Thursday, November 30, 2000 - 1:00 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.
In recognition of National Safe Driving Week
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise today on behalf of the Legislature to recognize National Safe Driving Week, which starts tomorrow and runs until December 7.
We are a mobile society and our road system is the vital link between our communities, which are spread hundreds of kilometres apart.
National Safe Driving Week is a time to think seriously about ways to reduce injury and death on the highways.
In 1999, Yukon statistics show that there were 845 reportable collisions, meaning that property damage was over $1,000 or there were injuries. Alcohol was a factor in 53 of those collisions. Impaired driving has already cost many people more than a fine, an impounded vehicle or loss of their driving privilege. It has cost their lives or the lives of some innocent third party.
Mr. Speaker, the most dangerous drivers are impaired ones. They cause 40 percent of road fatalities across Canada. The fight against impaired driving is far from over. Our tough administrative sanctions have helped to make our roads safer by removing impaired drivers from their vehicles.
In fact, from the beginning of April 1999 until the end of October of this year, 516 vehicles were impounded in the Yukon.
We also have new graduated driver licensing laws for new drivers that will provide a firm foundation and increase safety for beginning drivers.
This week and every week, I would urge all drivers to exercise defensive driving techniques and to continue driving defensively at all times. It is extremely important that drivers alter their speed and driving habits in accordance with changing road and weather conditions. This is especially important in the winter months when road and weather conditions are extremely variable. Most of us are probably guilty of having at least some bad driving habits and we need to change our ways. I'm talking about signalling before turning, not after the fact, actually stopping at a stop sign - rather than the brief and ineffectual pause - and driving within the posted speed limit. Also, drive with your headlights on all the time.
The Christmas and holiday season is nearly upon us, and we can all make the effort to ensure our roads are safe. I encourage Yukoners to plan ahead to get home safely and call a cab for friends and family members after a get-together. Encourage designated drivers and serve non-alcoholic beverages at your gatherings as well. We can all contribute to making Yukon roads and highways safer. We can make a difference. Surely this is a worthwhile goal for Yukoners and all Canadians.
In recognition of World AIDS Day
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to an event that will be recognized the world over tomorrow. December 1 is World AIDS Day. World AIDS Day was observed for the first time 12 years ago, after world Health ministers met to talk about the serious threat of AIDS. World AIDS Day encourages public support for programs that help prevent the spread of HIV infection and provide information and awareness of both HIV and AIDS.
Over the years, World AIDS Day observances have focused on children, youth and women. This year, the focus is on men and how they can make a real and significant difference. Men can act by being more caring, by taking fewer risks and by facing the issue of AIDS head-on. While studies show that women carry the brunt of health issues, HIV and AIDS are male problems, and men do need to take steps to protect themselves and others. We need to do this as fathers and as spouses.
Many aboriginal communities here and across the country are facing an increased risk of HIV infection. Heterosexual men are just as likely to maintain the macho role ascribed to them by society and not take any responsibility for the consequences of their sexual actions. Men in prison also face a higher risk of HIV infection. In fact, the rate of infection in Canadian prisons is increasing.
So while HIV and AIDS continue to be real threats to the homosexual community, it is all men who should be concerned. Communities need men to care about the response to HIV and AIDS. Positive aspects of traditional male roles can be drawn upon, such as strength, courage, leadership and protection. At the same time, men need to counter destructive aspects of masculine stereotypes, such as recklessness and sexual violence.
This year's World AIDS Day campaign challenges all men to be more open, honest and sensitive to the issues of AIDS and HIV. It challenges all of us to take better care of ourselves. Men often behave in ways that put their own lives at risk - for example, through unprotected sex with women or men, or using unsterilized drug-injection equipment.
There is a global target, established by the United Nations, of reducing HIV infections among young people by 25 percent before the year 2005.
To make this target a reality, the fight against AIDS must be embraced by every community in every country on every continent, by women, children, youth and men. We really can make a difference. This is not someone else's issue. It is each and every one of us doing our best.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to World AIDS Day, December 1, 2000. World AIDS Day is a day to recognize the impact that AIDS has had and is having worldwide.
The first ribbon campaign was in support of AIDS. We wear red ribbons in remembrance and in support of those who have had their lives affected by this disease.
Each year World AIDS Day in Canada has had a theme. Past themes have included women and AIDS, and "Listen, learn and live", directed at children, youth and AIDS. This year's theme is men and AIDS. This theme is a result of the recognition that men are still at increasing risk of infection due to a number of factors.
This year, the Canadian AIDS Society has prepared fact sheets on aboriginal men and AIDS; AIDS and gay men; heterosexual men and AIDS; AIDS and intravenous drug users; and AIDS and men in prison.
Around the world, AIDS is still a disease that is spreading rapidly. It has, in fact, spread more rapidly than was predicted by the World Health Organization in 1989. In Canada, there are over 40,000 people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS, and an estimated 15,000 more infected but not yet diagnosed.
On World AIDS Day, I hope that we all can remember those who have died from AIDS, those who are living with AIDS, and those who love and support those with AIDS. Organizations such as AIDS Yukon Alliance that provide information, resources and support are essential in understanding and living with AIDS.
Our thoughts are with those whose lives have been affected by HIV and AIDS.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also join with members in paying tribute to World AIDS Day.
Each year on December 1, World AIDS Day is recognized on a global scale as an opportunity to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.
An estimated 36 million people around the world are currently living with AIDS today. Since the epidemic began, 58 million people - about as many as live in Britain or France - have been infected with AIDS, and of those some 22 million - roughly the population of Saudi Arabia, Iraq or Romania - have died from this disease. The figures are alarming, Mr. Speaker.
Summed up in a report that was published in advance of World AIDS Day, the magnitude of the epidemic has far exceeded the worst predictions made by experts as recently as a decade ago. While great strides have been made in developing treatment for people living with AIDS, it is imperative to recognize that there is still no cure for the disease.
Clearly, the battle against AIDS is far from over. With one person becoming infected with HIV every five seconds, it's becoming a race against time. World AIDS Day not only serves to remind us of those afflicted with the disease, but it raises the importance of keeping up the fight against HIV and AIDS through initiatives such as promoting safer sex, changing attitudes, raising awareness, and the continual search for a vaccine.
The red ribbons that members are wearing today represent HIV and AIDS awareness. Although a very small gesture, the red ribbon shows you're showing your support for some 34 million people across the world who are living with a disease for which there is still no cure.
As legislators and members of our community, it's incumbent upon each of us to show our support to initiatives such as these that prevent the spread of HIV and to call for urgent action to end AIDS. Together, Mr. Speaker, I believe we can make a difference.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I note that we have been joined in the gallery today by Mr. Grant Klein, president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association and Mr. Troy Taylor, vice-president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association. While they mine elsewhere in the territory, Mr. Speaker, they are also your constituents. Will the members join me in welcoming them to the gallery today.
I also note that we have been joined by Karyn Armour and Ron Sumanik, who are both with the land claims unit and the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to draw attention to the gallery again, and welcome Steve Cardiff, the president of the Yukon New Democratic Party, and ask others to join in welcoming him to the Legislature.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have for tabling the legislative return on the tourism marketing fund applications received since April 1, 2001, and the list of all approvals to date.
I also have for tabling, pursuant to sections 12 through 14 of the Liquor Act, the Yukon Liquor Corporation's 1999-2000 annual report.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return for tabling. This is the response to Wednesday, November 22, 2000, when the MLA for Watson Lake asked for a list of community development fund applications and there is a detailed answer for the member.
I have another legislative return. Again, on Wednesday, November 22, 2000, the MLA for Watson Lake asked for a list of trade and investment fund applications received and approvals given since April 1, 2000, and I have that answer for the member.
I have a document for filing that describes travel to Quebec for the former executive assistant to Eric Fairclough when he was Minister of Renewable Resources. The travel was to attend a minister of forest, parks and wildlife meeting and was paid for by the Department of Economic Development.
I have for filing a number of documents that describe sole-source contracts from the Executive Council Office for transition support for the previous NDP government. These sole-source contracts cover the period October 1, 1996, to March 31, 1997, and were authorized by the previous NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, I have for filing a number of documents that describe 217 sole-source contracts from the Department of Economic Development for the fiscal year 1999-2000. These sole-source documents total approximately $2,239,000 and were authorized by the previous NDP government.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that our most valuable resource is our children and that children are our future, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to continue to:
(1) offer support to agencies offering specialized programming for parents and their children; and
(2) provide stable funding to the Child Development Centre.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Health and Social Services Technical Review Committee
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give a ministerial statement on the Technical Review Committee.
Before this Liberal government came to power, we saw a great injustice to Yukoners. We could see that technological tools were being used as political weapons without proper consideration for the demand or use of that tool to meet Yukoners' needs. Also, Mr. Speaker, the proper spending of taxpayers' money requires homework.
When we came to be the government, as Minister of Health, I decided - our caucus decided - that we needed a new policy. We have developed a new policy initiative with the Technical Review Committee under the Health Act, section 4(2)(e) and section 37.
The Technical Review Committee will be doing some of the homework that needs to be done when we consider how to properly spend taxpayers' money on technical purchases or technical initiatives in health. The mandate of the Technical Review Committee outlines that it will propose criteria for the initiation, elimination, expansion or reduction of health programs or services. Criteria will include, but not necessarily be limited to: minimum number of patients needed to provide effective, safe care; Health human resource requirements, including the need for specialized nurses, physicians, biomedical technicians, et cetera; other resource requirements, including space, equipment, infrastructure support; and cost-effectiveness.
When the Technical Review Committee develops proposed criteria, they will consider the extent to which a health issue is experienced in the Yukon, including incidence/prevalence among the Yukon population, geographic distribution, impact on individuals or population groups, and other factors that may be relevant to the issue. They will also consider the practicality of delivering proposed programs and services in the Yukon, including the effective and safe health care, the effective use of human and other resources, relevant medical or technical considerations, access to appropriate support services, and benefits and drawbacks of making the proposed change.
Mr. Speaker, part of this new policy initiative describes that Technical Review Committee members will be requested to identify emerging technological changes that could benefit the people of the Yukon and bring these to the attention of the department. The committee may also recommend to the department that particular issues, programs or services be reviewed.
We have ensured that the standard of the technical review is complete and at a high level by outlining who can sit on the committee. The membership of the committee shall be the medical officer of health for the Yukon - who would be the chair - the chief of staff for the Whitehorse General Hospital, the chief executive officer of the Whitehorse General Hospital or their designate, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services or their designate, and a nursing representative as designated by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Health and Social Services.
Medical specialists and/or representatives from relevant stakeholder groups may be invited to attend meetings to provide information or to contribute to discussions of particular issues. These people would not be voting members of the committee.
This new policy has the support of Health and Social Services such that the secretariat services shall be provided by policy and program development.
Members shall be paid in the course of their duties in the capacities as I have identified earlier. No additional payment shall be made for serving on the Technical Review Committee.
The deputy minister can request meetings of the Technical Review Committee and they will occur not less than once per year.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I rise in response to this ministerial statement.
As usual, the minister has used a lot of words and a lot of wind to avoid answering an important question to which Yukon people deserve an answer.
This statement is not an example of government doing its homework. It's a minister admitting he is not capable of doing his job and he is not willing to admit that he has broken faith with Yukon people one more time.
Let's cut to the chase, Mr. Speaker. Behind all the bluster and bafflegab, this ministerial statement contains one clear message. For the sake of clarity, I will render it down to 23 words: under this minister, Yukoners will not be getting a CT scanner, as promised in the budget this Liberal government adopted as its own. Period. Full stop. End of ministerial statement.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I do not agree with the minister's assertion that technological tools are being used as political tools. I do welcome the minister's attempt to develop some criteria for the initiation, elimination and expansion of health care programs or services. The decision to acquire or not acquire certain technological tools can, in effect, be life or death decisions.
There has been considerable public controversy in the past over the acquisition of the mammography unit, the CT scanner and certain dialysis programs and equipment.
Such controversies are not necessarily a bad thing, although it may place the Minister of Health and Social Services in an extremely awkward position from time to time. I'm sure every previous Minister of Health and Social Services had to face this dilemma.
The one criterion that is effectively missing from the minister's proposed criteria is compassion. How does the minister show compassion in dealing with such criteria as cost-effectiveness, the minimum number of patients needed to provide effective, safe care, and the need for specialized services and the like.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a minister who is promoting and expanding the two-tiered health care system for delivering health care services to Yukoners: one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukoners. I'm appalled.
The exercise of the health care system should be to provide the highest consistent level of health care possible in a cost-effective manner. The minister is missing the mark; he's hiding behind another board and committee because he can't make decisions. This is the crux of the problem, Mr. Speaker. I'm very disappointed that the minister would choose this course of action.
Stand up and address the needs of Yukoners and the health care system. That's what the minister should be doing, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the government of yesterday, the fear-mongers of the 21st century have again thrown out the issue that nothing will be purchased before it is even reviewed and before it is even looked at as to whether we need it. That's the operation of the former NDP government: knee-jerk actions, throw it in the budget, don't even look at whether we can afford it, and if it's over budget, we'll just throw another million in. I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, we don't operate that way; we're prudent.
I'm pleased that the Member for Klondike recognizes that having this committee is a positive step. The idea that there's no compassion - I will argue with him on that. That's why we have a committee. These are Yukoners, these are legitimate, bona fide, long-term Yukoners who are on the Technical Review Committee. They are doctors, they are nurses, and they have compassion, Mr. Speaker. They believe in what Yukoners need.
The Member for Klondike constantly refers to a two-tiered health system. I guess, Mr. Speaker, if I felt that I wanted all the services that Vancouver could offer I would be living in Vancouver. I chose to live in Whitehorse. We don't have all the services that Vancouver offers. The same thing applies to smaller communities. We cannot supply all the services in all the communities that Whitehorse offers, so if that's what the Member for Klondike is talking about when he talks about it being two-tiered, I'm sorry, I don't buy it. There is a difference because of where we choose to live.
Now, I would like to reaffirm that technical purchases require technical input. If Yukoners know nothing about computers and Yukoners want to purchase a computer, they ask their local computer expert or someone who knows something about it. Some of us may go off and buy computers without knowing what it can do or what it should do, and end up buying something they don't really want or can't use.
The Technical Review Committee is a committee of Yukon's technical health experts - let's be reminded, Mr. Speaker, it's Yukon health experts - who will provide the advice for the purchase of equipment, the effective use of human resources and relevant technical considerations. That's called compassion - working on what Yukoners need and can afford.
The committee members are Yukon's local experts, as I said before. They are people who live and breathe health here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the public can participate in this committee and will be invited to do so when the committee needs more input. That's the whole objective. We are going to use our people here who are on the front lines every day.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is a small jurisdiction and we do not live in a closed box. When someone has a concern or a criticism, we are open to hear those thoughts. When the Technical Review Committee is working on an issue, we trust their expertise and we trust that they will bring the appropriate required expertise to solve whatever issues we have. They have a mandate to do the homework and find some of the answers.
The Technical Review Committee is also a hard-working committee. They have already met. They are supposed to meet once a year; already they have met three times, just in the short time that we've been in government.
They are meeting mainly to discuss what the future of health care should be for the Yukon. I am not sure why the members opposite criticize a committee that is dedicated to finding out the best possible answers for Yukoners. But then again, my understanding is that that seems to be the name of the game. Their criticism leads me to believe that they really do not support research to meet Yukoners' needs.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I know that we are going to get the best service we need.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the third party on a point of order.
