, where two open custody homes are situated, and the constituents in the area know absolutely nothing about them.
So, whatever procedure the minister has had in place by leaving it to the custody home to talk with the neighbours and inform them isn't happening.
That's why the complaint is being filed with us as MLAs, to raise it with the minister and ask the minister to examine the policy surrounding open custody homes and see if there can't be some changes made so that people in the neighbourhood at least know they are there.
Can the minister give us that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I guess one of the things I'm puzzled about is that the whole concept of open custody came in under the member's government, and I believe it was the actions of one of the previous health ministers, in closing down the facility downtown, that led to open custody.
So, I suppose the logical question would be, was that not thought out at the time?
With regard to the member -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I hear something from the chattering classes there. With regard to examining the policies, yes, I can go back and talk with our department. Perhaps there are some things that we can make some necessary changes to. I think, in any changes we would have to take a look at, we would also have to be reasonably sensitive to the needs of the children. Certainly, it's something that I can look into and give the member my undertaking that I'll discuss it with our department.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, and he ought not to stand there and blame previous administrations because he's incompetent in doing his job. He is the minister now and he is responsible.
The policy may have been brought in under our administration. There were no complaints at the time or they would have been dealt with. We wouldn't have sat on our hands like this minister is doing, stonewalling and saying that we know what's best for your constituents.
Mr. Chair, all I've asked is for the minister to review the policy and see if there can't be some changes made so that the residents of Whitehorse in the areas where there are open custody have a level of comfort, and they can make their own decisions as to how to deal with it. My constituent has not asked for the young offender to be named. She's not gone to that extent. She has not said that they don't want the open custody in that area. All they want is to be aware of what is happening in their neighbourhood so that they can take whatever precautions they feel are necessary.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I believe I gave the member an undertaking that we'd take a look at it.
Deputy Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a break?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Ten minutes.
Deputy Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to enter into the debate that the Member for Riverdale South started and the Member for Porter Creek North has raised as well, and that's the issue of open custody homes. For the record, 77 Tamarack Street is located in Porter Creek South.
Mr. Chair, the minister will recall that I raised this issue last December with the Minister of Health and Social Services. We had quite an extensive debate about it, and the minister, I note, uses some of the same responses - the suggestion or inference that there is some kind of a criticism of the people who have raised questions and some kind of criticism that they are not being good neighbours. And I just re-emphasize that that's not the issue.
What's at issue here is that individuals want to know when an open custody home has been designated, and they want to have some kind of a classification system for these homes if there are violent offenders in them.
Although the minister has stated that these aren't used for violent offenders, he also said that the system is not foolproof in our earlier debate. If there are dangerous offenders - those who have sex offences or break and enters - people want to know. We need to know where these homes are and we need to know some kind of a classification system for them - level 1, level 2, level 3, however they want to do it. I note that we have information from the Northwest Territories where they have stated in the schedule the homes that are designated.
Now, the minister kindly committed to taking a look at this for the Member for Porter Creek North, which is - I can admit - more than he gave me last December. This is an issue for people. It's a very serious issue; it's of real concern and I'd like some kind of answer from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm not sure what the question is. I can tell the member that in some cases there's not a classification of homes, per se, but there is a classification of offenders and, in many cases, the determination of the nature of the offenders is done by the judge. In the case of the one that was mentioned on Tamarack, that was a decision by the judge in that case.
I've given an undertaking that we can take a look at, at least, some kind of system of ways to inform people of what kinds of things are within their home. I suspect, however, that what that would probably do is cause a reluctance on the part of the people who are potential care givers to enter into this. It would be my fear that we would eventually lose that option, and that would be regrettable for some of these young people.
But we will go back and I'll talk with family and children's services and see what we can do. There are some issues, probably, around confidentiality that we'd have to be cognizant of, and those are some things that I'll have to discuss with them.
Ms. Duncan: The way the minister responded was condescending and offensive to me as a member.
