Wednesday, March 26, 2003 ó 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.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise today to table the Yukon Lottery Commissionís annual report dated 2001-02.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) in June 2002 the former Liberal government received two reports, one from the Child Welfare League of Canada and one from Professor Jim Anglin, which contained recommendations regarding services for children in care of the Yukon government;
(2) Professor Anglinís report, entitled Their Future Begins Today: Yukon Residential Care Review, recommended that the position of a child advocate be established; and
(3) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended that government establish an advocate council reporting to the minister;
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to consider fully the recommendations of Professor Anglinís report and the Child Welfare League of Canada report and to provide a public announcement, including timelines, outlining the Yukon Party governmentís response to the specific recommendations regarding the establishment of advocacy services for children in care.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline
Mr. McRobb:My question today is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Recent developments in Alaska have called into question the Yukon Party governmentís bailout on the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline project. Meanwhile, the Alaskans are scrambling to revive plans for the project. Senator Ted Stevens is making progress getting the federal legislation for the pipeline, and the State of Alaska is bringing forward parallel legislation. With that, Governor Frank Murkowski can negotiate special state fiscal terms to remove a major economic hurdle for the gas producers who would develop such a project. The Americans realized their nation will urgently need Alaskaís gas reserves in a few years, but on this side of the border, thereís a much different story. This government has cut the budget for the project and has conceded victory to the N.W.T. pipeline.
Will the minister explain why he bailed out on this project so prematurely?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We didnít bail out on any pipeline. The Alaska Highway pipeline and the Mackenzie Valley pipeline are going to be built by producers, not by governments. We are a small part of those decisions.
As far as the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is concerned, we are working actively with the Northwest Territories to get access to that pipeline. As far as the third party throwing more and more money at something in which we have no part of the decision making ó then we backed off. What weíre doing is following it, working with the Alaska government, working with First Nations in the Yukon, getting ready. If in fact the producers decide to go down the Alaska Highway, I remind them that we will be ready to work with them.
Mr. McRobb: The fact is, this government has bailed out on the Alaska Highway pipeline project. It has cut the budget in the pipeline unit, and its Premier said in the March 14 edition of the Whitehorse Star that he agreed the N.W.T. pipeline would be first.
The Yukon Party signed a memorandum of understanding with the N.W.T. This cooperation accord was based on the Yukon conceding that we had lost the pipeline war. The same newspaper quoted N.W.T. Premier Kakfwi as saying the war for the pipeline was over and that he had won.
This Yukon Party government canít have it both ways. It has sold out the Yukon in terms of maximizing our benefits from the project. Does the minister really believe that a photo opportunity was adequate compensation for our territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member across the room that the producers are going to decide where the pipeline is going to go. No amount of money from our side of the border will dictate where the pipeline is going to go.
It shows you the business sense of the other side of the House. Why would we throw money at something that wasnít going to give us benefit? One minute we are talking about how we are going to make it through the year and our money is at a premium and we have to be smarter with our cash, and the next minute he is saying to throw more money at the Alaska Highway pipeline. We are not throwing money at a decision. We are going to work with the First Nations and Yukoners and we are going to be ready for the Alaska Highway pipeline when the producers make that decision.
As far as the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is concerned, we are working with the Northwest Territories. Northern gas is up for consideration. We are working again with First Nations in northern Yukon to make sure that their resources and our resources have access to a pipeline.
Again, I remind the other side that the producers are going to decide where the pipeline is going to go and when the pipeline is going to go. It is not the Yukon government.
Mr. McRobb: If the minister checks Hansard, he will find in my first question that I said that. Now, this government has thrown money at a photo opportunity, and it sold out the Yukonís flexibility in dealing with a project that would come down our territory.