MOTION OF URGENT AND PRESSING NECESSITY
(Pursuant to Standing Order 28)
Asi Keyi special management area, revocation of Orders-in-Council Nos. 2000/1686 and 2000/1687
Mr. Jenkins: I am rising pursuant to Standing Order 28. I am not raising a point of order but it is a practice of this House that a member may gain the floor for the purpose of Standing Order 28 in this way.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 28, I request the unanimous consent of the House to proceed at this time with a motion due to its urgent and pressing necessity. Mr. Speaker, the motion for which I request unanimous consent reads as follows:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) the Government of Canada, pursuant to the Yukon Placer Mining Act and the Yukon Quartz Mining Act has issued an enactment of an Order Prohibiting Entry on Certain Lands in the Yukon to prohibit the staking of mineral claims or prospecting for precious minerals on some 2,379 square kilometres of land located in the Kluane Game Sanctuary area;
(2) this withdrawal of land was made during the recent federal election campaign without any public consultation or public notification; and
(3) this withdrawal was made despite the fact that the Kluane First Nation and White River First Nation land claim agreements have not been ratified and are still subject to negotiations and to change; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to revoke Orders-in-Council No. 2000/1687 and 2000/1686, dated November 14, 2000, and create a public consultation process concerning the establishment of the proposed Asi Keyi Natural Environmental Park.
Speaker: Standing Order 28 states:
"(1) A motion may, in case of urgent and pressing necessity previously explained by the mover, be made by unanimous consent of the Assembly without notice having been given.
"(2) Unanimous consent for a motion under this Standing Order shall be requested during the Daily Routine in the period following Ministerial Statements and prior to the beginning of Oral Question Period."
Does the leader of the third party have the unanimous consent of this House to proceed with the motion that he has read to the House?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a ministerial statement I wish to deliver to the House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it has been a long-standing practice and custom in this House that notice of ministerial statements be first given to House leaders. Then the acceptable practice was that the ministerial statement was forwarded to the opposition parties by 11:00 a.m. of the same day it was to be delivered in the House.
This Liberal government continues to take the heavy-handed approach of a "take it or leave it" attitude toward the opposition in this Legislative Assembly. The only reason this minister has jumped the gun on this statement and tried to sneak it into this Legislature in this manner is because the Liberal government blew it when it came to the issue of the protected area or SMA in Kluane. So much for their special relationship with the federal Liberals. This decision was made this summer and this government knew full well that the decision was coming down. The reason this ministerial statement is being delivered is to cover their rear ends, and they have circumvented standard practices in this Legislature to that end.
Mr. Speaker, this statement is out of order.
Some Hon. Member: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what we have, once again, is the Liberal government of the day avoiding the rules that have been in place in this Legislature for a great period of time. Advanced notice is to be given of ministerial statements by 11:00 a.m. on the day that the ministerial statements are supposed to be provided.
At the House leaders' meeting this morning, there was no notification of this ministerial statement. Once again, we are witnessing the very autocratic Liberal government imposing their will on this Assembly. Mr. Speaker, furthermore, what we are seeing is the Liberal government acting, once again, as apologists for the federal Liberal government, knowing full well, Mr. Speaker, that they signed off on this undertaking but hid it until after the federal election. That's what we're seeing here. It is a complete ignoring of the rules of this Assembly. It's appalling, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the issue of ministerial statements has been brought up in this House repeatedly. The members opposite have refused to participate in any discussions on the issue, and we have quoted instances where the former governments of both parties have used ministerial statements to provide urgent updates and changes of policy in this House. If the Member for Klondike would care to receive his documents when they're delivered, we might be better off, rather than throwing them back in the face of staff who are sent down to deliver things to him.
Speaker: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the House leader of the Liberal government is completely distorting the facts. The paper chase that they have instituted is nowhere in the best interest in the operation of this House. She sends down a party from their office, asks for a signature and a time. All we suggested is that they fax it down. It's a lot quicker, a lot more expedient, and it would save the House money. She won't even undertake that, and we have not received this ministerial statement in advance, at the time we were supposed to receive it. That is the issue, Mr. Chair.
Speaker: I'll deal with the point of order from the leader of the third party, first, and I find that there's no point of order. There's simply a dispute between the members.
As far as the prior receiving of a ministerial statement, it's my understanding that it has been the practice that ministerial statements are usually delivered by 11:00 a.m., but I have no knowledge of it being anywhere in the rules that they must be. I understand that this would be a topic to be brought up at SCREP, where there could be some sort of an agreement among all three parties. Therefore, I find there's no point of order. With that, I would ask the Premier to continue.
Asi Keyi special management area
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise today to advise the House of some key facts regarding the recent land withdrawal in Kluane. This is a matter of immediate public discussion, and it is important that any such discussion be fully aware and cognizant of all of the facts. I have apologized, in my statement and in the note I sent over to the members of the opposition, for not delivering this statement in advance. It is a matter of immediate public discussion.
The withdrawal of land for the special management area, Asi Keyi, was negotiated as part of the Kluane and White River First Nation land claims final agreements. Special management areas are not negotiated under the protected area strategy. They are not the same things and they do not follow the same process.
My commitment to Yukoners, including the mining industry, is that there would be no new goal 1 protected areas until the process is acceptable, and that commitment stands. It is absolutely clear.
Special management areas, which are distinct from the protected area strategy, are an essential element of most Yukon First Nation final agreements. They are the result of tripartite negotiations at the land claims tables. The level of protection, the reason for protection and the process to establish protection, including internal review and assessments, are products of land claims negotiations.
They reflect the interests of First Nation, federal and territorial governments. The Asi Keyi - and I apologize if my pronunciation is incorrect - area is one of long-standing interest for the Kluane and White River First Nations. This was an important part of the land claim discussions from the earliest days of these two First Nation final agreement negotiations.
The withdrawal of this land was committed to at the land claims negotiating table by the former Government Leader and the former Minister of Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Mr. McDonald and Ms. Stewart, in 1997. A mineral assessment was completed at that time. The commitment to withdraw that area was reaffirmed this summer by negotiators in their efforts to complete these land claims.
The federal negotiators made the request for an order-in-council to withdraw the land in July of this year. Approval was given by the Privy Council of Canada on November 14, 2000. The Government of Canada has a policy of not issuing press releases or other public notifications during an election period. Negotiation of both the White River final agreement and the Kluane final agreement was substantially completed by the summer of 1998. Agreement on the Asi Keyi special management area was a cornerstone of these negotiations.
I want to be clear that the establishment of special management areas will continue to be part of the land claims negotiations. I also want to be absolutely clear that this government is committed to the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims and that this land withdrawal is part of that process. It is not a part of the protected areas strategy.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to advise this House of the facts in this matter that is under immediate public discussion.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to this ministerial statement. I would appreciate - and I've said this in the past to the members opposite - having a copy of this, even though it's a few minutes before we go into the Legislature, so that we can review it and do a proper response to it. I feel that the Premier is covering her tracks. The general public has found out that something has taken place that could possibly affect their day-to-day jobs in regard to mining. It is because of this that we have a ministerial statement today to again announce to the general public that there was a commitment to the First Nation, and this is under a First Nation final agreement.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if it is a special management area, then obviously it is under a final agreement. And I would like to get more clarification from the members opposite. The general public is obviously quite interested in this. They would like to see where exactly this special management area is, and if the member opposite would table some maps for the general public and us on this side of the House, maybe we can respond in a bit more detail to this ministerial statement.
It is an announcement, Mr. Speaker, and I note that the members opposite did recognize that the previous government did work on these special management areas with First Nations in the past. They have had seven months in their term to review it and carry on their commitment to the mining community, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, I wish we had more time to prepare a response to this ministerial statement. Had it been delivered in the appropriate time frame, we would have had the ability to do so. The minister has blind-sided the opposition with this ministerial statement at this juncture.
What we have is déjà vu all over again, Mr. Speaker. We have the land claims process once again being used to create parks.
That's what we have. We have a whole series of parks coming into focus now in the Yukon, and that this government is just acting as apologist at this juncture for the federal Liberals, who hid this away during a federal election campaign, is equally appalling, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I think, in all fairness, we should be allowed in opposition to prepare a response and offer that response in the House on the next sitting day, given the timelines for which we were allowed to see this. This was sent over just a couple of seconds before it was presented in the House, and I'm sure this ministerial statement was ready well in advance of that.
So, I would ask the House if they would consider allowing the opposition to respond to this ministerial statement on their next sitting day, which, in all fairness, Mr. Speaker, allows us some latitude to examine this ministerial statement in much greater detail than we're allowed here.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's fascinating to me that the Member for Kluane was fully prepared to debate a motion on a similar subject, without notice to anyone - certainly not to anyone on this side of the House - so he obviously has the information he feels he needs to respond. He made references to this yesterday.
In terms of the delivery to members opposite, as I noted and as the members obviously observed, this statement was delivered to me in the House, and I immediately sent it over to them with not only an apology contained in the text, but with a personal note of apology from me as well, noting that I had hoped to give it to them earlier. It was not prepared at an earlier date.
I delivered this statement today because this is a matter of immediate public discussion and it's very important that the facts be discussed in public, and public discussion takes place here as well. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the interim leader of the official opposition, asked if -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I have two issues. Firstly, I would like the Premier to correct the record. It was not the Member for Kluane who brought forward the motion of urgent and pressing necessity; it was the Member for Klondike. Secondly, the leader of the official opposition is exactly that - the leader of the official opposition, not an interim leader of the official opposition. Unlike this interim government across the floor, we respect the fact that leadership requires the same honourable mention and should be dealt with by the Premier in the same manner.
Speaker: The hon. Premier, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do apologize to the Member for Kluane. It was the Member for Klondike who brought forward the motion, and I'd be happy to correct the record. I was unaware that the interim leader had taken on the leadership at a convention, so my apologies to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Speaker, it was the Member for Mayo-Tatchun who said - and I believe the exact words were, "if this is an SMA". This is a special management area, negotiated under land claims in precisely the time frame and sequence that I have outlined to the members opposite. The reason I made this statement today is the confusion in the public, which is not helped by some comments regarding what falls under the protected areas strategy and what is within the purview of land claims negotiation.
I am apologizing for no one and to no one for my heartfelt commitment and that of our government to negotiate seven outstanding land claims. I also have a complete commitment to providing Yukoners with open, accountable, good government, and so does everyone on this side of the House. This is a matter that has taken place. The discussions around this particular special management area have been going on for some length of time, and it's important that members recognize that, and it's important that members recognize this government's commitment to the settlement of land claims.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Asi Keyi special management area
Mr. Fairclough: I am glad the Premier was able to clear up this matter for all Yukoners in regard to SMAs and the protected areas strategy.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier herself has committed to the mining community not to withdraw any land until such a time as they are consulted. That's what took place with the Premier.
I understand where negotiations are going. The members opposite knew that this special management area was in the works. They had plenty of time to review this SMA and made a commitment this summer to continue with the work that the NDP had put forward. Possibly there were changes that came forward.
I would ask the member opposite if she is still committed to the mining community in this regard.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm glad the member opposite asked that question.
As I stated in my ministerial statement a few short moments ago, my commitment to Yukoners, including the mining industry, is that there would be no new goal 1 protected areas under the Yukon protected areas strategy until we got the process right. That commitment stands. It is clear. It is unequivocal.
The special management area is negotiated under the land claims agreement. The member opposite knows that. And the member opposite also, presumably, supports our efforts to complete the seven outstanding land claims.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, of course we support the completion of land claims. What I'm getting at is the commitment this Premier made to the mining community. I understand that the special management areas fall under the negotiations. I understand that. But there was a commitment made by the Premier to consult with the mining community. I know that departments work on this - Renewable Resources and Economic Development - and have a lot of input into where the boundaries should be drawn with regard to special management areas.
What I asked the Premier about was her commitment to the mining community. Is it still there? How does she intend to work with this and the mining community at the same time? By this I mean the special management areas.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My commitment under the Yukon protected areas strategy is clear, as is my commitment to work with all Yukoners on all of the issues that fall within my areas of responsibility. The withdrawal of this land and the special management area has nothing to do with the Yukon protected areas strategy and everything to do with settling seven outstanding land claims.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it is this Premier who is causing confusion in the public and in the industry right now. The protected areas strategy was one of their top priorities. It is still under review and no one knows when that is going to take place. And there is still work being done by this government in regard to protected areas, but it's not out for the general public right now. And my question is, again, to the Premier, the very same question - and she has not answered this, Mr. Speaker. We know the commitments under land claim agreements to develop special management areas. Where is this Premier's commitment to the mining community in regard to consultation before any more land is withdrawn in the Yukon? That was my question to the members opposite.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My commitment to the mining industry is under the Yukon protected areas strategy, that there would be no new goal 1 protected areas until we got the Yukon protected areas strategy right. The members opposite, when they were in government, botched this process to such an extent that we have to fix it - and we are going to do that. My commitment to the mining industry under the Yukon protected areas strategy stands. It is clear - crystal clear. I am also committed to settling seven outstanding land claims. And discussion of this special management area is under land claims, not the protected areas strategy.
Question re: Asi Keyi special management area
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the Premier in this matter. The reason this ministerial statement came out the way it did today is because the Premier is trying to cover the Liberal government's tracks on this matter. The facts are that this summer the Liberal government signed off on this arrangement in light of the fact that this is the government that committed to the mining industry, the mining community, that they would not withdraw any more land. Now, the Premier can argue about special management areas and the Yukon protected areas strategy all she wants. The facts are that the mining industry is quite perturbed with this Liberal government's action in this matter. Secondly, in a sneaky, underhanded way, they allowed this special management area, or this completion of alienation of land base, to take place during an election, so nobody else knew about it.
Speaker: Order please. Order please.
I would remind and request the member not to use words in the Legislature that are going to cause problems in here - "sneaky" and this kind of stuff. Please ask your question.
Mr. Fentie: I will put it this way: this is not an example of an open and accountable government, or they would have been up front with the mining industry on this matter before it took place. Will the Premier now correct the record and admit that she allowed this alienation of land base to take place even though she had committed to the mining industry to notify them when such processes were about to happen?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I made many commitments to Yukon people, but there are three that are under discussion today. Number one is the settlement of outstanding land claims. This agreement for this particular area as a special management area was agreed to some time ago. In August of this year, that agreement was reaffirmed at the negotiating table. That is quite correct, and that is the open and accountable fact.
Secondly, I made a commitment to be, as all of us did, open and accountable, and that is what we have done by making sure that the facts are on the record for discussion today.
Thirdly, my commitment to the mining industry was very clear. And I invite the member to go back - as much as I like to plug Economic Development's Web site, I'd like to remind him that it's there - and visit the speeches. Every single time I have mentioned this, I have said to the mining industry that there would be no new goal 1 areas under the Yukon protected areas strategy until we got the process right. Those are my exact words. I have repeated them over and over and over again.
The member opposite is doing a complete disservice to the land claim negotiations, the mining industry and the protected areas strategy by attempting to mix all three of these issues.
Mr. Fentie: It's not me mixing anything. The mining industry is clear. They're not happy with this Liberal government for what has taken place here. This Liberal government consummated this arrangement. It's their decision. Now they're trying to blame it on somebody else. This is the government in power. The members opposite are the government in power.
Now, let's go on, Mr. Speaker. The Premier just stated she is open and accountable. Will she then tell the mining industry and the Yukon public how many more of these arrangements are about to take place in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have been open and accountable, both with the member opposite and with the business and mining community. As recently as this morning, several short hours ago, I attended a meeting with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce representatives, at which the president of the Chamber of Mines was present. I relayed precisely this information to the president.
Mr. Fentie: That wasn't the answer to the question. What I asked was how many more of these processes are underway and about to take place in this territory under this Premier's watch? If the Premier wants to be open and accountable, here's a golden opportunity. How many more are we going to face?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should be very well aware - and if he's not, perhaps he could ask his seatmate - that special management areas are not negotiated under the protected areas strategy. They are distinct from that strategy and they are an integral part of most First Nation land claims agreements.
Question re: Asi Keyi special management area
Mr. Jenkins: Same minister, same topic - a question to the Premier in her capacity as the minister responsible for land claims, about the new 2,739 square kilometre Asi Keyi natural environmental park.
We are in the midst of an economic depression here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. The federal and territorial Liberals are acting in collusion to create another park in Yukon through the secretive land claims process, which will ultimately shut down all mining here in the Yukon.