The issue is that the government designates open custody homes in residential areas in Whitehorse. That designation is not on the advice of neighbours. Neighbours don't know that. The only way that neighbours know is if they happen to find out one way or another. And they always do. They have no way of knowing what sort of an offender is being housed in that open custody home.
You go to your neighbour when you're going to build a fence and you talk to them about it. You go to your neighbours when you're going to make major changes. We talk more to our neighbours about paving the street than we do about some of these issues, and I don't believe that's right.
I believe the minister has a responsibility to treat these as serious issues and concerns, and it's not a not-in-my-back-yard attitude. No one is saying that these homes shouldn't be there. The issue is knowledge. It's not a not-in-my-back-yard issue, as the minister has tried to tell me and tell other members of this House. That's not the issue. The issue is about knowledge. Without knowledge is where some of the concerns and fears are raised, because people don't know. It's information, and I think people should be aware of what's going on in their neighbourhood. If there's a classification system for offenders, then why can't you have a classification system for these open-custody homes? Why can't that happen?
If the Northwest Territories can publish the addresses of these homes, why can't we?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: At the break, we did seek some advice, and we were advised that the idea of publishing a list of the homes is not do-able or, at least, as the Member for Riverdale South indicated, the names of the offenders was not doable under the Young Offenders Act. We will check into that in further detail.
I believe I gave an undertaking that we would take a look at this and take a look and see what can be done in that regard. So, that's what I will attempt to do.
We'll also go back and take a look at the whole issue, as the member has raised, and see, in fact, if the N.W.T. has some kind of option here, or what is exactly being proposed in the N.W.T., and how they managed to do it and if indeed they are in accord with the Young Offenders Act.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a copy of the Northwest Territories Gazette, statutory instruments, Young Offenders Act, Young Offenders Act Canada, open custody facilities order amendment. The Minister of Justice goes on; it says: "The open custody facilities order established by instrument number SI001-98 is amended by this order. The schedule is amended by adding the following after item 19: 'The home of ...'" - and it lists the name and the house number, Iqaluit, and the home of another individual in Hay River. So, their homes are published.
The minister has given an undertaking to look at it, that they will look at what the Northwest Territories do. Will they also look at a system of classification for these homes? And will the minister also give a commitment that this will be done in a reasonable time frame, that we'll hear by July on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can take a look at the feasibility of this. I'm afraid I have a bit of a variance here. The Member for Riverdale South was initially, in referring to the Gazette, saying that people's names are published. I assume by that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, because I had assumed that when she had said that she was speaking about the offenders. I see. Well, that wasn't clear, initially.
With regard to the homes, we can take a look into it. We can take a look at the feasibility of some kind of, as the member has said, a classification system, perhaps a classification system similar to what we've got in terms of the classification of offenders or potential offenders, or whatever.
So, those are some things that we can do, and I think probably a summer time line would be at least do-able. We can take a look, and I can keep the members informed.
Mr. Phillips: I just want to enter the debate briefly. I know the minister was asked some questions about various homes in the territory, and I think the minister can recall the conversation that we've had in this House about 16 Klondike. The minister told me at that time that we couldn't even talk about 16 Klondike because there were young offenders in that home and, according to the Young Offenders Act, we had to be very careful about what we said. I made the accusation, Mr. Chair, that some youth from that particular home had broken into some homes in Riverdale and the minister wouldn't admit to that, at least publicly, but the fact is that that did happen. There were youths in that home who broke into homes in Riverdale and caused quite a concern for people in that area. So, these kinds of things have happened before.
The minister said earlier today that there was little or no record of anything like this happening and there is a record of it happening. There were people in that home on 16 Klondike, who broke into other homes. I think the minister's solution to that was that he offered me a tour of 16 Klondike. Well, the tour that I'm objecting to is the young offenders' uninvited tour of my constituents' homes, and that's the concern that my constituents had. I would hope that the minister would realize that the community needs to know that these homes are in the are. They need to know what their function is. There needs to be some kind of a classification system so people are aware of what's there.