This government is fiddling while the Yukon economy burns. This could be very damaging to our future economy and to our relations with the N.W.T., our neighbour to the east. The Alaska Highway pipeline route would bring the greatest return for the Yukon. Itís premature to settle for leftovers from an N.W.T. pipeline when we could have the full meal deal right here. What good is this memorandum of understanding with the N.W.T. if we shift our support back to the Alaska Highway project?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it amazing that we disagree and then we agree on this issue. Again, the producers are going to decide where the pipeline goes. As far as the memorandum of understanding with Northwest Territories, our relationship with Northwest Territories has never been better. The memorandum of understanding covers a lot more than a pipeline or a pipeline issue. The pipelines will be decided by the producers and, at this point, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is looking like it might go ahead of the Alaska Highway pipeline. But again, we donít pick the pipeline.
Question re: School curriculum
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Education. First of all, I would like to congratulate the Education minister for being up front and having the courage to declare his governmentís real agenda.
Yesterday, the minister said that his government is going to focus its spending on core curriculum. Can the minister outline what he considers to be core curriculum for Yukon schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would suggest that core curriculum consists of mandatory courses within the education system.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís what the member said on the radio, but he still didnít answer the question. What does he consider to be mandatory curriculum? Maybe the minister can answer that, and answer this next one too.
I know the minister is certainly consistent with his previous Yukon Party and Alliance Party colleagues on that side of the House. Itís back to basics. Itís the good old three Rs from the good old boys, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:That is not a proper characterization from the opposition. I ask that the member not use that term.
Mr. Fairclough: I am referring to the good old boys, not on that side of the House, the ones who are really controlling ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:The government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has been reprimanded and told heís out of order, and he goes on to reiterate the same message. Heís out of order completely, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, the government House leader is trying to douse the flames with gasoline. Our member was merely pointing out how his reference varied from what some people understood. Heís not referring to the government side. He is not trying to characterize them in a bad light at all. He wants them to answer the question.
Speaker:There is no point of order. Itís simply a dispute between members, and I would ask the Member for Mayo-Tatchun to refrain from using the term.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know this is agitating the members opposite. If something isnít part of the core curriculum, then it must be a frill. Now we know where the minister stands on classical music.
Can the minister tell us what other items he considers frills? Does he include drama, dance, or visual artists coming into the communities? Are these frills too?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for this line of questioning. I would like to correct, for the record, that I am not one of the good old boys. Iím a brand new guy on the block.
Speaker:Order please. Iím sorry, if one cannot use the term cannot be used byon one side, it cannot be used by the other side, and have it not on this side, and then on this side, so please refrain from using the term, Minister of Education.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I want to say today that this government supports arts education through the Department of Education and the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture. The Department of Education supports arts education as a core program within the daily curriculum, as part of normal schooling. It is delivered by teachers in the areas of music, arts and drama in the school system, and as a special program at the Wood Street Centre called MAD.
Mr. Fairclough: A lot of activities that give students a well-rounded educational experiencespirit are not part of the mandatory curriculum that the member is alluding to. What about the language programs, Mr. Speaker? What about elders in schools? What about the highly successful ACES? The member opposite did say that MAD is part of the core curriculum. He refers to "core" and then "mandatory" curriculum, and I think the member opposite is quite mixed up about this.
What about school field trips? Can the minister guarantee that his focus on core curriculum wonít put these educational experiences on the chopping block? Would he guarantee that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state for the record that this government is very interested in everything to do with education and that there is no intention of singling out any particular department. I think what the members opposite and the public at large need to be aware of is the big picture, and the big picture is that there is a shortage of funds. Mr. Speaker, this government will continue to try to ensure that the best education possible will be delivered to the classrooms.
Question re: Fishing Branch park, access to Rusty Springs mine
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have some questions today for the Minister of Environment about the recent agreement to create Fishing Branch park. According to the January press release from the Government of the Yukon, there are still some issues to be resolved with respect to access to the Rusty Springs mining project, which is very close to the park. The press release states that "discussions aimed at resolving outstanding problems" are proceeding. Would the Minister of the Environment outline for the House what the outstanding problems are?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís good to be called on for a question. I was beginning to think that the members opposite really didnít have too much concern for the environment.
The discussion concerning Fishing Branch ó it has gone to management plan stages, and the management plan will be negotiated between and among the parties involved. There is a time frame from that, and it would be inappropriate to discuss the management plan at this time.