Can the Premier explain why the Yukon Liberal government didn't notify Yukoners that this withdrawal was taking place when, as the minister responsible for land claims, she had to sign off on it? She had to be aware of it. She had to know about it. Did she remain quiet because she knew it would cost the Yukon Liberal candidate the election?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I object to the tone of the member opposite's question and the use of the word "collusion."
That being on the record, I would advise the member opposite that this was an agreement made by the former Government Leader and the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. It was a commitment made at the land claims table. That commitment was subsequently reaffirmed. It was not a Cabinet decision because it was a reaffirmation of a previous commitment.
The federal government issued an order-in-council. It is the Government of Canada's policy not to make public statements during an election period, be they notifications, issues of orders-in-council or press releases. There is a media blackout, if you will, during an election period from the federal government. It is a federal government order-in-council that was issued on November 14.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I point out to the minister that it's a tripartite agreement. The minister is at the table and must sign off on these agreements. Her department is there; she's aware of it.
Now, the secrecy of it, and the decision not to announce it by the federal government, is one thing. On the other hand, why didn't this minister take the initiative and tell the Yukon? Who's there protecting the interests of Yukoners, Mr. Speaker? That's what we elect the Yukon government for. Why wasn't she there advising us of this undertaking and initiative, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because, Mr. Speaker, at the land claims negotiations, and as part of the negotiations, that is not the process that takes place. There are discussions. There have been discussions. It is not normal practice and it has not been past practice to provide that sort of information. The normal process is that once the order-in-council has been approved, the federal government puts public notices in local newspapers and radio. That's the normal practice that takes place.
This is all about negotiating and finalizing outstanding land claims. And the member opposite yesterday brought a motion urging us and urging the federal government to do that. Is the member opposite now saying he doesn't support that?
Mr. Jenkins: Settling land claims and turning the Yukon into one big park are two different things, and that's the direction that we are headed in.
Can the Premier advise the House why there was no public display on any of the land claims maps, as has been the custom in other land claim announcements? And why didn't she advise the mining industry of this new withdrawal?
About the only thing that we can do at the end of this term of this Liberal government is to probably carpet the rest of the Yukon that is not going to be encumbered by parks or land claims. And it would be a very small area left.
Why didn't the minister advise the mining community, and why weren't maps made available as has been the custom in the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I challenge the member opposite's view of what has been the custom in the past, but I am very pleased that he has finally put his opposition to the settlement of land claims, including designation of special management areas by First Nations, on the record.
Question re: Travel by political staff
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Premier is quite defensive on this whole issue. I have a question for the Premier again.
The Premier, yesterday, accused me of going on fishing trips, so I warn her that we are going back to the same pond, and I hope we get some good solid meat this time and not just another net full of Liberal red herrings, Mr. Speaker.
Will this Premier now admit that one of her top political advisors made a trip to Vancouver to conduct secret negotiations with senior officials of the Argus Properties?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will confirm that an individual of my staff travelled to Vancouver in September.
I will vehemently deny and challenge the member opposite - I am not defensive. And I would really like to know where these herring that he finds in the Yukon are.
Mr. Fairclough: Got to be proud of that one, Mr. Speaker.
Now this, of course, is not about political staff travel. The Premier can send her people anywhere she wants, as long as they stay within her budget and as long as the people of the Yukon get what they pay for. It isn't about attacking people who are not able to defend themselves in this House, either, Mr. Speaker. It's about Liberal government secrecy.
Can the Premier explain why this trip by her chief of staff on September 11 did not appear on the list of political travel that the Premier sent to us at the end of October? What was the Premier trying to hide?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Absolutely nothing. It wasn't included on the list because it was dealt with under the department. This is no different from the type of travel that the members opposite engaged in and sent their staff on.
The member opposite is again on some kind of an expedition. If it's not fishing, it's some kind of hunting expedition. This government is within budget. Yes, we received the competency and honourable level from staff that we asked for. We have done what we set out to do. There has been nothing secretive about this. The member is simply on a hunting or fishing expedition, trying to smear an individual. Why?
Mr. Fairclough: If there's nothing to hide, then the Premier does not need to get worked up about this whole question.
On October 5, we sent her a letter asking about travel of the Cabinet, caucus and political staff. That travel was not there. It was not listed. That draws attention to it and that's why we question this whole thing. We know why the member of staff was on the trip.
Can the Premier tell us if she had any discussions on this matter with Argus officials or did she leave it up to her departmental staff and her political staff?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what does the member opposite want from this question?
To know whether or not this government fulfilled and has lived up to its portion of the Argus agreement, which was signed by the member opposite's former leader? If that's what they want to know, the answer is yes.
Do they want to know, are we receiving value for taxpayers' money expended by the staff we have hired? You bet, and more.
Does the member opposite want to know why Ms. Hoffman's trip is not included in this letter I sent to him? My immediate answer is that it was paid for by the department. I will go back and re-examine the answer I sent him and see if somehow or other it was missed. There's nothing secretive about this.
Our political staff is doing its job and, much to the member opposite's chagrin, so are we.
Question re: Travel by political staff
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's see if they are really doing their job, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to follow up with the Premier on the same issue.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier must have directed department staff and political staff, an emissary from the Premier's office, to attend this meeting. Now, can the Premier honestly say that this meeting was held simply to reaffirm an existing agreement? Is that what the Premier is saying?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows the terms of the Argus agreement, and that's what they're really asking about. It is about the Argus agreement that was signed by the former government.
Has this government, since we became government on May 6, tried to live up to the terms of that agreement? Yes, we have. If that involved political staff working on the agreement with Economic Development staff or others, working to fulfill our end of the agreement, so what? That's what we're supposed to do as government.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I can buy that that's what government is supposed to do. However, in this particular case, the reason this Premier was so concerned about this and the reason this Premier sent department staff and her emissary to meet with Argus is because she wanted to make sure that, by her direction, we would avert a lawsuit from the Argus corporation, which would tarnish this Liberal government's shiny new image. Is that not the reason why this meeting took place and the reason why the Premier sent an emissary, a lawyer, from her staff to meet with the Argus corporation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is putting words in my mouth. This government, from day one, has said, in 30 days of an election campaign, that we would live up to commitments and that's exactly what we do. We didn't sign the Argus deal. We lived up to it. We want to see that upheld, because the previous government's signature is on it and it is our job to make sure it is fulfilled. That's what we've done.
I don't know why the member opposite finds that so terribly surprising. If the member opposite wants to question my chief of staff's abilities, well, that's his choice. I happen to think that she does an excellent job.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the department staff and the Premier's emissary was not down in Vancouver meeting with Argus just for something to do. They were sent there by this Premier. The Premier sent this representation from the Yukon government to meet with Argus, because the Premier was fearful of a lawsuit from the Argus corporation and sent her people down there to avert such a lawsuit.
The Premier has been very evasive around this issue when the questioning began some days ago. Will she now clear the record and admit there was a threat of a lawsuit and she sent her staff down to avert that lawsuit?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Will I accept the member opposite putting words in my mouth? No, I won't. Will I accept and try every single day since we became government to live up to existing commitments? We are doing that every single day.
Question re: Argus Properties, government agreement with
Mr. Fentie: Well, let's look at this again. The fact is that the existing agreement was not lived up to. The facts are that there was a threat of a lawsuit and the Premier sent, not only department staff, but at the highest level, a representative from her office - the Premier's office - to deal with this matter. The Premier's staff went down under the direction of this government, of this Premier, to cut a deal with Argus to avert a lawsuit. Is that not the case, Mr. Speaker? Will the Premier clear the record and admit to why the meeting took place and why such high level representatives went?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only lawsuit that exists is in the guilty minds of the NDP members opposite. The deal between Argus, City of Whitehorse and the NDP government was signed by Minister Harding, the then Minister Harding, the departed Minister Harding.
Our government has done its level best to live up to this agreement and to see that it is fulfilled. We will continue to do so, just as we committed to Yukoners that we would live up to the other agreements that the NDP had made with them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier and the Liberal government didn't live up to the existing agreement at all. In fact, the representatives from the Premier's office and the department went down to Vancouver and cut a new deal. They cut a new deal. The taxpayers' money flowed. That is what took place.
Secondly, the money did not go to where it was supposed to go under the original agreement, which was off-site infrastructure. That is what took place. Why is the Premier hiding from the facts?
The Liberal government cut a new deal with Argus to avert a lawsuit and it cost the Yukon taxpayer three-quarters of a million bucks. Will the Premier now clear the record and admit to the facts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite needs a new role in life - rewriting history and writing fiction.
I said earlier in this House that $690,000 of the three-quarters of a million contribution has been invoiced by Argus and paid to Yukon contractors.
The Yukon government has worked very hard to ensure that commitments in the development agreement are put in place. I met and discussed this and reaffirmed our commitment to the agreement with Mayor Bourassa, among a number of issues we discussed.
If the member has specific questions about this contract and its fulfilment, why doesn't he call Mr. Harding in Calgary?
Mr. Fentie: Well, why would I call Mr. Harding? This is the government across the floor. This is the government that is responsible for making decisions. This is the government that allowed the money to be spent.
We now know what the Liberal government's idea of a level playing field really is. It's the Argus property, levelled with $700,000 or so worth of gravel. That is not what the original agreement intended. The money was for off-site infrastructure. To avert a lawsuit, this Liberal government, in taking care of its own image, spent taxpayers' money to have a bunch of gravel loaded, hauled and placed on Argus properties and we don't even have a shell of a building up that we could even call a store.
Will this Premier correct the record, clear the decks, and admit that the money was flowed - it was for the gravel on the property itself - to avert a lawsuit and not tarnish this Liberal government's image?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, clearly, we're drawing to the close of a session, and the NDP members opposite are desperate for questions.
The real issue here has always been that this government is continuing to manage a deal we didn't negotiate - a deal that was signed, sealed and delivered by the previous government. That money has been paid to Yukon contractors. The member opposite offers bafflegab to the public, in that he stands up on one side and screams at us for not providing all kinds of winter works, and the next day in Question Period shrieks across the floor about why money has been paid to Yukon contractors. The member opposite can't have it both ways. We're doing the best we can to live up to an NDP agreement. And if he has questions about that agreement, call Mr. Harding.
Question re: Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism.
This government, and this minister in particular, seem to have quite an appetite for reviews. The Education Act, protected areas strategy, Wildlife Act, Liquor Act- all the previous government's economic support programs are all under review, Mr. Speaker. Would the minister confirm that she is now planning to review yet another act, the Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I think that the Member for Kluane should be aware that I am not personally reviewing the Education Act or the protected areas strategy, thankfully.
I am, however, reviewing the Yukon Liquor Act, and yes, I have been discussing, with our private sector partners, an opportunity to review and possibly rewrite the Yukon Hotels and Tourist Establishments Act.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, this is reminiscent of the charge that the government has OAS syndrome, and they want to review the acts just for the sake of reviewing them. Surely there must be some other reason for reviewing laws, apart from the fact that they have been on the books for awhile.
Can the minister explain what she hopes to accomplish by creating the new accommodations act, and where the idea for this latest review came from?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I would be so pleased to answer that question. At times, I do feel a little lonely in here because nobody asks me good questions.
Firstly, there has been a request from the private sector for a number of years to have good and accurate occupancy statistics for hotels and bed and breakfast so that they can make good business decisions about where they want to go in the tourism industry, where they want to invest their money.
We do not have the ability right now to gather reliable occupancy statistics in hotels and bed and breakfast establishments. The previous act did not fulfill that need, so that need came to us from the private sector. They said, "This is what we need," so we looked at ways that we could fulfill that. One of those ways is to have a good hotel act, similar to the ones they have in every other jurisdiction in Canada where hoteliers and B&B operators have to report the number of people staying in their hotels, for how long, et cetera, et cetera.
The other reason that we are starting the rewriting of the hotel act is because there has also been a desire from the private sector to look at standards for hotels. For example, if we have individuals who are coming over from Europe, they like to know what a three-star or a five-star hotel in the Yukon is.
Is it the same as a three star or five star hotel? For example, in -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what I'm doing.
So this request has come from the private sector and the request has been for reliable occupancy stats as well as for a look at where we might want to go with standards at some point in the future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's quite the answer. In all that bafflegab we didn't hear any validation for the need for this review. Now, there isn't exactly a groundswell of public or industry pressure for new accommodation law. Some people may be more than a little suspicious that this could be a back-door way of introducing a bed tax in this territory. Will the minister give her assurance that this latest review is not just a way to justify looking at a new consumption tax on accommodations, which would affect both tourists and residents alike.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, I know that was an issue that was reviewed by previous governments. At this point, what we're looking at - and I have just mentioned this but I will repeat it again because it wasn't a bafflegab answer, it was the truth. The reason that we are rewriting the hotel act is because there has been a request from the private sector to have accurate numbers about the occupancy within hotel rooms and bed and breakfast establishments. There is also a need at this time to look for good standards that we can all measure ourselves by within the accommodation industry. That is the reason that we are rewriting the hotel act. Now, that's a two-year process. It's an extensive consultative process and there will be a number of issues, no doubt, which will come out during that consultation process.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, 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: Good afternoon. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01. Mr. Jenkins had the floor. Mr. Jenkins, do you wish to continue?
Mr. Jenkins: Having reviewed Hansard for yesterday, I was unable to obtain very much in the way of concrete information from the minister or any sort of commitment with respect to management audits on a number of departments, Mr. Chair.
So, the minister is hanging her head in disgust or disgrace - I'm not sure which - but at the end of the day we're charged with the responsibility of delivering good government for the people of Yukon, and it's becoming more and more clear that the current Liberal government is not capable of providing that good government.
What we have seen presented is a $37-million supplement, which does nothing to create winter works, Mr. Chair. What it does is increase the O&M cost of government by some six and a half percent.
I'd be much more comfortable if the minister were to bring in a supplementary budget that would provide some additional information that would put Yukoners to work this winter. But the minister has chosen to put all of the programs and initiatives from which we could derive short-term gain here in the Yukon under review and ignore them, to blame it on someone else.
Now, what we have currently is the Premier acting as the apologist for the federal government and not addressing her responsibilities as the Premier and the Minister of Finance. I was hoping that there might be some more information forthcoming today from the minister on the various topics that we covered, and if she has any more information, perhaps this is the opportune time to provide that information to the House, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have some pieces of information for the member opposite. The Member for Klondike asked whether the funds were invested. These are the federal superannuation funds under the plan. The answer given was no, they were not; and this is largely correct. As of March 31, 2000, the federal government had a liability of $128.3 billion on their books for public sector pensions. None of this money was invested.
Beginning on April 1, 2000, new contributions will be transferred to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which is a newly established corporate body, to be invested in the market. Of these transfers, we don't know how much has actually been invested by the board. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the superannuation funds are uninvested, and that will be the case for many, many years to come.
In the Public Accounts of Canada 1999-2000 statement of assets and liabilities as of March 31, 2000, there is a note 7 on public sector pensions. There are also some notes in the summary of significant accounting policies. That information is readily available from the Government of Canada statement of assets and liabilities and Public Accounts of Canada. If the member is unable to find it, we can provide him with a copy.
I have responses to the Mr. Jenkins' questions in the House on superannuation and patriation of the pension plan, on November 29, 2000, pages 35 and 36. I have a written response, and I will pass those out now, Mr. Chair.
I also have the population data comparisons - Statistics Canada and Yukon Bureau of Statistics July 1 estimates. And the member opposite may be interested to note - I have this written as well - that in 2000 - the Yukon Bureau of Statistics figures for June 1, 2000 - Statistics Canada had the population at 30,663 and the Yukon Bureau of Statistics had the population at 30,896, a difference of 233 persons.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to have an opportunity to have a look at some of that information and also at the area of the federal government's annual financial statements that pertains to superannuation and their ongoing liability for this plan. If the minister would be so kind to send that information over also, just as it pertains to their financial position on superannuation. The minister read it into the record.