I had a group home beside me on Klondike Road for 12 or 13 years. There was not an ounce of trouble with it, and I got along well with the people next door and some of the youth who were in there as well. I knew because I was the next-door neighbour, but an awful lot of other people on the street had no idea that these homes were there and had no idea of what kind of youths were going into these homes.
I think that's the critical thing - that there is some kind of idea of the classification system where people were more aware.
I don't accept for a moment the minister's argument that people might not take on the role of operating these homes for fear that they might be known to be a group home or whatever. It seems to me that the minister has far more concern for the people who are operating the group homes than the neighbors who are around the groups homes. That's a concern that I have.
So I would just express my concern to the minister that these kinds of things have happened before from our group homes in this territory and that maybe it is time to have a look at the system. Maybe it is time to look at what other jurisdictions, such as the Northwest Territories are doing. Maybe it is time to bring in a classification system and inform the neighbors about what kinds of institutional types of buildings are in their neighborhoods.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe that I noted that before. I will try to follow up, as I indicated earlier.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're exploring group homes with the minister, Mr. Chair, let's see if we can find out what's happening in the Golden Horn subdivison with the group home that is proposed to be constructed in that area. Would the minister table the plans for that group home?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We don't have any plans for the group home there, because the plans are not in this current budget; nor are they in next year's budget.
The only thing that we've been doing is looking for a zoning change as a possibility for this to be facilitated. We had asked that rural property be set aside for Health and Social Services' use.
This is not in this year's budget and it's not in next year's budget. We've had a couple of meetings with the neighbours and we're talking about an allocation of - let's see, I'm just looking for the actual space. But suffice it to say that we're looking for something that is of a rural nature.
The four individuals who we have in this regard are teenage FAS boys. All of the boys in this home have exhibited sexually inappropriate behaviour prior to the admission to the home. And, by the way, that home is downtown. These young people are all monitored under extremely careful supervision and none of the young people in this case have reoffended since being admitted to the home, and we haven't had any incidents.
However, the property that we're in right now has a limited lifespan and we're going to need to do something within the next five to 10 years. Because of that, we're looking for something that would permit these young people a bit more, I suppose, personal freedom or personal ability to interact with, say, animals or undertake chores or something of that nature.
Right now, these young people live a fairly, I think, suffice it to say, a fairly limited existence. Some of them hold jobs, some of them have educational positions. They're very closely supervised, but when they return to that facility, they return to that facility and that is where they are.
I have been over there at the time when these young people come home and I can tell the member that there's a whole variety of restrictions on these young people to reduce stimuli and reduce the chances of reoffending.
That's something we're going to have to deal with. We had looked at the idea of a rural placement. We'd taken a look at the possibility of getting this land rezoned, but that's as far as it's gone. We would want extensive consultations with the neighbours.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if there's no money in the budget for this year, there isn't any money in the budget for next year, where did the money come from to take the Commissioner's land in that area, put the driveway into it, extend the power line into it, and develop the pad? We must have some game plan as to where we're heading, and there must have been something on the drawing board, somewhere along the line, before we undertook that kind of an expenditure on that piece of property, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We haven't allocated any funds for those improvements, so it was probably done prior to us. All we've asked for is that that land be zoned, that it could potentially be used. We haven't invested any money in that property.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if the rezoning of that land - from the current use to be used for the purpose intended - meets with overwhelming opposition from the residents in the Golden Horn subdivision, is the minister going to ask the minister responsible for that rezoning to proceed with the rezoning, in spite of an overwhelming opposition? Is that what we're hearing, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, we will respect the planning process that goes on, and there's an advisory committee that's been struck to develop the Golden Horn land use plan, and we'll respect that process.
I think it's also fair to say that we're also looking at other possible scenarios with regard to this facility.