We are happy with the decisions of all parties to sign the agreement and create the first park under YPAS, four days after we announced that we were putting the YPAS process on hold. So, everything is progressing according to plan there, and when the management plan is complete, the discussions, as with other areas like Tombstone, will be released.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to make the minister feel at home in this House and ask him a question. I would be really delighted if I got an answer to the question.
What the press release said was that there are outstanding problems. It was the governmentís own press release. One of the problems was access to mineral claims through the new park. Part of the agreement that has been reached states that if a mine is developed, the company will have to build an alternate route to the mine site. The new road will not go through the park.
Will the Government of Yukon and Yukon taxpayers pay for any part of this new road? Is there Yukon taxpayersí money on the table?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It has been very heartening to be made so welcome in the House by all of the members opposite, with the witticisms and comments. The member opposite, of all of the people in this House, should be quite well aware of the confidentiality of negotiations between parties. I must, as minister, recognize that.
She asks me to give a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question. Again, of all the people in this House, she should be aware of the fact that that really isnít appropriate or wise, and is not something that would be meaningful at all. Then again, there has been an awful lot that has happened here in the last few days that really hasnít been meaningful.
Ms. Duncan: I thank one of the new members of the House for the lecture as to the behaviour in the House.
The fact is that itís not a hypothetical question. Itís a direct question, directly quoting and relating to the governmentís own press release. The minister is being held accountable on the floor of this House. From a government and a party that promised Yukoners openness and accountability, Iím asking for an open and thorough answer, an accountable answer on the floor of the Legislature.
The governmentís own press release says that if a mine is developed, the company will have to build an alternate route to the mine site. The press release states that. The new road will not go through the park. Iím asking a direct question: is the Government of the Yukon paying for the new road? Iíd appreciate an answer.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I think the member opposite has answered her own question. A road might be provided in the future; it might come about by any one of a large number of means, and again sheís asking for a hypothetical answer to a hypothetical question. This makes no sense at all, Mr. Speaker.
All I am allowed to say at this point, because I certainly will not breach confidentiality of ongoing discussions and negotiations with those parties ó if she wants a direct answer I will give her as direct an answer as I possibly can. Have we committed dollars? No, we have not.
Question re: School curriculum
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Education.
I would like to explore what the minister said yesterday. He said he had directed his department to address arts education in the departmentís educational strategy. First of all, what kind of consultation took place and with whom did he consult with before calling for this comprehensive strategy?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, you might call this is a preliminary train of thought, and thatís all it is.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, how can that be? Direction has already been given from the minister down to the department. Itís already in the works. So that government does have a plan.
Mr. Speaker, many areas in education have experienced cutbacks. Perhaps these monies are redirected to this comprehensive strategy.
How can the minister say that this is a comprehensive strategy when he has already decided that education spending will be focused on core curriculum?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to remind the member opposite that the budget was developed before any of this discussion took place, so it cannot be and is not linked to any kind of education plan.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the minister didnít hear my question. We never get answers from the member opposite. We thought we were on a roll here yesterday when he brought out the real agenda of government. It appears that we are moving toward a comprehensive strategy, one that the minister dreamed up, but we still donít have an Education Act review even though the minister committed to acting on this review. That should have been the beginning when considering improvements to our education system. But instead he chose to introduce other strategies without involving all partners in education, and this is contrary to the election promise. Will the minister abandon his present course of action and make sure that all partners in education are consulted before he launches any new strategies or changes to the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again I will answer yes to part of it and no to part of this question. The no part comes when he asks me to abandon all plans. There is a no to that. And will all stakeholders be involved? Yes, and again I want to state for the record that this plan is one that will involve all stakeholders, and it will include all the hard work that was done by the people involved with the Education Act. I mean all of the process that went on with the Education Act is of value, whether you use every bit of it or parts of it. It is all valuable, because it does come directly from the stakeholders, and this government will acknowledge that and use that information in the best interests of the people.
Question re: Film industry incentives
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Minister of ó I guess right now itís Business, Tourism and Culture. Before and since the election, this Yukon Party government has often talked about the important role of the film industry in Yukonís economic life. The benefits of this industry, in terms of jobs and other economic spinoffs, have been well-documented.