I know we have quite a problem in that regard as to the outstanding liability, and I was just wondering what kind of order of magnitude of outstanding liability we have for the pension plan of Yukon public sector employees at the transfer date? What does it envision as to what's going to take place? Who is going to be backstopping? Is there just going to be a transfer of the - I would imagine it's in the magnitude approaching a billion dollars just for the Yukon public sector employees.
What is envisioned as to the treatment of this money? Probably the easiest way to put it is: how is it going to work?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The first step is to get a mutually agreed-upon actuarial evaluation, as I mentioned yesterday. And it is written out in the answers before the members. That is the first step. We have done one. Yukon has done an actuarial evaluation, and we have talked about - if it's not detailed in the answer, I am providing that to the member opposite.
Once we have determined that, then there would be a cheque from the federal government for that, to the pension trust or some form of a body. The form of a body to deal with that is still under discussion with YEU, as are decisions around investment policy and so on. I committed yesterday - and we are very committed - to not proceeding without their support. The actuarial evaluation estimates current pension liabilities are just under $282 million. That is in the written responses I have forwarded to the member opposite. That's on the second page about a third of the way down.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just now looking at some of the responses. It would appear that the Yukon's actuarial valuation of the current pension liabilities is just under $282 million. Is that the total amount or is that just the employees' contribution, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's the amount of money that is estimated to be required to be invested to deal with future liability. So it includes both the employee and the employer share.
Mr. Jenkins: It's just an amount that we have estimated we will require to meet the ongoing obligations of the pension plan. It doesn't relate back any way whatsoever to what has been paid into it historically, either on the one-to-one basis or currently on the basis of $1.00 of contribution from each employee and $2.14 from the government, the employer. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the amount actually paid into the program available?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the officials don't believe we have something readily available from day one. And in any event, it's not especially relevant because, since day one we have had some people retire and they are now being paid out of the federal pension plan. They're now collecting their superannuation. We have had some transfers out. There have been all kinds of changes, so to go back and say if it includes every amount paid in by every employee from day one, since the beginning of the Yukon government's participation in this plan - that figure isn't readily available, no.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's throw out an analogy as to where it appears we're at. The obligation is to the retiring workers in the government to meet their ongoing and future pension needs. So that amount is sort of estimated or guesstimated. It will vary depending on the life expectancy of the retirement group, which we know to be increasing, Mr. Chair. It's kind of like having a VISA credit card with no upper limit as to what we can incur as far as liabilities, but knowing that our minimum monthly payout is set and that's about the only figure we're attracting attention to and addressing the needs of - the minimum monthly amount that we require.
So at the end of the day, are we fair and just in treating this vast sum of money in that manner? And I'm not comfortable with the way the federal government is doing it, Mr. Chair. I'm comfortable in the changeover to have those monies held in a program that administers them and invests it, but we're more often than not just going to a cash-flow basis and basically having the ongoing revenues of government meet the continuing obligation of the pension scheme. And that I don't believe is a good way, because we take all of the pension contributions into general revenues. They, in my opinion, should be held in a separate investment portfolio. Is that the way the Government of Yukon is doing it? But we haven't gone back and we haven't ascertained what the amount is that we have invested in the program. All we have is an actuarial study as to what we will need in the way of monies invested to meet the continuing obligation.
I'm sure the Deputy Minister of Finance can follow the rationale, because it's quite an easy equation. All we're looking at is the obligation and what we need on deposit to meet that obligation. But there are a lot of variables in the obligation and there will continue to be a lot of variables as life expectancy increases. That's the issue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm fully aware of the issue and the point that the member opposite is making. The point the member opposite is making is that he says that he is supportive of repatriation. So, let's accept the member's word on that.
The difference is, first of all, that if we are successful in repatriation, this government is committed to investing money separately and not putting it into general revenues. So, let the member rest assured on that particular point.
His preliminary point is should we go to the Liberal government when we're trying to repatriate this pension and say, "We have paid a billion dollars since day one; therefore give us a billion dollars"? Or should we go with an actuarial evaluation that says, "This is what you require to invest at this point to meet the future needs"? So, it's a matter of which way we negotiate the transfer amount and how we do that.
The actuarial evaluation has been commissioned. We have a figure here and we have started this negotiation process with the federal government. We will see how it progresses. It may be that we may have to do as the member suggests. It's going to take awhile. It's not going to be quick or happen overnight.
Most importantly, it's not going to be done without the help and support of Yukon government employees.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Yukon government employees are no different from the rest of us. They want to ensure that their pension plan is going to be safe and will pay out what benefits they have calculated will be coming to them. That's the basis of a pension plan.
The other example that was used was the last group in Canada that opted out of the federal superannuation, and that was Canada Post. Just how close were they, at the date they jumped out of the federal superannuation and went on their own? Just how close were they to the actuarial evaluation that was provided to them? It says in the response that Yukon used the same, or relatively the same, actuarial evaluation. But was there a shortfall when Canada Post opted out? And just how much?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do not know that answer. I will provide a written response to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, seeing that established practice is usually the way the Government of Canada proceeds, if they set one course and determine one method of evaluation for another agency of government, it stands to reason that they would use the same calculations and the same methods for the next area of government that opts out of the federal initiative. I think that a fair area to be looked at is the difference between what is required to meet the continuing obligation and, at the opting out stage, how much Canada transferred to that other entity of government that opted out? And is it enough to meet the continuing obligations? So I thank the minister for providing that comparison by way of a written response.
I believe it is quite pertinent and quite relevant to the issue we have before us.
There are quite a number of other areas in here. I can probably pick them up in department by department, Mr. Chair, so I'll just finalize my questions, and when we get into the Public Service Commission, I'll have some more questions of the minister on that area.
I just hope I've covered off all of the areas that the Minister of Finance is involved in, and hopefully the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission won't bounce me back to the Minister of Finance when I ask questions of that individual. It's probably the way that this Liberal government performs, since they have very, very, very grave difficulties in addressing their respective responsibilities. We are noticing that on a continuing basis.
So, let's move on, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
There is no further general debate. We will now proceed with the estimates book entitled, Budget 2000-2001, Supplementary Estimates No. 2.
Department of Health and Social Services
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Mr. McRobb: Usually, it's the practice of this House for the minister to stand up and give an explanation. However, he's sitting in his chair and he's drifting down some river somewhere in his kayak right now, not thinking too much about -
Chair: Order please, Mr. McRobb. I wasn't finished yet, so as a result he hasn't had a chance to stand up.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Mr. McRobb, I'm sorry. I thought you were standing on a point of order. I had to at least hear what you had to say.
Is there any general debate on Health and Social Services?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it's a pleasure to have to comment and respond to this budget. We have heard the NDP talk a lot about how we should be spending the surplus and, as we know, the surplus is no longer there because of the NDP. There was a $64-million surplus, according to the Auditor General, but then we had a $33-million deficit that we had to pay, and this is what the supplementary budget is all about. It's about paying down the NDP debt.
The NDP spending patterns cannot continue. It is not sustainable. If the government wants to continue spending at the rate the NDP wants us to, we will soon be broke, and the surplus will be gone in a couple of years.
On February 21 of this year, the former leader of the NDP, Mr. Piers McDonald, gave his budget address, and in the budget booklet of that day the accumulated surplus, as quoted by the leader at that time, was $13.7 million. The NDP defended their excessive spending by saying it would help the government meet its short-term needs. Yes, Mr. Chair, short-term needs. The NDP is all about short term.
They knew they didn't budget enough money to cover increases in Health and Social Services. They deliberately underfunded the Department of Health and Social Services. Why? They knew about the increasing costs of Health and Social Services. The increasing costs were staring all of us - all Yukoners - in the face. Why weren't they up front?
Mr. Speaker, we must be responsible. I know that the election was called at the time. I know that, after the election, we then tried to find ways to cover the shortfall. I think what bothers me is that I hear the Member for Klondike constantly talking about the overspending of the government. I don't think it has overspent in the last 10 years except for two occasions. So, I'm not sure where the Member for Klondike is getting his figures. It must be Yukon Party math.
I think it's important that we try to cover our costs and try to pay our bills. We must really look at how we are going to be sustainable for the future. We must see things through clear glasses and not rose-coloured glasses.
The supplementary budget is all about paying off bills from last year. We can't get away from it. We have to pay it. We are responsible as the Liberal government. We have to take responsibility for it, but we give blame where it belongs.
Health care is one of the biggest items in the supplementary budget. I have heard that mentioned by both opposition parties many times. Of this increase, 2.7 is due to the collective agreement, which, by the way, was done by the NDP. Of course, it includes superannuation. It wasn't included in the budget. I'm not going to point the finger at anybody, because the contract wasn't quite ready yet and that's why it wasn't included. So, I can accept the fact that it shouldn't be in there.
I think it is important also to know that we must try to look at how we build together. When you're paying your costs, you have to make sure that you understand that there is money coming in to do that.
I would hope that this wasn't done without some kind of a conspiracy against Yukoners, that we weren't going to share honestly and up front with Yukoners about where our costs were.
I don't know how they were going to cover the $7.2 million if they were government. Were they going to take it out of highways? Were they going to take it out of other departments? Were they going to take it out of the stay-another-day program? Were they going to do it by some kind of magic? Were they expecting the federal government to just suddenly flour them with all kinds of money?
So, when we are looking at increases, we are looking at increases that were there before we stepped into the traces, and now we have to pay the bills. It's not a problem, Mr. Speaker, because we will pay them, but it will bring down our surplus. Our surplus will not be the constant figure that we always hear. It's going to even be less. The Auditor General came back with the $64-million surplus, and then we had to add in all the deficits of our budgets to make sure that we pay for them.
I think it is very important to also understand that times have changed. We are now open and accountable. If we are making spending choices, then Yukoners have to know why we are making them. If the members opposite are upset about the reviews and the consultation that we make, and that we take our time, it's because in the past this has not happened and it takes time to do that. We cannot be in a state of constant denial.
Since 1997, the government has been absorbing program costs in areas such as residential services. There have been volume increases in residential programs resulting in several underfunded group homes.
The number of children and the time they spend in care has increased. Part of this supplementary budget will address this issue. It is a top priority of this government to keep children safe and well. Putting children first requires having additional funds.
Foster care costs - our foster care costs in the Yukon have been increasing due to the numbers of children in care. The number of foster homes has increased from 55 homes in March of 1994 to 88 foster homes in March of 1999, and projections for 2000-01 are 105 approved homes. So foster care is one of those issues, Mr. Chair.
There's another increase that was not dealt with in the previous government and we have to respond to it: direct operating grants. We have increased the amount required to extend the direct operating grants to all family day home operators throughout the Yukon.
Social services - much of the funds put forward in the social services aspect of this supplementary budget have to do with staffing, Mr. Chair. Many frontline services have been understaffed. In tough times, Yukoners need government to ensure services are provided. We are doing this.
Health care - in health care we have had to deal with increasing costs in pharmacare, medical travel, chronic disease prescription costs, extended benefits, and out-of-territory hospital services.
It's interesting to note, Mr. Chair, that some of the travel in the Yukon from distant locations to Whitehorse, particularly from Dawson, has decreased - just to take note of that. That's an interesting fact.
Health care staff has also been underfunded by previous governments who are putting money where it's badly needed in health programs.
The Canadian Blood Services - this government wants to ensure that people who have suffered blood loss due to surgical procedures, trauma or medical conditions have access to blood and blood products when they need them. The Canadian Blood Services runs Canada's blood supply system from donations through distribution of blood to our hospitals, and governments pay CBS to provide the services to Canadians. The 2000-01 budget reflects costs when the blood system was operated by the Canadian Blood Agency and the Red Cross.
The supplementary budget is covering additional costs that occurred when the Canadian Blood Services took over the blood system. These costs were not available in sufficient time to meet the initial budget preparation, and future budget requirements are expected to bill from this new adjustment base.
Capital expenditures - most of the capital expenditures put forth by this government have to do with maintaining health and safety standards in the health and social service facilities. Some other capital expenditures are for equipment required to operate quality programs, such as the ambulance unit.
Mr. Chair, back to the supplementary improvements for the Yukon, we were spending an additional $380,000 on highway maintenance. Over the past eight years, the amount of money spent on highways was decreased to a point where now we're going to have to put major dollars in our highways, mainly because we believe in balancing how we spend our money in the territory.
We talked a bit about tourism and how those issues also are going to increase and how we want to be part of that.
We had to put another $4 million in the collective agreement for this year, due to the fact that agreements had been settled just at the time that the election was called.
So I think it's important, Mr. Chair, to understand that there are a lot of other demands on our budget. Health cost, of course, is one of the biggest ones, and we are committed to cutting taxes, Mr. Chair. As we noted, we did cut taxes for Yukoners - the first government to do that in a number of years. We actually did it, Mr. Chair. It wasn't a phantom tax cut, as the NDP constantly tries to remind us; it was a real tax cut.
By January 2002, the territory's personal income tax rate will be 44 percent. So, Mr. Chair, you can see that trying to balance our budget and pay off our bills is going to require a lot of resourcefulness on all our parts. I'm hoping, Mr. Chair, that the members opposite will work with us in order to pay down the bills, in order to ensure that we move as efficiently and as quickly in getting on with the future.
Mr. McRobb: Well, well, Mr. Chair, where to start after something like that - how disappointing. I recall being here back in July, filling in for the Health critic at the time, discussing all afternoon with this Health minister the different issues in the department, questioning him on the direction he would be taking the department, and what he said at that time was, "Wait until the fall, and you'll discover what our priorities are in the fall." Wait until the fall. Well, Mr. Chair, fall was here and has gone, and what has the minister got to show? Only a long list of sad excuses.
He's chuckling away over there, Mr. Chair. All he has is a litany of a tax from the former government, and excuses. It's high time for this minister, especially, to stand up and take responsibility for his position and for his government. Show some leadership. Instead we see a government like a ship without a rudder, floating aimlessly down the river, and I'm sure that's where the mindset of this minister is. He's in his kayak up the creek somewhere without a paddle, and it's about time for him to follow the current, show some leadership and come through on what he promised. It could be a long time in waiting, Mr. Chair. It might not ever happen before he gets tossed out by the voters next time for failing to deliver.
The minister, interestingly enough, had a lot to say about the current fiscal position the government is in. His excuses, if one were to believe him, would lead you to think that the territory is in very bad fiscal shape, all because of the previous NDP government.
Well, let's just explore that for a minute. Let's explore that. I recall that, back in July in general debate, this same minister referring to the projected $56.2-million surplus. What has happened to that? Well, the Auditor General came through last month and acknowledged that there was a huge surplus and, in fact, it was even larger than we had claimed. This is despite the fact that the Health minister was claiming that we were fear-mongering and over-projecting.
Well, the truth was that the money was there all along and, not only that, there was a lot more money than what we were saying - a $64-million surplus. And that's not the end of it. With the current lapses expected in this year's budget, there is probably going to be somewhere in the neighbourhood of a $45-million surplus at the end of this year. And that takes into account this deficit they keep talking about, Mr. Chair. That's a lot of money - a lot of money. And we will be talking about this in the spring and probably next fall too. We will know what the real number is once the Auditor General reports - it could be even higher.
So, when that minister stands up and attacks us for being frivolous spenders and leaving them in a bad position and that that is why he is unable to deliver what he promised as Health minister - well, what a bunch of hooey. Completely unbelievable. The reason why this minister isn't delivering is obviously because his colleagues feel he has no clout at the Cabinet table. They ignore him and anything he brings forward is generally not supported. Otherwise we would see in the supplementary budget right now delivery of a lot of things that this minister has promised.
Where's the CT scan unit that was in the budget this Liberal government campaigned on? Yukoners were promised this CT scan unit. It's not there. Instead, the minister talks about O&M overruns. Well, how much of that overrun is attributable to the fact that Yukoners in need of a CT scan unit have to fly outside to Vancouver, stay overnight and fly back, all at the expense of this department? That's part of it, Mr. Chair. Do we hear that explanation from the minister? No.