When we were previously discussing the idea of proximity of an open custody, I would just suggest to the member that what is being envisaged here is considerably different in terms of space, in terms of proximity, to what would be found in a normal residential neighbourhood. Quite frankly, you know, I think we have an obligation to try to provide a decent environment for some of these young people who have a disability by no fault of their own and have a life-long disability, and I think we have an obligation in that regard to try to provide a decent measure of life.
That's what we're really aspiring to do. We're not interested in thrusting anything down anyone's throat. We're not interested in trying to change the quality of life in a neighbourhood. There is no secret agenda, as has been implied, to bring in, of all things, a jail or any other kinds of institutions.
What we looked at was a fairly limited facility. People have said, "Why do we need such a large space?" The fact is that research in dealing with these young people indicates that they respond well to such things as doing, I suppose, limited agriculture or animal husbandry kind of work, and I think this would provide an opportunity.
Why where it is? Well, there are also some issues around these young individuals being able to maintain jobs and maintain, in some cases, educational efforts, so there has to be certainly a measure of proximity, at least, to the city and some of the places where they can be placed.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister, Mr. Chair, for the information, but the question was quite specific. If there is overwhelming opposition to the rezoning application in Golden Horn subdivision, is that going to be the end of it or is the minister going to usurp the process and proceed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we're not in the process of trying to usurp anyone's process. There is, as I said, a planning process in place. We've had one initial consultation. We'll be doing future consultations. There's a community plan that's going to take 12 to 24 months. We'll respect that process. I can tell the members right now that there isn't anything immediate.
Mr. Jenkins: We seem to be mixing apples and oranges here. What we have is existing zoning in the Golden Horn subdivision. My understanding is that the government is looking to change that zoning on that parcel of Commissioner's land. Now, separate and distinct from that process, there is also a community plan being developed for the Golden Horn subdivision, but that's a separate issue. There presently exists zoning over this parcel of Commissioner's land that is envisioned for this purpose. That is the zoning that the minister's department is looking to have changed.
Irrespective of the progress of the official community plan, if the community and the residents of that area are overwhelmingly opposed to its location in that area, will the minister honour their position?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves. There's a process in place to designate what would be institutional, what would be educational, what would be residential and what would be agricultural, et cetera. I would presume that this process also involves participation by the residents. If it doesn't, I would suggest that it's a very flawed process.
If, at the end of that, the process suggests that institutional use is incompatible with the kind of land use that's going on there, certainly that would impact on our decision. If we can't get institutional land, we would be, so to speak, pursuing a rather dead end.
We would be interested in working with the citizens. I think one of the things that we would want to do is explain exactly what we're envisaging. We believe that there is a process whereby we can probably allay a lot of the concerns of people. I believe that there are things that we could do to let the community know what's being envisaged and hopefully we can deal with the community in such a way that perhaps some of their fears would be allayed.
I would hope, just as we're not prejudging what the outcome would be, that the residents of the community would not prejudge and that the residents of the Golden Horn area would at least be open-minded and listen to what we're proposing and if, at the end of the day, there is some kind of accommodation that can be reached, all to the good.
Mr. Jenkins: But, I'm looking, Mr. Chair, for a simple yes or no answer to this question. I'm not looking for a five-minute overview of the whole process. If, after due process in dealing with this rezoning application, the residents of that area are overwhelmingly opposed to the location of a group home in the Golden Horn subdivision area that's presently Commissioner's land, will the minister honour the wishes of the majority of the residents and not locate it there?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We would always be cognizant of what the wishes of the community would be. I would just hope that the community can also be cognizant of what some of our needs are and what some of our wishes would be. I suppose I'm somewhat concerned by the tenor of some of the letters that I've received. I haven't received a tremendous number, but some of them were, quite frankly, a little bit disturbing because they were suggesting to me that perhaps some of the information that people are operating under is completely fictitious. For example, there was a suggestion that the reason that we were seeking a large piece of land is because we were going to build a jail.
I don't know where this one came from. There was a suggestion that, because some of these young people were of a particular ethnic background, they should probably be sent back to where they came from, and things of that nature.