We're getting used to having, on this side, to draw information out of the government, but we usually don't get it first-hand. We usually get it from the media first. Why is that? Well, it's obvious. This government has no respect for this Legislature and only cares about how it's perceived in the media. It's trying to gain some sort of public favour by dealing with the media first and not with us in this Legislature.
It's high time this government acknowledged the priorities of Yukoners. We, on this side, represent significant parts of this territory through our ridings and through our constituents, and this government should respect that, and provide us with information when requested instead of giving a long line of excuses and attacks. You see it every day - more and more every day.
Mr. Chair, if this government would just answer the questions asked of it, we could get on to the rest of the business.
When the minister stands up and, I quote, says things like "surplus is no longer there because of the NDP" or "spending can't continue, we'll soon be broke" - those are quotes. What about the money this government has spent that wasn't even identified in the budget? How do they reconcile those goodies with their line now that we'll soon be broke and that's why they're not spending now. It would be interesting to hear what the minister has to say about that.
I'm talking about goodies like the quarter of a million dollars for the prospectors announced at the trade show. There are all kinds of other little goodies, Mr. Chair, but when it comes to delivering on the health care promises, this minister, obviously, takes a back seat at the Cabinet table.
There are lots of examples. I know one in particular. A constituent who the minister knows of - with the dialysis machine issue. And the minister tried to call this person in Vancouver. He even stopped in at some fundraisers down on the Carcross Road and talked to them. He raised expectations; he would deliver. In his responses to me, he said to check on delivery in the fall. It's disappointing to stand here and repeat, once again, that there's no delivery in the fall; it's more like bounced cheque and no delivery.
This minister has some explaining to do. He has some explaining to do because he has not delivered. Whether it's because he's asleep at the Cabinet table or is being mislead into thinking the government is broke - whatever the reason, Mr. Chair, he has explaining to do, to not only my constituents, but all Yukoners who are led to believe what they were promised by this minister in this government.
Then, in a bout of vindictiveness, we heard about some sort of conspiracy against Yukoners. What trash. The Minister of Health stood there and speculated that the NDP must have had some conspiracy against Yukoners. Well, if that isn't a quote for the record books, coming from that minister.
That minister should know that the previous government brought in a supplementary budget each year in the fall, producing not only jobs for Yukoners, but satisfying the budgetary needs of any department that may have incurred a shortfall subsequent to the time that the annual budget was set. We all know that you can't predict these numbers with a great degree of accuracy. Nobody has a crystal ball.
If the minister claims otherwise, let's hear from him. What will it cost for this department next year? Let's hear from him. What will be included in that? Let's hear from him.
We know that part of the departmental expenditure is SA rates. Let's just look at that for a second. In the budget, there was an increase to SA rates that this government has yet to deliver - bounced cheque, no delivery. Now, part of SA rate payments have to do with the overall state of the economy and the number of people without work. That could be connected directly to this government's total lack of compassion in providing funds such as the community development fund, fire smart program, trade and investment fund and so on to Yukoners, so that they could be working this winter.
Instead, they're forced down on the welfare rolls or they collect SA. Mr. Chair, that rolls into larger expenditures. Obviously the minister is motivated, by figures such as those, to stand on his feet and accuse the previous NDP government of having a conspiracy against Yukoners. I submit the only conspiracy here is this government's failure to deliver on what it campaigned on. It campaigned on the NDP budget. It has not delivered. It campaigned on continuing the community development fund and failed to do that. Mr. Chair, if there's any conspiracy, that's got to be it.
Then the minister continues on, talking about how this government is open and accountable. Well, I almost gagged at that one. Where was he during Question Period? Floating down the river in his kayak again? Was that a display of an open and accountable government? Mr. Chair, I invite that minister to take a look at tonight's paper, compare what he reads there - a direct quote from premier Cunning. It's a direct quote. Compare it to what this House heard from the other Premier only a couple of hours ago. Compare it, and then ask himself the question: is this a sign of an open and accountable government? And be honest. Let's hear his answer to that.
Mr. Chair, the excuse for the ministerial statement from the Premier not being provided to the opposition sides - is that being open and accountable? I hardly think so.
Mr. Chair, there was an episode a month or so back - a very similar episode. What came out of it was our request to be provided with ministerial statements. If they can't be on time by 11:00 a.m. in the morning, then at least a few minutes before Question Period. What this government's trying to do is upset our agenda and our preparation for Question Period, because it doesn't want to be open and accountable.
It's just hoping that it will come in and usurp questions that have been prepared and try to catch us off guard. Well, Mr. Chair, we have the ability to think on our feet, not like the ministers in this government, who are scripted by their briefing notes, handed notes from their handlers minute after minute. I just wish for once they could read their election platform and deliver - read the commitments they gave Yukoners and deliver instead of standing up, wailing away and mindlessly attacking the previous government, especially when the argument is completely invalid, substantiated by the Auditor General of Canada.
It's time this group of Liberals takes responsibility and starts to govern the territory and shows some leadership. Instead, day after day, we see mindless periods of finger pointing and excuses.
Well, Mr. Chair, we would be able to accept that if they campaigned that they would be a finger-pointing, excuse-giving government, but it's something quite to the contrary. These Liberals campaigned on being open and honest, on not knowing all the answers but being to open to suggestions, on raising the bar of decorum in this Legislature and building a more cooperative trust with the opposition parties.
Well, Mr. Chair, the examples that I have just given - I would like the minister to reflect on them and reconcile the sad state of affairs exhibited by this government in comparison to what it promised in that regard. I would say that this minister has a lot of explaining to do - a lot of explaining.
I recall how, in the spring, this minister was beating his chest - they know to do public consultation right, not like the previous NDP government. Now, I know that I have explained this a few times and have given him some examples. Yet, nearly every day, there are new examples.
Look at these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act - no consultation with Yukoners, industry or other governments, nobody. Nobody knew it was coming down the line. They heard it on the radio. They heard about it on the radio. It was thinly disguised as a housekeeping bill. Well, this is an open and accountable government all right. This is more like a backroom government that wants to escape public scrutiny and doesn't want to be accountable or open. It wants to run and hide. In retrospect, it will be judged, and judged as a say-anything, do-nothing government. Because, in fact, that is the record. Performance is woefully lacking. Expectations of Yukoners have been crushed - bounced cheque, no delivery.
The minister then goes on to say, "We cannot be in a state of constant denial." Well, Mr. Chair, it's very clear what the minister's really referring to when he talks about being in a state of constant denial. It's a sad comparison of what this government has done compared to what it promised it would do. And to stand up and beat their chests and boast about how good they are, well, Mr. Chair, ignoring the truth is a state of constant denial - case closed.
The minister then goes on to talk about all the dollars they will be spending on highways and that that's why the Health department is not getting much, because this government has to spend all its money on the highways. Well, Mr. Chair, how much is this government spending on highways? All we've seen is an announcement for - I believe it was $379,000. Big deal. And the headline on the press release was, government fulfils its promise to restore highway funding. What a joke; what a joke. This is probably less than one percent of the total department's budget, a fraction of what this government claims needs to be restored. Yet it claims it has restored highway funding.
Mr. Chair, we'll be getting to that department soon enough. But for this minister to stand up and use that excuse as to why he hasn't delivered doesn't add up. We want the minister to be accountable.
Next, we'll hear how the Health budget is suffering because the Department of Tourism wants to launch this stay-another-day program started by the NDP, or perhaps because of the Economic Development department repackaging programs like CDF, TIF or training trust funds, or maybe it will be Government Services because it needs more cars. The list of excuses will be endless because this minister fails to stand up for the Department of Health and Social Services, fails to convince his colleagues, and feels rather dejected about it. That's quite evident. I'd feel really dejected, too, if that's how I was treated.
For the minister to turn a cheek, to stand up and aggressively attack, to endlessly spew out the excuses, that is a different matter altogether, and that's another reason why I take exception with this minister and what he has said, Mr. Chair. If there is a legitimate reason, we can deal with it.
We have yet to hear anything of substance. The minister sets up a committee to deal with all these things that were promised in the budget. It is a budget this Liberal government campaigned on, yet it's cherry-picking items out of the budget, like the CT scan unit for instance, and ducking out on its responsibilities, hiding behind a committee. Well, how many times do we have to say it - review, cancel, delay seems to be the Liberal way.
We're getting to know this bunch quite well, Mr. Chair, and it's getting more difficult for us to be fooled every day, because we can see through it. Even at first, when it appeared not much was there, a little bit of prying took off that first layer of defence and we got to the bottom of issues.
While the Minister of Tourism says "smears", well, Mr. Chair, she knows what it's all about. When I ask her questions, that's what I get back in the way of answers - smearing retorts, not substantial responses. She can check the record. The record speaks for itself.
I don't want to go on much longer here because I want to give the minister a chance to respond. But, he probably gave me about a year's worth of material to respond to, so I'm going to have to cut some of it short, but not before I comment on another quote.
It says that this year is the first real tax cut delivered by this Liberal government, not a phantom tax cut like the NDP. Well, where was he the other day? Wasn't he listening to the motion debate? Wasn't he listening to the information provided by the official opposition and the third party on the motion about the tax cuts? It was a government motion. Wasn't he listening? Obviously not. It's obviously another contradiction.
The reality is that neither the minister nor the government is interested in here about what anybody has to say, except for itself. It's not open and accountable. It's not listening. It's not receptive to new ideas or alternative thinking. It has all the answers. That's why it didn't consult on the Motor Vehicles Act. It is probably why it hasn't done a lot of things that the previous government would have done.
The tax cuts that this minister refers to as real were created, introduced and budgeted by the previous NDP government. This Liberal group, at the time these tax cuts were announced, pooh-poohed them, saying that they were not enough. "We would have gone further," they said. Well, history speaks for itself. Shortly after being elected, the Liberals began to waffle and backtrack on that commitment.
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, you have two minutes.
Mr. McRobb: The Liberal government began to backtrack on the budget commitment to decrease taxes, and only when we began to embarrass them and hold them accountable did it come around to accept the full tax cut from the NDP budget. Mr. Chair, this group of Liberals did it reluctantly. They were dragged kicking and screaming to the altar of accountability - didn't want to do it, Mr. Chair.
One of the reasons is that this government wants to repackage everything so it can take the credit. There's no giving credit where credit is due. It's not a charitable government, either.
Now, I recognize my limit is fast approaching, and the minister has a lot of explaining to do, so I'll let him go at it.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I'm very pleased. I don't know how elated I am that the members opposite have endorsed the philosophy of the Liberal Party. I think it's amazing that they have come around. I really thank them for supporting all the initiatives that we have put in place.
I think the important part, Mr. Chair, is to really ensure that we're working for Yukoners. I appreciate the fact that we don't have all the answers. I've never said we've had all the answers. I've always felt that Yukoners have many answers. The opposition has answers. The problem is that we haven't been able to engage the opposition in giving us some constructive answers. We're hoping that this can happen during this session, and I hope that over the next number of years we can build together. It's time that we work as a team, and that's extending the olive branch to our members across the floor.
I thank you for your comments, and I'm ready to move right into line-by-line.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously this minister exemplifies how this government is a run-and-hide government because he ran and hid from the questions I sought answers to - no accountability. This minister feel he can just stand up, sling some mud, put on his Teflon suit, sit down again, and not get up and respond to questions about his aggressive attack. Where's the accountability, Mr. Chair?
The minister stands up. He likes to take the first punch, but he can't duke it out. He runs and hides. We're looking for information. We're looking for an explanation, some reconciliation explaining the difference between the dismal performance record and the heightened expectations last spring. Obviously the minister is ashamed, and I can understand why.
The minister wants to move on. That's fine. I'm prepared to move on, too.
But, Mr. Chair, there are a couple of things he did say that I take exception to. One of them is that he said that he never said he has all the answers. Well, that's only a partial explanation of what I was looking for, and it's not very factual at that. I'll remind the member that, just last week, we introduced a supplementary budget, one we felt had a lot of the answers, and this government voted it down before they even saw what was in it.
It didn't want to know what was in it. Is that behaviour likened to a government that knows it doesn't have all the answers? Or is it representative of a government that feels it has all the answers and doesn't want to hear? Alternate options. I suggest the latter is true. Why is that so, Mr. Chair?
A lot of Yukoners I talked to and I listened to wonder why this government has such an arrogant attitude when it's still a relatively young government and consists of 10 individuals, none having previous ministerial experience or previous experience running a government. These Yukoners I speak to know that it's not easy. They know there's quite a bit to the responsibility, such as understanding fiscal responsibilities, budgets and assigning priorities, et cetera. These Yukoners admit they don't have all the answers and that they don't have the full understanding, but they wonder why this government feels it does.
This supplementary budget is something that we'll be reminding this government of as we go through the departments. If what this minister says is true, then we will expect fair consideration of the expenditures included in our supplementary budget and not just outright rejection as was exhibited by this government when the bill was introduced.
Before any of the members saw what suggestions we had in the way of expenditures in the budget, they voted against it. If the minister truly is sincere in saying he is open and considerate toward our suggestions, then we can expect a constructive dialogue as we go through this government's supplementary budget. If the government doesn't support any one of the expenditures that we propose, then we expect a constructive response explaining why, not just more slander. I think that the minister has given us a glimpse of what is in store. And that's what I am speaking to, Mr. Chair.
It's Thursday afternoon. Obviously, next week, we will be deep into the supplementary budget. This government has four days to change its course and do what is right for Yukoners, accept some responsibility and show some leadership by not pointing a figure and rolling out the useless excuses about how it doesn't have the money. Because we know the money is there. We want constructive responses to each and every one of the line items in our supplementary budget. We expect a chance to discuss them and not be shut down by this Liberal government, using its majority against us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Minister of Renewable Resources chirps back, "We're the government." "We are," he adds. Well, Mr. Chair, today we heard how this group of Liberals really is an interim government.
A lot of Yukoners are acknowledging that; a lot of Yukoners are saying that. In fact, they're all talking about a downturn, Mr. Chair, because they failed to deliver. Bounced cheque, no delivery - that's what they're saying.
Now, I hope we could move on and begin to address this government's supplementary budget in more substantial terms and put aside the rhetoric.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister says he agrees, Mr Chair, so I'll take that as an indication that we can get into it.
Now, the Health and Social Services budget has an increase of $7.2 million in operations and maintenance. What we would like from the minister, first of all, is a breakdown on that. Now, we know that many of those increases are attributed to the collective agreement and superannuation costs. However, there are also increases due to increased demand in the various branches. There are some new announcements that don't appear in this supplementary budget, such as the new alcohol and drug services commission and the group home takeover. Can the minister explain how these increases are being budgeted?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just to give the member opposite some idea of where the pressures are: as quoted, $7.2 million is the amount that we are requesting. Of that, we are looking at approximately $1,725,000 for Social Services. That was the original one, and we're looking for an additional $1 million. In the capital budget, we anticipate the need to be $1,169,000, which are all revotes, mostly concerned with our facilities and including the construction of the new long-term facility. Also, approximately $1.3 million, or nearly 20 percent of the increase, is a direct result of the collective agreement. This includes the increased contribution to the Hospital Corporation of $339,000 to cover the PSAC agreement. Another 20 percent of the increase, or approximately $1 million, is due to the changes in the superannuation. These increases are fully recoverable, however, and are included in the overall transfer from Canada.
Another 40 percent of this increase is directly related to our statutory health programs. This includes a million-dollar increase in chronic disease, pharmacare and extended health benefits, an increase of $1.8 million in insured health services, including medical travel, out-of-territory hospital and physician costs, and the contract for the Mayo physician.
On the Social Services side of the department, the increase to family and children's services is related primarily to the cost associated with adult residential services, as a result of a decision made by the Yukon review board. We also have experienced increases in our children in care, an additional $218,000 for direct operating grant to family day homes; and this budget also reflects an increase of $300,000 in salary costs to detox and shelter facilities, partly in response to the occupational health and safety report.
Just a note: we are seeing a trend downwards for social services demands. I know the Member for Klondike made the comment that they keep going up. They're not, they are going down. I think that tells you about what is happening as far as our employment. People are being employed and, therefore, do not need that kind of support.
On capital revotes, these are primarily for renovations to the Sarah Steele Building, the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge of approximately $700,000. And that's a revote. Again, it's associated with design and construction. Of course, the majority of the remaining capital expenditures are related to our health services programming area and include the renovation to No. 2 and No. 4 Hospital Road, ambulance equipment, and community nursing and equipment at the Teslin health centre. These are just the highlights; they are not the specifics.
As far as the AADAC, the only approval that we have so far supported on that will be the hiring of a CEO, which is in the process of being prepared. So, the actual costs related to that program in the future are not reflected here at all. That's a new program that will be coming before Cabinet and Management Board.
We are absorbing the costs to take over the group home, but I am anticipating that we will be back because costs will probably have increased, and that is not reflected here. This is, again, based on last year's costs. And we are trying to reflect on that.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that information; however, I was unable to jot it all down. Does the minister have something on paper that he could perhaps send over for us? Thanks.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We don't have it sort of in a crisp form for you here, but yes, we can send over copies so you can have it before you.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask the minister about the pioneer utility grant and the $80,000 increase. Can he explain what that is for?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's volume increases at this point and demand and, obviously, the increases in applications, as there are more eligible seniors remaining in the Yukon. The trend has continued over the last few years. In 1995-96, there were 515 recipients and in the past 1999-2000, there were 646 recipients. That's the main reason for the increase.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, did the minister indicate there was an amount there for the increased fuel prices? I missed that. Can he just nod or shake?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: There's no increase identified to higher fuel prices, okay.
About the home care support, I know there was a higher level of home care promised, but I don't see it delivered in this budget. Can the minister enlighten me on that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The item was identified, in my understanding, in the last budget and that has been reflected with increases in home care. We didn't need it for the supplementary at this point, but there have been increases in home care in the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: I won't ask for it right now, Mr. Chair, but if the minister can send something over either today or on Monday perhaps explaining that, I'd appreciate it.
Now, the escalated travel costs are also noted in the budget. Can the minister give us an indication as to what extent those numbers are in this supplementary budget?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, there is an $800,000 increase in medical travel. The average cost per trip is up 43 percent for medical charters and scheduled - those are commercial airlines. Out-of-territory trips are up nine percent in cost and volume. Out-of-territory hospital costs have increased by $655,000, and the costs last year exceeded the budget by $640,000, and the current expenditures are running the same or a bit higher.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what portion of that can be attributable to the need for a CT scan?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding, Mr. Chair, at this point, is that it's about $100,000 that can be directly attributed to a CT scan.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what the policy is on determining compassionate travel? For example, if one has a critically ill spouse or partner, what are the grounds considered in determining whether a spouse or partner would be supported in travelling with them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it's done on a case-by-case basis because of the uniqueness of the territory and of individual needs. If it's a very serious situation where the person needs accompaniment, it can be made in those instances, or if it's something that's even more tragic than that, Mr. Chair. It's not done as a general policy. When you do that, you make it wide open and then there are no controls on it. So, it's done with the best interest of the people involved. The differences are for children under the age of 18; then it is allowed. It's only for adults where the discretionary part comes in.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to know a little bit more about the government's policy in determining that, because it seems there is a lot of discretion involved. I'd like to know who determines which cases are qualified for compassionate travel, and if the government has a policy. If so, could we be provided that in writing?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes. The director of health services is the person who is responsible, along with the physician. So it's really kind of a two-part decision-making process. We'll find what we have for the written part of it, and we'll make sure the member opposite gets a copy of it.
Mr. McRobb: I want to ask about family and children's services. Increases in this department appear to also be due to the increased number of children in care and increased demand for adult residential services. These services don't seem to reflect the cost of the government taking on group home responsibilities. Can the minister provide some information on that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's very unfortunate, Mr. Chair, that we, as government, have to take over a responsibility that community and family should be more involved with, but then we're there as the backstop and it's very important that we try to build that security. The fact is that it's sort of one of those numbers that you never know. It's one that comes at times when you least expect it, so obviously we have to reflect those costs in our budget. That's why it's in the supplementary.
With the takeover of the 16 Klondike group home, that happened after the budget was put together, so it's going to take us probably anywhere from an additional $100,000 to $120,000 to run that program, as to where it is now. So those figures will not be reflected here at all. They will be coming later.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate if he would be able to provide perhaps a spreadsheet that outlines each group home, along with the operating costs and the number of people housed and so on? He's nodding his head, Mr. Chair, so I'll take that as an agreement.
There are other increases in child care costs that reflect the higher cost of the increase in the direct operating grant or DOG and the minister did allude to that in the summary, I believe. But I'd like some more information on it, because it's interesting to note that about $300,000 has been removed from the child care subsidy budget due to the lower demand because of the poor economy. Apparently, many of these increased costs are from higher volume. Can the minister tell us if there is any padding in the budget to reflect the anticipated increased costs?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not quite sure what the member opposite wants. If he could just rephrase that, we can give him the answer.
Mr. McRobb: I'm trying to read from someone else's notes, but I'll back up a step.
It's interesting to note that about $300,000 is removed from the child care subsidy budget because of lower demand, apparently because of the poor economy. Let's just stop there and allow the minister to comment on why that is so.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The fact is that the demand is less because there are fewer people demanding the services and the support. I would assume that what we're talking about is the economy of the Yukon - the economy that we, as a government, are trying to turn around. That's going to take at least a year to do that, so I think that's the reference. Things are not done in an instant. We're hoping that in the future we will not need to have this kind of support.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Can the minister provide some statistics as to how fewer children there are in the territory and how fewer children there are applying for this care subsidy budget? Would he be able to provide that information? I see him nodding his head, Mr. Chair.
Let's move on to Social Services. Now, there is a group home where an outside report required increased staffing. The detoxification centre also shows an increase of $300,000 due to increased staffing required by an occupational health and safety report. Would the minister indicate whether there are any other staffing situations that may be required and, if so, how this would relate to attending to the increased staff safety concerns?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the only one that we're really aware of as far as reflected in this budget is the Sarah Steele Building. As we know, the occupational health and safety board did have some comments to make on the 16 Klondike, and we're not reflecting any changes there or any costs in there at this point. As I shared earlier, this happened after the budget, and we don't anticipate that we're going to be moving into the same kind of arrangement. But, again, that's just preliminary at this point.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I want to bounce back to the pioneer utility grant for a moment. Since it does not reflect the current costs and it's not available to elders living on settlement lands, can the minister provide us with some information about whether he's considering expanding that program to include elders living on settlement lands or increasing it because of the increased fuel costs faced by Yukon seniors?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we, as a government, are concerned about the increased costs, particularly in fuel, particularly for our seniors and elders who are on the minimum side of the ledger. We have had some discussions about it. There has been nothing put in the budget initially, so we have not arrived at any decision at this point, but we are aware of it and we would like to respond. I think, Mr. Chair, that we are trying to see where we want to go with it and how we want to proceed. I know time is of essence but, as government operates, it just doesn't move on an instant. We have to take the time to do the assessment.
Mr. McRobb: Has the minister done any kind of analysis of what's happening in other jurisdictions and whether similar programs have been increased or what other measures have been done to reflect the huge increase in energy costs, especially to our elderly population? Is he aware of any federal program that might be possible to tap into in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, in the last mini-budget, the federal government did bring in some type of compensation for those people at the lower end of the salary or wage-earning area or even at the pension end of it, so there is some reflection there in the new budget.
Just a clarification - PUG is applicable to all, and I'll just read it here: the PUG is a universal program. The grant is available to all Yukon seniors, including elders who reside on First Nation land and who meet the eligibility criteria. So that's something that I think we must clarify.
The interesting thing about the PUG idea is that it's a unique program across Canada. There are very few, if any - I'm not aware of a program that is a universal program for all seniors in any particular province or territory, but I stand to be corrected on that. It's one of those support programs that goes way ahead of where we're at now when we look at the crises that many of our elders may be having with payment of their own fuel bills.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I assume then that the minister is not aware of any federal program that could be part - and he is shaking his head, so I assume that to be the case.
On the pioneer utility grant, is there some kind of analysis of the program that the minister could provide? The government is undertaking reviews on just about everything else. Has it looked at the pioneer utility grant? Does it have any kind of analysis of the program that he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, I hear what the member opposite is saying, and if the member opposite is encouraging us to put a review in place to look at the pioneer utility grant conditions and the situation, we will take that under advisement. I appreciate the fact that the member also realizes that, from time to time, one has to review programs as you go along with them in order to make sure that you update them or that you are responding to the needs of Yukoners. So I appreciate the recommendation by the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that is not what I am suggesting at all. I didn't realize I had poked the minister in that last sequence. But really, I am not suggesting that the government undertake any more reviews. I merely contemplated that, given its current practice, it must have taken a look at this fund. And, if not, at least has it had any information that might be useful in assessing the performance of this fund that he could provide? I will ask the minister again if there is anything he can provide to us in official opposition that would improve our knowledge of the performance of this program.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we could provide raw data, numbers of people on it and how it has increased or decreased over the last few years. I think that could be supplied to the member opposite very easily.
By the way, when we supply these materials, I hope the member opposite realizes it's going to take more than one day or one hour to do it. It's going to take a few days by the time we get it to him - hopefully next week.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not expecting the wheels of the government to come to a grinding halt. I think that if we get it before we're out of general debate, which will probably be Monday - four days from now - that's perfectly all right.
Mr. Chair, the minister indicated that they were doing an analysis on the pioneer utility grant. Did he indicate something? He's nodding his head - no, okay.
On the SA rate increase that was supposed to be in this year's budget - it has not been implemented. The minister said there would be an announcement that may well come just before Christmas, so the minister can put on his red suit and give us the ho-ho-ho. Can the minister enlighten us as to when we might expect something that way?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe in being very jolly and cheerful during this festive season. And I agree with the member opposite, we should have more ho-hos, because sometimes it's lacking.
We are moving ahead with his initiative. It's in a Cabinet submission right now, and the member opposite knows what time and what length of road it takes to cover these initiatives. Hopefully, we'd like to see it before Christmas. Mind you, that depends on when the House rises, because we spend a lot of time down here. When that happens then we can't really address the real issues of running government. So I think it's important that we try to move together on this so that those recipients can receive their Christmas gift, if that's the wish of the House.
Mr. McRobb: It's better late than never, Mr. Chair. It would have been nice to maybe provide this increase a little sooner than Christmas so that maybe some of these people would be in a better position to give themselves, but better late than never.
Also raised has been the issue of making the SA rates retroactive. Has the minister given that any thought in his jolly spirit, and, if so, what is he prepared to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Part of the problem with that, Mr. Chair, is that, as SA is set up, it's a last resort, and people come off SA as fast as they come on it. So it would be very difficult to assess how or what or when we would be making retroactive the type of support that these people should have had. That is a real problem.
My understanding is that it's not permitted by the regulations, so that's another issue we would have to overcome if that's the route we would go. But, at this point, we're trying to move it as quickly as possible in order to get it in action today. We don't want to wait any longer.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I can appreciate some of the dynamics of this proposal, but what about for people who are on it now, Mr. Chair, for people who are almost perpetually financially challenged, if I could use that term? Has the minister given any thought to how to apply that retroactive increase to that category?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I hear the member opposite, and, again, we'll take that under advisement. I believe there is something in what the member opposite is saying.
Mr. McRobb: That's the spirit, Mr. Chair.
There's a $1-million increase in the chronic diseases, pharmacare and extended benefits programs. Can the minister indicate whether this is due to increased volume, or is it due to increased cost? And how much is attributable to patent protection for pharmaceutical companies?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is a very serious increase, as we all note - almost $1 million in the increase in chronic disease, pharmacare and extended benefits. The average costs of supplies to the chronic disease program are up 65 percent. And the average cost of a prescription is up 16 percent.
Although the number of clients is down by 26 percent over last year, the program costs are at approximately the same level as last year when this program exceeded the budget by $450,000. Last year, the pharmacare program exceeded the budget by $500,000 and this year the expenditures are up eight percent over the prior year. Extended benefits are expected to increase by $50,000 due to rising costs. So it is costs that are driving the pharmacare and chronic disease programs right through the roof.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe that's another reason for the minister to make a stronger case to his provincial and federal counterparts when next dealing with what to do with the Health budget of the territory.
I note that the Premier has indicated several times now that her speeches are on the Department of Economic Development's Web site, but what about the Health minister? What is he saying on these trips to Ottawa, or wherever, about the health concerns of the territory? Can the minister provide any information, such as maybe some copies of the speeches or summaries of his presentations? Just what exactly is the minister saying and what can be provided to us?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the fact is that most conferences that I've attended have been in the listening mode, because I'm there to learn - but I would be quite willing to share any comments that I make or comments that I hear, if it's on the Web site. I don't have a Web site per se, but I'm sure we could look at some ways of making sure that the members opposite get copies of what is transpiring.
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Health and Social Services.
Mr. McRobb:When we left off we were exploring the federal contribution and the minister's negotiations on our behalf to try to restore some of the health care funding that our territory has suffered losses in, in recent years. We know a few months ago there was an announcement that some would be provided back. I think that's still a small amount compared to what was cut a few years back. Can the minister provide us with some information that reviews what was cut, what was returned and what we can expect in the near future?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm sure the Finance department can and will supply those kinds of figures. As we all know, over the next five years we will be receiving close to $21 million. I think it's very important to recognize that with these dollars we have to make sure that we spend them in the best places and where the needs are. So, hopefully through the dialogue and the discussions with the members opposite and also the public, we can ensure that we spend them wisely. That's one of the reasons, Mr. Chair, why we have report cards now. I think it's important for the public to also know how their health dollars are being spent.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that summary. Is there something a little more substantial he can provide to us to help explain what is happening in the overall budgeting process and what to expect? Does he have a two- or three-page summary, for instance, that he can provide?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will ask Finance if they can come forth with some of those projections for the next three years. As we all know, when the CHST amounts were brought forward, they did project them over the next five years. So, obviously we can look at our projections up in the main hallway. We do have a number of charts there that sort of demonstrate what is going to happen. I'm not sure if the member opposite would like copies of these. We can supply them as well. They are on large charts, but we also have them in smaller form. That may be helpful as well.
But we will also get the additional information that the Member for Kluane would like.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. We'll leave it at that for now.
I understand that in the insured health category there is about $1.85 million that mostly reflects the cost of travel. Can the minister provide us with an explanation on that and indicate what other costs are specifically included in this increase?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, actually reading it right from the document, it is $1.8 million. There is an $800,000 increase in medical travel. The average cost per trip is up 43 percent, as I shared earlier. That is on commercial airlines. Out-of-territory is also up about nine percent in costs and volume. And, of course, the out-of-territory hospital costs increased dramatically last year, and the costs there exceed the budget by $640,000. The current expenditures are running the same or even a bit higher.
Mr. McRobb: Just to follow up on that, can the minister indicate how much of that increased travel cost is Yukon travel and how much is outside travel?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we don't have the actual breakdown, but we can provide that for the member opposite as soon as we find it. We know that the total cost for 1999 and 2000 is close to $4 million, and we can break that down into in-territory versus out-of-territory. As soon as I find it, we'll give it to you.
Mr. McRobb: All right. Mr. Chair, when you receive it from the minister, I'd appreciate getting a copy.
Now, on the travel costs, we've already covered the extra amount because the territory doesn't have a CAT scan yet, which necessitates the travel outside to where there is one, of course.
Now, in the spring, the minister and I had some discourse about the potential to attract dialysis patients from nearby jurisdictions - for instance, Atlin or wherever is practical. Has he done an analysis on this and, if so, what information can he provide us in that way?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We did find the amount for in-travel in the territory. It's approximately $354,000, and the rest would be out-of-territory travel.