What we would hope to do would be to convey to the residents what our needs were, what our intentions are, and sit down and have a dialogue with them, and if at the end of the day there's still strong community resistance, well that's something that would have to guide our decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's benefit, his department is going for a rezoning application to rezone that area institutional, and a jail is a permitted use under institutional use.
Now, what I'm asking the minister and what I'm looking for is a direct answer. If the overwhelming number of residents in that area are opposed to the location of the group home on the parcel of land that is presently Commissioner's land that the government is going for a rezoning application on, will the minister honour and respect their wishes and not locate the group home in that location? Yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I believe I already answered that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister hasn't answered the question, and the record reflects accurately what the minister said. He offered his opinion that the people would have their chance to speak and have their say, but he didn't say whether he would respect their wishes.
Now, here we have a government that prides itself on consulting with the people. They're supposed to be the experts in this regard, of consulting with the people, discussing the issues with the people, talking to the people. This is supposed to be the process.
All I'm asking the minister is for a simple yes or no answer, Mr. Chair. If, after we have gone through the process in the Golden Horn subdivision of rezoning, and the overwhelming number of the residents in that area are opposed, will the minister respect their wishes and locate that group home in another location? Yes or no; that's all I'm looking for.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, I believe I've said that we will respect public input. The member probably has more familiarity with zoning and municipal issues than I, but I understand - perhaps I'm assuming that it's done this way in Dawson - that if there is a request to do a zoning application and a number of the residents and the neighbours were opposed to it, it would be unlikely that that zoning application would pass.
The member is shaking his head. So, in other words, what he's saying is a municipality would then ignore the wishes of the residents of that area. I think that's somewhat disturbing.
As I have said, we would respect the public input. We would respect the process, but I also think that it's a two-way street. I think the residents of the area should avail themselves of an explanation of what we're proposing, an explanation of the rationale behind this, and, as I said, we will respect the public input, and we will act accordingly.
But I'm quite surprised that the member would say that a municipality would ignore its own citizens, in terms of a zoning application. Is that what he's suggesting?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps if the minister wants to ascertain how the process works, he should consult with the Department of Community and Transportation Services, because obviously he doesn't have a very firm understanding in the area that he's charged with addressing.
Now, if this is a long-term project, are other sites being considered for this proposed group home, or is this the only site being explored by the department?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It's certainly the site that we're looking at right now, and I think I have addressed some of the reasons why, in terms of proximity and in terms of availability of land. It's not the exclusive site. I've actually had a couple of conversations with some other jurisdictions - some other levels of government - about the possibilities of land being available. So, we're keeping a variety of options open.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister apprise the House of the other locations being explored for this purpose?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, I cannot, because at this time, they are extremely preliminary, and they were done just in a very, very preliminary manner. As a matter of fact, we were just exploring. I just put out the idea and asked about availability of land, but at this point, we haven't gone beyond that.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have any ideas of the time lines for the rezoning application to be completed?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The community plan has about 12 to 24 months. I'm not really aware of where this particular process is at this point. If the member can bear with me, I have a further note.
I can provide that at a later point. I do have a note on that, but it's someplace in this file, and it would just occupy a lot of time to rummage through it.
I can find out, but that was information that was passed on to us by C&TS, so we're assuming that it is accurate.
Mr. Jenkins: Where I'm heading, Mr. Chair, is that there are time lines to go through this rezoning application from start to finish. We're just at the initial stage of that process. It's a series of public hearings, then a review and then the recommendation is made, with which the government can either agree or disagree. So, it's really a political decision as to whether they want to rezone that land or not, but the process is spelled out; it is quite specific and the time lines are there.
What I don't want to see is, at the end of the road, if this parcel of land is completely opposed by the residents there and the government is left with no choice, they're back to square one. Does the government not think it's a prudent move to be exploring other parcels of land?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Chair, if I hadn't thought that, I wouldn't have speculated on other possibilities. As it was, I informed the member that we are looking at a variety of options. We have a preferred option, and I think I was clear about why we have a preferred option.