In regard to the hemodialysis - and this is what the Technical Review Committee has very strongly suggested - the analysis has to be done as to how many former Yukoners, who are no longer living here, would come back to the Yukon if we had a haemo set up, how many of the current people on peritoneal would move to hemo. This is mainly because we hear from a lot of people right now who are on peritoneal that they wouldn't change because they like to live in Ross River, they like to live in Dawson. If we had a haemodialysis, that means they would have to move to Whitehorse, and they're quite satisfied with the process that they have now in place.
There may not be a medical need. So the idea is to do our inventory to find out what the need is and the Technical Review Committee has been very specific about how this will be done.
As far as trying to attract British Columbians from Atlin and so on, we haven't done that. And, really, we can only cover Yukon bona fide people, not B.C. people; although, I suppose if there was a need there, I am sure some type of arrangement can be made. But we haven't done anything about finding out what the B.C. need is at all, in the northern part.
Mr. McRobb: I would hope that the government would examine that area. It was something that we suggested back in the spring. Like the minister mentioned, there could be some agreement implemented to allow B.C. patients to use our system and be billed accordingly, similar to the interjurisdictional fishing regulations or highway regulations, and so on. So, nothing is impossible. We are a similar jurisdiction and there has been a record of cooperation between the two governments, so I'll let the official critic, when he returns, maybe pursue that matter.
Now, back in the spring, on the dialysis issue, I can recollect the minister indicating that there were no peritoneal nurses in the territory. Subsequent to that, I got a call from one who explained that that information was incorrect. I'm wondering if the minister is now aware of other people who do have this training and who are prepared to re-enter the specialty field if the opportunity is there?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, there are many peritoneal nurses. I don't know where that information came from, because most nurses can support and supply the necessary background for people on peritoneal. Where we don't have nurses is in the hemodialysis field. That's a completely different approach, and again, that's part of the package. If we were to move in that direction, we would need a different type of nurse who can respond and deal with the very complicated process. It's not something that's very simple. It may have been simpler in days gone by. We did have a hemodialysis machine here at one time but it was very simple at that point. Now it's state of the art. It's very technologically advanced, and it's not a case of just turning on the switch. It requires a lot of skill and takes at least nine months to train anybody for that kind of a need.
For the member opposite, we do have reciprocal agreements with many jurisdictions regarding health care. And you're correct that, if the need be, we would just enter into another one if that were the situation regarding any kind of support, so it's not something new. We already have them in place with every jurisdiction.
Mr. McRobb: In retrospect, Mr. Chair, it was probably a hemodialysis nurse I heard from. Is the minister aware that there are some people out there already trained in this field and who are prepared to re-enter that specialty? In my conversation with this person, I understood that they would be very receptive to an opportunity up here to do that work again. So, is he aware of any Yukon people, such as the one I heard from?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's good information. No, we're not, but again, if we were to move in that direction, I think it's important for this person to make it known to the appropriate people, which would be the hospital. So, I think that's very good information.
Mr. McRobb: Perhaps the minister would consider enhancing the Health department's Web site to not only include his soon to be famous speeches abroad, but maybe other contact information like this as well. I know the department is actively Web-recruiting nurses. So, maybe they should also look at some of these speciality nurses as well.
Still on the travel - is the department taking any steps to deal with the fact we have a monopoly airline up here? Would it anticipate savings with a competitor airline? Does it have any solutions in mind?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Web site - we do have already, to respond to the last question, recruitment material, both for nurses and doctors on the Web site. I think somehow we had something like - it might be over 1,000 hits at this point and we're linked into the hospital as well. We have probably communicated with - maybe about 10 percent of those, who have actually requested information from our health care people to send them information as to potentials for possible work here. Just to let the member opposite know that we are moving in that area, and we have to continue to do that.
As far as the airlines, the member opposite is absolutely correct, that we do have a monopoly and Government Services has been working very hard at trying to come up with the best deal, and that is sometimes very difficult. Tourism also is interested in trying to pursue this. It's not something we can solve at this point. It's an issue that I think we all face as Yukoners.
I think it's important that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Maybe I'll defer this to the Tourism minister, if that's okay with the member opposite.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Perhaps I should update the member opposite. We have been having ongoing meetings. We have a multi-departmental and multi-private sector group that has been working on air access to the Yukon Territory. That group has now developed terms of reference and has hired Intervistas Consulting to develop for us an air access capacity study.
Part of those discussions have recently been held with Air Canada. Air Canada has been up here for the last two days, and we have had extensive discussions with them. During that process we have been going through what some of the challenges and benefits are of working with Air Canada as our first partner in air access.
Now, what came up on a number of occasions was a lack of understanding on both sides about what the issues here in the Yukon were and what the issues were, for example, from Air Canada's perspective. We heard from Canadian Airlines that they had some concerns about medical travel that had never been dealt with by the previous airline. That's one of the issues we're going to be looking at with them.
As I said, we have just started the dialogue. I would expect that the air access capacity study - and by the way, we're way ahead of most jurisdictions in Canada in this respect, primarily because we started from a monopoly position. This is not new to us.
So, what we will have is an air access capacity study that will be ready by the spring, and it will allow us to go out, as a government, to the various airlines and say to them, "This is what we have to offer as a location. This is what we have to offer in the way of seats, government travel and medical travel; this is what we have to offer as far as the various municipalities within the territory, what we have to offer as far as the private sector, and what we have to offer as far as government. Are you interested in coming here?"
We have already been approached by a number of different airlines, and we expect that, although our first emphasis is going to be to work with Air Canada as our primary partner, there will be other airlines that will be interested in coming and working with us.
And of course, competition, as the member opposite is fully aware, always tends to bring down the price.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I was just giving an opportunity to anybody else who might want to contribute to the discussion - apparently not.
So, Mr. Chair, I notice there's $40,000 attributed for physician recruitment and retention initiatives. Could the minister provide us with an explanation of what those initiatives are and when we can expect to see them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we know that we're in a very competitive environment when it comes to health care people, and so we've had to really increase the support that we provide for our local health people to ensure that we always have continuous care. So one of the issues is part of that money will be going to support locum recruitment, which means bringing in doctors to replace doctors here that are away or on holidays or sick or whatever. So that's part of it. The other one is to help moving cost. As we know, we only have one surgeon now, and so there's need there for support, as well. Our one surgeon cannot do all of the work in the Yukon, so it's to enhance and to attract other health care people to come north, whether it's temporarily or permanently. We just have to provide that kind of financial incentive, or we're not being competitive at all.
This is just the beginning, Mr. Chair. More of this will be coming down the pipe as we move into this year, because the competition is getting to be even fiercer.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I'm wondering if $40,000 is a realistic amount to address the issue of physician recruitment and retention. Can the minister give us an opinion on that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The interesting thing regarding this whole area of recruitment - I think the member opposite is realistic. It probably is not. It's an interim measure at this point. Right now it is suggesting that the global shortage of doctors and nurses is very acute. It is suggesting that there could be a shortage of as many as 12,000 nurses in Ontario in the next few years, and that has a tremendous impact on areas like ours.
The suggestion here is also that we have public health nurses who are the mainline support people in the communities. We have to be very competitive as to how we support all the communities. And so, going to nursing fairs - and some of these used to be just down in Vancouver - or maybe over to Seattle. Now they are extending them. They are going to Australia. We are not doing that, but the big centres are. That's where places like Ontario are going. We are still going to Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Halifax. So that's what these costs are for.
At one time we didn't have to do that. But today, that's just the beginning. And there is another submission that will be coming to Cabinet and caucus regarding more support. So, you're absolutely correct. It's just the beginning.
Mr. McRobb: All right, the minister touched on the other issue of nurse recruitment and retention, and I am wondering if there is any allocation in the supplementary budget to address that issue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I mentioned earlier, doctor recruitment is very important, but even more important for the communities is nurse practitioner recruitment. That is even more important. They are the front-line people. And in most communities that is all they have - a very important person in the care and support of health care in the community.
The cost there that we put in the mainline budget - or at least that the NDP government put in - was about $150,000 or $200,000. Those items are still there. These are just additional. It just demonstrates that we are really being pushed to a great extent to ensure that we provide that backup, and it is going to take us some dollars to do it.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I won't have to, at this time at least, remind the minister of his campaign promises with respect to nurses and doctor supplies, in the communities especially. And I would just encourage the minister to avoid any future situations where I might have to get up and discuss this matter in a much more serious way with the minister. I see he is nodding his head. I think he feels the same way too.
Mr. Chair, I would agree with the minister that nurse practitioners, especially in rural communities, are very important, and we know that there is practically a crisis whenever a community is in danger of losing nurses, or in fact has. We can think back a couple of years to the Beaver Creek example - and there are other examples - and the flood of letters that hit the department from concerned people about not having a nurse. I would urge the minister to do whatever is practically possible to retain and recruit nurses to ensure there is no shortage.
Before leaving this area, I am familiar somewhat with the committee set up in Haines Junction to deal with the matter of recruiting the doctor there. And I'm wondering if the minister can provide me with some information, perhaps minutes of meetings or possibly also a summary of where the committee is going, where this issue is going, and also indicate whether this committee will be involved in examining the bigger picture in the Kluane area. I know there was some talk about that. Is the minister going down that road and, if so, how does he intend to do it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for that question. That's a very good one, and it's very timely.
I think, once again, that communities are very capable of doing the job, the job that they themselves would like reflected in their community. I know it sometimes takes time to come to some decision, but I think Haines Junction has demonstrated that they can do it and that they're up to the task.
There are all kinds of rumours out there that the department was going to put a doctor in there and that they were going to take away the nurses and so on and so on. That was never part of the department's approach. It was always to find out from the community what their needs were.
The working committee there has developed a recommendation to Health and Social Services at the community meeting held on November 19, 2000. The recommendations are to continue with the visiting physician services. They would like to add one more physician visit per month and to begin the process of developing a community health plan. So that may respond to a bit of what the member opposite is talking about - maybe trying to expand it to the whole area. That's potentially possible.
The Champagne-Aishihik First Nations were part of the committee. I think we had a number of representatives from the whole community. The meetings were not always just one way; they had a very spirited dialogue about where they wanted to head, and I think the community has come to a decision, and it's one that we're going to respect. We are not in the position to make other recommendations when the community comes forward with what they believe works. They're very pleased with their nurse practitioners. They have very effective nurse practitioners there, and they believe that they can be the first line and that they can use the doctor's support when they set up the scheduled visits. So, we're very pleased to support that and encourage that kind of development. As I said earlier, it takes time, but I think they have made the decision that they want to live with, at this point. Now, it may change in the future, but right now that's where they're at.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I couldn't agree with the minister more on that. Speaking for Haines Junction, I know that people really appreciate the services provided by the nurses there. And if there were any rumours and fears, it was because some people may have felt there was a chance of losing those nurses and being displaced by a doctor visiting the community. I attended one of the first public meetings in which department personnel were present, including Joanne Fairlie and Fran Curran, who, I might add, did an excellent job of explaining the intentions of the department. And it was made clear at the beginning that no matter what happened with respect to a doctor, it would not displace any of the nurses or FTEs in the Haines Junction area. So it could be said that I assisted the minister in spreading that somewhat reassuring message to the people out there.
Now, in wrapping this particular issue up, is there any material the minister could provide to me - perhaps letters from this committee or the minister himself, or minutes of the meetings? Is there anything that he could provide?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I would assume they did have a moderator, a person that they employed there to direct the discussions, and I'm sure there's a report that's forthcoming. We'll share that with the member opposite. I'm sure it's a public document, so we don't have any problems with that.
Mr. McRobb: All right, if the minister comes across anything else - any letters or so on - I'd appreciate receiving a copy.
Before leaving Haines Junction, I would like to ask about another Liberal campaign promise about providing seniors or elders care facilities in communities where a need has been demonstrated. I know from my discussions with people in the community, including both people with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation and people associated with the Village of Haines Junction, there has been some correspondence to that effect already. Can the minister provide us with an update on where this matter rests, as well as copies of any correspondence with regard to this?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, we can't recall any kind of communication from Haines Junction about extended care, but we're open to it. No doors are closed. We have been keeping annual tallies. We do have a list that we're maintaining in each of the communities to see what the need is. We're doing that with Watson Lake, as well, because there has been some talk there about an extended care facility. Each year, we update and review whether the need is there. So far, it's our understanding that there hasn't been a call for it or a need at this point. I'm not saying that in the future there won't be, but right now there doesn't seem to be.
If there is some need out there that the member opposite is hearing about and we're not, then I would suggest that the member opposite encourages this to take place.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, I guess this is something I'll have to follow up on and double-check. Is the minister saying there's no correspondence on this particular issue from that area?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: There could be, Mr. Chair, but at this point it's not to our knowledge. I haven't seen any. If there is, I will definitely share it. I guess I can't give you something that I haven't got.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. When you get it, I'd appreciate a copy. And I hope we get it a little sooner than the 24 days it took to deliver that letter, back in September, from the minister's office down to mine.
Anyway, before leaving Haines Junction - I do want to talk about that issue in another community - but this is about the Shakwak preschool in Haines Junction, which is currently using the basement of the health care facility. The minister will recall some correspondence between us back in August and September, I believe. The minister wouldn't commit to an alternative space, although he did commit to an extra year in the basement of the facility for space for the preschool, unless the arrival of a doctor pre-empted the need for that space. Just to explain, Mr. Chair, the doctor, from what I understand, would require that space in order to conduct his duties.
So, has the minister followed up on this and maybe found any other space available in the community that could be used by the preschool should the doctor displace that operation in the health centre?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I hear what the member opposite's saying, and again, until the committee comes forth with their report and what they're recommending, I think, again, we want to base decisions on how the community would like to see things move and also the health care people who are already living there and already working there. I mean, we have made no decisions, and since there's probably no doctor who is going to be there on a permanent basis, obviously that space will be open. So we would be open again to discuss it in the future.
Mr. McRobb: On the health care facility, let's talk about Watson Lake for a minute. The Liberal candidate in the spring election promised a multilevel health care facility, and, of course, this has not been followed through on. Can the minister give us a progress report on that, and what's in the cards for Watson Lake with this multilevel health care facility?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, just for the record, the Liberal candidate did not say that there should be a multicare or an extended care; the member said it should be looked into, and I think that's a fair approach toward trying to build for the future.
Right now, we do a needs assessment yearly, and we have no waiting list at this point. If the member knows something there that we don't, I would appreciate knowing it so we can update our files. But we go down there every year to assess what the needs are, and we're ready to move when the citizens of Watson Lake believe that they want to move in that direction. So it's not a closed door. We never close the door, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, in the interest of moving along and continuing in this spirit of cooperation, I won't take issue with the minister's view. But I will put on the record that we, on this side, disagree. But we'll leave it at that for another day.
Now, before leaving Watson Lake, what about home care? There has been no home care in Watson Lake for about four months because of the lack of a home care nurse. Can the minister indicate when the people of Watson Lake can expect home care services?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I would have to agree with the member opposite that there have been a few problems with home care in Watson Lake with the sudden departure of the home care nurse. Again, government doesn't move instantly; it takes time to make sure we do it right. My understanding is that the nursing support that is there at the hospital is providing some of that home care. It is probably not the quality that they are used to in the sense of a home care nurse who has a real understanding of what the needs are and maybe had to work around the issues of trying to build with the people who she was serving. So obviously there would be some concerns and questions about the continuation of it. And I would admit that we would hope that in the next while - I am not sure if it's days - that we will have somebody hired. But that's not an easy thing to do.
I would agree that when people suddenly leave it is very difficult for us. We have no warning about the fact that they are going, and then we have to have somebody fill in. It's not easy to fill those positions, but it is not always as simple as it sounds or as it looks.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
About respite care, particularly in the hospital in Watson Lake, I understand that it hasn't been available for some time. Can the minister comment on that and indicate when the people in Watson Lake can expect to have respite care again?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Respite is available in the hospital, but it's on a limited basis - that's correct - and in the continuing care facilities here in Whitehorse, but it's one of those areas - and I would have to agree with the member opposite - that we would have to spend more time and more energy at trying to build. It's an issue right across the country, and we're just starting to get into it. I would agree that, for the future, we have to look at how we build in this area.