We are interested in trying to find an appropriate place, a rural place, within reasonable proximity to the city and that would allow our young people in our care to enjoy some amenities without a sense of being either a social or personal pariah. I would hope that, at least, we are sustained in that goal by the members opposite. I would hope that they would share our concerns, at least, with some of these young people.
Mr. Jenkins: Having an interest in community plans and the one for Golden Horn, I did attend the last meeting down there and, after the meeting, the one suggestion that did come to the forefront as to the location of the group home was on Annie Lake Road, next to the Minister of Justice's place, so she could keep an eye on things.
Will the minister give his undertaking to review this kind of approach?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that is of such an absurdist nature I wouldn't acknowledge it by giving it any credence.
Mrs. Edelman: Interestingly enough, the minister has referred to his interest in children who suffer from FAS and FAE, and one of the things that came up last fall, in November of 1997, was a very extended debate, and I notice that the minister's remarks are very extended, as usual, about alcohol abuse - and actually any other subject. But there were a number of things or initiatives that the minister said he had an interest in or that he was going to have his department follow up on, and I wonder if we can go through these sort of one by one and get an idea from the minister of where we stand on some of these issues that the minister has referred to in the past.
Now, we're talking about the idea of followup after alcohol and drug programming. What is the department doing in terms of long-term followup?
This is supposed to be part of the new treatment program. What is the followup program? How long does it go and what's the extent of the followup program?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Am I to understand from the member's comments with regard to the new alcohol treatment program, the relapse prevention - is that what she's indicating?
Mrs. Edelman: Relapse prevention is one of the issues around followup. Followup, in a lot of cases, is useful just for statistical information; for example, how efficient or what is the efficacy of the program that we have and did it meet the need, did it encourage other lifestyle changes - blah, blah, blah.
I will quote from what the minister has said. "Interestingly enough, one of the issues that has come up is the need for followup, particularly in terms of alcohol and drug treatments." And I would assume that we are talking here about the followup that we've been referring in the new alcohol and drug treatment program from the territorial government.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, there is quite a bit of information on that and I hope I'm not going to bore the member to any great degree here.
I can tell the member that we have already begun the process of bringing in a relapse prevention program. We've gone through our first treatment session. We're doing the second one. I had thought I'd gone over this in some fair detail. There will be a tracking. That's part of what we have suggested we would be interested in doing. We need to track this to find out just how successful this is. We need to take a look at such things as relapse, we need to take a look at efficacy, we need to take a look to see if the program meeting our needs? As we evolve through the program, we will be going back, we'll be checking, we will be reviewing the program. Is it meeting the needs? Are there areas that we should be addressing? For example, are there target populations that we think we're missing, and so on?
So, this will be part of our ongoing program.
With regard to relapse prevention, as I said, within the structure of the program, there's a medical detox component, there's a treatment component, and that is followed by, I believe - I don't have my notes here - about 12 or 14 days of relapse prevention.
And there's also an opportunity for people to come back at a future point. What we're looking at is basically a continuum of care so that people would be able to plug in and plug out, so that if they feel that they need to return for relapse prevention treatment at a future point, they can.
I have a fair degree of information on this, but it's pretty copious, and I don't want to go through my entire discourse again on the changes in the program.
Mrs. Edelman: I'm so glad that we didn't do that.
I still haven't got the level of detail that I was hoping for, Mr. Chair. The issue was on followup. This is a 14-day or a 28-day program, and there are other alcohol treatment programs in the Yukon, some of which are offered privately through First Nations. There are alternative programs for youth in some of the communities, and there has never really been a good tracking, one way or another. If we are going to be doing a followup study on the people who are taking these programs, whatever they happen to be, are we talking about tracking these people for a month, tracking them for two months, tracking them for four months? And are we tracking them in terms of relapse, or are we tracking them in terms of other offences - for example, if they have been ordered there by the court? What sort of tracking program is it, and how long are we going to be tracking people?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I think when we did discuss this at an earlier date, I was quite clear in saying that we looked at the whole idea of alcohol and drug treatment as a much longer term program. We see it as a program that isn't done overnight, it isn't done in a few months, it isn't done in six months. We actually see the whole alcohol and drug treatment as a process that goes on - it's basically a lifelong process, but basically the curative, I suppose, aspect of it is really kind of a two-year sort of program. And during that period of time we would be tracking people on such things as sobriety skills, in terms of pressures that they're facing.