We even have problems here in Whitehorse. We don't have all the support and care that we need here, either. Again, some of it is based on volunteer support as well as on the support we get from people we employ for that. So we're open to discussing how we can improve it and maybe build on that.
Mr. McRobb: Has the minister or the department done any kind of a cumulative view or overall analysis of the situation in Watson Lake to maybe take a look at how all these services could be combined in, let's just say, the most productive, cost-efficient way without detracting from the services provided? Has anyone taken a look at this, and is there some material the minister can provide about it?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I suppose that a good place to start is providing the members opposite with sort of an information package about what we are currently doing. I think that would be helpful and if there are problems with the kind of service that we're providing, then I think that could come at a later time or in a letter to me as to what we could do to improve those services. We're open.
We do the best we can and of course we're not in the communities as frequently as the members opposite, but we're open to making sure that we offer the best program we can.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister's door is open, so let's let the information flow. Anything he can provide, we'll be more than happy to receive.
On a broader front, I'd like to ask the minister about dentists in the communities. What's the department doing about examining the recruitment of a travelling dentist, for instance? What can the minister provide us in the way of information on that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That, as the member opposite has suggested, is a very difficult type of health care support. It's really not normally part of the health care support plan that we have in place, although we go the extra kilometre to ensure that we support it.
My understanding is that we've had dentists in some of the small communities and then they move and then you end up with no dentist. Therefore, we have to scramble to look for support people to come to these communities to help out. We know we have a dental therapist. They are employed by the Health department and they're there on a regular basis to review and see all the children. We also have a dental therapist that treats adults as needed, as well.
We are having difficulty here in Whitehorse. I think I have had a dental appointment scheduled now for three months because I couldn't get in to see a dentist. So, it's not just a problem in the rural communities. It's also a problem here. I'm not too sure what all the answers are, but I think we try to do the best we can. We're hoping that maybe in the future we can look at some alternative ways to try and provide that support, but right now there are no instant answers.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I can appreciate that too. I also have a dental appointment coming up. Perhaps the minister and I could compare our schedules to avoid being in adjoining chairs at the same time.
Is there any material the minister can provide about the examination of recruitment of a travelling dentist? Is there any material he can provide us about that? A nod or shake of the head would do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
About hearing and audiology services in the communities - can the minister comment on that and tell us what the department is doing?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Chair, the department is trying to improve the situation by recruiting a replacement audiologist to reduce the waiting list and is implementing new management structures that will reduce time spent on administration and allow more time for client-related services. As we know, there is, and always has been, a waiting list. Again, it's not one of those areas where we have people readily available.
There are attempts being made at ensuring what we call a prioritized list. Preschoolers are given priority, and then priority is given to cases with current medical conditions, and they are booked anywhere from two to four weeks. For clients residing in the rural communities, every effort is made to give them appointments when they travel to Whitehorse for other appointments to save on travel time and expense.
Their clients are able to get appointments at their convenience for hearing aid repairs or can attend the regular drop-in repair time between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. So, there are attempts being made to try to ensure that we provide service. No urgent cases have to wait for an assessment. There is no waiting list for infants and children, but it doesn't mean that everything's looked after. There are some issues there, and it's, again, volume and number of people and finding the resources.
We are recruiting a new audiologist, and they are not on staff yet, but hopefully in the next month or so we'll have another audiologist.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I only have a few questions left here. I do want to ask the minister about the Aishihik Lake treatment centre, particularly since the centre has a meeting tonight that I will miss because I'm here talking to the minister. But can he provide us with an update, as well as some recent correspondence with the centre and some information, such as how much the facility might have been approved for under the - I know the government has a fund. I believe there's $200,000 or $300,000 in it this year. Can he indicate how much has been contributed and so on for this centre?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, it's the addiction treatment fund, I think, that the member opposite is referring to, and there's, I think, approximately $300,000 in that fund. The Aishihik treatment centre has not applied for any of the funds at this point in time - or they may have, but from our last information there hasn't been anything. And $231,000 has been expended at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with a breakdown and explanation of that, preferably by way of material?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I can read it right here: the Ross River Dena Council, $8,000; the Liard First Nation, $13,000 - almost $14,000; the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, $48,816; the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, $45,385; the Northern Tutchone Tribal Council, $41,185; Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nations, $36,648; and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, $37,833.
Mr. McRobb: I didn't hear the Aishihik treatment centre in that. It's not in that list. Maybe I should ask a generic question. What assistance has this Liberal government provided to the Aishihik Lake treatment centre?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The initial application - a lot of the footwork was done with department staff who worked in cooperation with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations, and my understanding in talking to Mr. James, whom I have spoken to on many occasions, was that he was very thankful that we spent that time and energy with our expertise. The Aishihik Lake treatment centre has requested no support at this point, or no financial support at least from me. We've had discussions and I've spoken to the CEO, but there have been no formal requests for any funds or any support at this point - not in letter form.
Generically, we were talking about how we can work together with our new AADAC future and how we can build together. And there have been many discussions between the department and the Aishihik group, so hopefully we want to continue that dialogue so that we are working as one unit.
We have also been told that they're moving away from the addictions part of the program to more of a healing program. I think they're still working on how that's going to play out in the next while, so we're not sure where the connections are or where the communication will take place. We still want to be very open about what we're doing because we know that a lot of these are related.
Mr. McRobb: The minister mentioned a Mr. James. I'm not sure whom that would be.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the minister has responded across the floor. That's fine.
I want to close up by asking a couple of questions about -
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, I'm sorry to disturb you. If there is anything that members wish to have on the record, I'd ask that they now put it on the record officially.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, there's no need for that. I think I covered that in my reference, and the minister indicated that was all right.
I know the third party has some questions for general debate, and I'll wrap up with a couple on the committee that the minister has established to look at some of these medical issues.
I'd like to ask the minister if he can provide us with information about this committee. What I'm looking for in particular is a description of the makeup of the committee, budget, timelines, terms of reference, consultation schedule, perhaps even a consultation policy and what policy it would be following, and what projects or programs it would be dealing with, if that's not spelled out in the terms of reference. Can the minister undertake to provide me with that information?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we can supply the terms of reference to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: I know the leader of the third party probably has a question or two, unless we want to clear it. I think I hear a freight train coming down the tracks. It must be that railroad to Dawson.
I think the minister has done a reasonable job in answering these questions, and I would like to thank him for that. I know he has lots of homework to do in rounding up this information. We'll look forward to it when it's received, and I know that we will be receiving it expeditiously.
It's quite apparent the members opposite are quite anxious to clear general debate, and maybe that's what will be happening fairly soon.
There is one more question. I don't want to disappoint the members opposite, because if I deprive them of the experience of enjoying the entertainment provided by the leader of the third party and his remarks in general debate, they might hold me accountable for that. And, certainly, I can't even begin to think of how I would replace that level of entertainment.
So, one last question has to do with the Technical Review Committee again, and I know that in the minister's statement earlier today, he outlined how there will be proposed criteria for the initiation, elimination, expansion or reduction of health programs or services.
He then went on to explain how the criteria will include, but not necessarily be limited to, a few things. Actually, he identified four things. I just want to get this straight because this is a very important matter, as we can all agree.
The first one was the minimum number of patients needed to provide effective, safe care. The second item was health human resource requirements, including the need for specialized nurses, physicians, biomedical technicians, et cetera. The third thing was other resource requirements, including space, equipment, infrastructure support, et cetera, and finally, cost-effectiveness.
Can the minister give us an indication of how he plans to carry this out?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, that's the objective in having a technical resource committee made up of people who are very capable of doing that kind of research, supported by our department. Looking at the number of patients - I mean, we have access to the number of people who are in need or potentially in need. We also have at our disposal how we would utilize specialized nurses and the kinds of technicians we need.
As you know, with the type of equipment in the hospital currently, it has to be maintained by people from outside. They come up here and do it on a regular basis. The important part is to ensure that we can afford it - you know, if there is a need for that. Again, it's research; it's looking after all of the things that are needed by looking at other programs in other parts of the country that already have this kind of resource.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I would note that the minister did commit to not reducing services in the department. So, I would just like to put him on notice that we'll be watching that as things unfold.
I think that concludes my questioning. Again, I would like to thank him.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have a series of areas that I'd like to explore with the minister. Probably the one of greatest concern in our area is the provision of health care. Here we have a minister that's done an excellent job of maintaining and extending the two-tiered health care system that he's helped create and perpetuate here in the Yukon - one for Whitehorse and one for rural Yukon.
I'd like to explore with the minister the issue surrounding doctors for rural Yukon. Is there a policy in place now in the government that doctors will only be hired on a salaried basis - that they will not be hired on a fee-for-service basis any longer for rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Member for Klondike is again famous for saying that there's a two-tiered system. I guess the Member for Klondike could say there were many tiers in the territory, mainly because of where we choose to live.
I suppose if you want to define "tiered system" as that - if that's the way that it's being identified - then I think it's very important that we try to build on what we can develop in our communities and really involve the communities in that process.
The important part is that we don't have doctors on salary; we have them on contract. We have doctors on fee-for-service, and we have a combination. We have doctors in the rural areas on fee-for-service, we have doctors in the rural areas who are on contract, and we buy a service from the doctors. If they are on fee-for-service, we still are expecting a service for the fee-for-service. So, there are many combinations. We don't have one particular type. In Whitehorse, they are all on fee-for-service at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: That's where I'm heading, Mr. Chair. In Whitehorse all of the doctors are on a fee-for-service basis. In rural Yukon we have a mix, but lately the only way it appears that the Government of Yukon will entertain a doctor going into a community is if they're on a salary or, as the minister chooses to call it, a contract basis - not a fee-for-service.
Is it now a policy of this Liberal government that doctors for rural Yukon will only be hired on a contract or salaried basis?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, no, and we don't hire doctors, per se. We contract with doctors. And fee-for-service doctors - they hire their own doctors.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is vaguely skirting the main issue. Is it now currently the policy of this government that doctors engaged on a contract basis to work in rural Yukon will only be hired on a contract or a salaried basis?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The answer is no. We encourage any doctor who wants to come up to the Yukon and set up a shop in Haines Junction or Old Crow or wherever. That's really up to them, and we will work with them. It could be a fee-for-service. It could be a contract. But, no, we haven't adopted any policy.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the Government of the Yukon currently have any policy for the attraction, recruitment and retention of doctors - let's just start with doctors - for Yukon? Is there a set policy as to what the government is prepared to do?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We cannot stop doctors from setting up shop anywhere in the Yukon. That's not a policy or an objective. But where we need doctors, we will sit down with them and look at what their needs are. If they want to enter into a contract, we will do that. If they want to be on a fee-for-service, then that, again, is their choice. We are open to that particular person's needs. So we don't have a policy per se.
Mr. Jenkins: If I hear the minister correctly, this Liberal government does not have a policy to recruit and retain doctors for Yukon - does not. They just go out and spend a few dollars on advertising.
But what I am looking at is what other areas of Canada and what other areas in the north are doing. The Northwest Territories goes out, puts the ads in the paper - I know that the Government of Yukon is putting ads out and that they have some in the medical journals. I know that they will talk to these individuals on the telephone when they call for more information and advice.
Does the government have in place a policy to relocate the doctors to the Yukon, pay for their moving expenses, like they do for a lot of the top echelon in the public service, provide them with housing on a staff-type compensation level, and provide them with some security in their position? Does the Government of the Yukon currently have such a program in place? I suspect not, Mr. Chair.
Because, to a great degree, the information coming back to me is that doctors on a fee-for-service basis in rural Yukon are also out advertising for medical doctors to join in their practice. When they do receive positive feedback from a doctor or a group of doctors, it has been a courtesy to share that information with the government of the day, Mr. Chair. What happens is that, all of a sudden, these doctors receive a contract from the Government of Yukon for working in the area- completely unsolicited. I'm aware of two occasions when this has occurred.
So, what we have is a kind of a system that's not working together. It seems like the doctors in rural Yukon are being dissuaded from continuing in their practice, and no kind of assistance is being provided to the current doctors there. In fact, it would appear that the screws are on them to tighten up what they receive for amenities and for office facilities that were accepted and provided in the past.
That currently is being squeezed or shut off. Rural Yukon and rural Yukoners are suffering, and the other area that the minister has failed to address, as did the previous Minister of Health, is the on-call fees for doctors. It's resulting, Mr. Chair, in a lower level of health care being provided in rural Yukon than has been in the past, and thus we arrive at a minister who is perpetuating the two-tiered health care system.
The two-tiered health care system came about just a short time ago, and it is growing at an alarming rate under this minister. He is ignoring that part of his portfolio. What is required of this government is a firm, definitive policy to attract, recruit and retain, not just doctors, but the whole gamut of health care professionals, because it's a very highly competitive area out there.
Furthermore, you only have to look at what communities have had to do and what community money has had to be spent on this initiative, because this minister is failing in his responsibilities.
If you take my community of Dawson, the past three doctors have been recruited by the city - by the municipal government. The relocation expenses were paid in one case from Moncton, New Brunswick to Dawson City, Yukon, for the doctor; in the second case, the relocation expenses were paid from Edmonton, Alberta to Dawson City. Housing was provided by the City of Dawson, Mr. Chair.
Now, Mr. Chair, there's a caveat on that housing being provided by the City of Dawson. Discussions took place between Indian and Northern Affairs, and a third of the capital cost of that housing unit was advanced by Indian and Northern Affairs on behalf of the First Nation members of the community. So, the total capital cost of that housing unit was met two-thirds by the city's coffers and one-third from Indian and Northern Affairs on behalf of the First Nations.
What has happened since that time is that subsequent doctors have been attracted, relocated on an interim basis, and there has been very little assistance flowing from the territorial government in this regard. In fact, in most instances it has been an impediment from the territorial government. It used to be much easier to deal with the federal officials. Probably the most capable individual was Dr. George Walker. When he saw the problem and recognized the need, he would came to an arrangement with the municipal government on behalf of the citizens of Dawson and on behalf of the First Nations. But he was a federal official. Now we have the transfer to the territorial government, the Government of Yukon, and we're falling between the cracks.
This minister, Mr. Chair, has helped create and perpetuate a two-tiered health care system, because there isn't anything in there, by way of assistance, to recruit, attract and retain health care professionals, specifically for rural Yukon. The only way this government appears to want to proceed is that they will hire doctors on a contractual basis.
So they are basically a full-time employee of the Government of Yukon, Mr. Chair. That is the way this minister wants to proceed. I don't know why, because a lot of the doctors do want some autonomy, but they want some free time. They have chosen a rural community, not because of the salary or monies they earn, because they could probably earn considerably more elsewhere, but because of the lifestyle. That's why they're choosing these rural communities. It's because of lifestyle. That's why they're choosing the Yukon.
But we have to have a system in place that is fair and reasonable. This minister is not being fair, he's not being reasonable, and he's not providing the necessary support that these doctors need.
Well, Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare that report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 30, 2000:
Yukon Liquor Corporation 1999/2000 Annual Report
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 30, 2000:
Tourism Marketing Fund: list of recommended projects; list of approved projects (October 1, 1998 to July 15, 2000)
Oral, Hansard, p. 543-544
Community Development Fund: 2000/01 Fund Summary; list of projects approved for 2000/01 before 2000/01; list of carry over projects to 2000/01; list of applications and approved amounts 2000/01; applications and approved amounts, breakdown of rural, Whitehorse and Yukon wide
Oral, Hansard, p. 543-544
Trade and Investment Fund: 2000/01 Fund Summary; list of projects approved prior to 2000/01; applications and approved projects 2000/01
Oral, Hansard, p. 543-544)
The following documents were filed November 30, 2000:
Outside travel for the Cabinet Offices (April 1, 1999 - March 31, 2000)
Sole-source contracts (Oct. 1, 1996 - March 31, 1997) by Executive Council Offices relating to Government transition: contract summary sheets
Sole-source contracts for the years 1999/2000 by Economic Development: contract summary sheets