One of the reasons why we were so interested in relapse prevention was because one of the things that we clearly heard was that people sometimes face difficulties. They go through a process and then they go back to a similar lifestyle where the pressures haven't gone. So what we want to do is offer people a chance to come back and work on relapse prevention, and provide those kinds of opportunities.
So, part of this entire process is to track people and to assist them in adjustments to a more sober lifestyle.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, maybe I can condense that, as we are wont to do with this certain minister's comments.
We're talking about a two-year followup period and we're talking about followup on all alcohol treatment programs. We're also talking about followup in terms of relapse only. Is that my understanding of the minister's comments?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We would be looking at a two-year program. We would be focusing primarily, from our own program, on such things as are specifically geared to relapse and specifically geared to alcohol and drug issues.
There are obviously going to be other issues. Some of these people may have legal problems. Some of them may have marital or perhaps family problems, or something like that.
Hopefully, as we go through our process, we will be able to kind of follow up on an individual and say, okay, what kinds of things have gone on and what's been the impact, and so on and so forth.
With some of the alternative programs that are occurring, I think our interest in that is going to be on particular programs in which we may do some shared responsibilities. We will be seeking from groups that perhaps we might want to partner with some information around what their success rates are, and so forth.
But there will obviously be private plans where we can't follow up, because we don't have a great deal of input into them. So, there will be some limitations around what we can track, but certainly from our point of view - from our program - tracking is going to be one of the main features.
One of the difficulties that I think we've always recognized has been the lack of accurate statistics and accurate information in this regard, and that's something we want to get around.
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that one of the reasons I have a particular interest in the idea of followup and the long-term tracking - for which I gather now we're talking about two years - is that it's a good way to compare programs. For example, is the wilderness camp the best way to go? Is the alcohol and treatment program here in Whitehorse on a day program the most effective? Is residential the most effective? Or, is it better in the long run just to send somebody outside for a medical program at, say, Henwood, or one of the facilities in B.C.?
What I'm trying to get from the minister is that that type of followup will be done not just on the new program that we've just introduced, but on the other programs that the government pays for.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we would do it certainly on our program, but I think it needs to be recognized that there seems to be a misconception that we send people out. In reality we, as Health and Social Services, send very few people out - very, very few. It's a very rare occurrence.
What happens is the NNADAP programs tend to send people out with limited degrees of success. I've already met with CYFN about ways in which we can encourage NNADAP funds to be directed perhaps within the territory.
One of the problems that occurs is a structural problem in the fact that NNADAP only recognizes certain institutions, be it Poundmakers or some of the other institutions. So, it's often not a function of the local NNADAP workers saying, okay, we'd like to send you here, we'd like to send you there. Beds have been bought by NNADAP. The client is referred by NNADAP, and an available facility, and that's where they go. We've had some discussions, as I said, with CYFN on this problem, and we're seeing if there are some ways in which we can encourage some local development in this area and a local partner.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that you report progress, Mr. Chair.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, First Appropriation Act, 1998-99, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Unanimous consent requested
Mr. Phillips: Having conferred with and obtained the agreement of the House leaders, I would request unanimous consent of the House to reverse the order in which the motions standing in the name of the members of the official opposition will be called on Wednesday, April 22.
Earlier today I had stated that, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2, the order in which the motions should be called would be Motion No. 115 and then Motion No. 122.
I would now request unanimous consent to reverse the order.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
The time being 5:30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.