In fact, earlier this month, the minister wrote to industry stakeholders, bragging about what a banner year this has been for the film industry in the Yukon, with eight completed projects, totalling nearly $1.7 million. Can the minister tell us the estimated value of the 11 or more productions that were turned away in 2002 alone because the Yukon does not have a production fund in place?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and for the question opposite. Unfortunately, I canít provide the member opposite with that information because we were not part of the government for most of 2002. We certainly do recognize the role that the film industry plays in tourism, in the visitor industry, as well as to the economy of the Yukon. It is a major economic engine. It is certainly a growth industry, and we value the film industry.
Mr. Hardy: I would just like to remind the member opposite that they are the government and have been the government for four months, so they do have some responsibility if any are being turned away right now and if any were turned away in the last part of last year.
As the minister knows, this is a highly competitive business. Itís a business that operates in a fast-paced environment, fuelled by very complex funding arrangements. The Yukonís scenery alone wonít bring film productions here. Being successful in this industry requires a variety of things: trained crews, reliable local suppliers of goods and services, ready access to equipment and other stuff. Above all, it requires the expertise and will to get in the game.
Why has the minister ignored the advice of industry professionals contained in at least three reports she has had in hand since she became minister?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: One of the first things that we did as a government was to sit down and listen to some of the stakeholders from the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. I have met with a number of the film stakeholders on a number of occasions over the last four months, and I will remind the member opposite that we have been in office for four months. Thatís it.
One of the commitments was to do a thorough, comprehensive review of the film industry. Thatís exactly what we have done. As of two weeks ago, I issued a letter to well over 700 members of the film industry. We are working very diligently, striking a working group of film industry individuals as well as the Yukon government stakeholders. We are looking at ways of enhancing the film industry in the Yukon, and we are very committed to doing so.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has lost many productions involving many millions of dollars, which would create a great deal of employment. Four months is a long time in this industry. Iíd like to remind the minister, and Iím sure she has been told that already by the industry itself. This year could be even worse if this government doesnít act now and act very soon.
One major piece of the action weíre missing out on is co-productions. We canít lure investors here because we wonít invest as partners. Iím sure she has heard this. Every province in Canada offers production financing, but not the Yukon, even though this government promised to set up a production fund immediately after the election. Why has the government decided to take the Yukon out of the running for film productions by ignoring the industryís advice about the need for a production fund?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I will reiterate once again for the member opposite, because he seems to be a little bit hard of hearing, we are undertaking a review of the film industry. Weíre very sincere. We want to engage all the stakeholders from all over the Yukon, and one of the things weíre looking at is the production financing fund. Weíre very committed to that.
I will also mention to the member opposite that weíre continuing with the film incentive program and the filmmaker fund. The film production financing fund is but one venue. I believe itís a good idea, but give us some time to take a look at all the options, engage all the stakeholders, see where weíre going and see what will give us the best bang for our buck.
Speaker:Order please. Before the question is asked, I would just like to remind the minister that characterizing somebody as hard of hearing is unparliamentary, and I would ask that she not do it.
Please go ahead with your question.
Question re: Yukon Film Commission
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker; I was going to thank her for pointing out my disability. That was very kind of her.
I have a follow-up question for the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture. The minister is finally getting around to the beginning stages of reviewing the Yukon Film Commission, as her letter says. First itís going to be a steering committee; then that committee will agree on a contractor; then it will set up the terms of reference. After that, who knows?
Instead of acting decisively to keep one of the most promising sectors of our economy alive, this government is moving forward at glacier speed. How long does the minister expect to keep Yukon out of the game while this review takes place?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: We certainly are in the game. The member opposite takes this government to task on a number of occasions for not consulting with Yukoners. Which is it going to be? Are you going to consult with Yukoners, or are you asking us to shut out all the film industry stakeholders?
Speaker: Iíd ask you to address your remarks to the Chair, please.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, I have reiterated and will say it again: we are undertaking a review of the film industry. In the interim, we have offered a contract to an individual to provide marketing support. We are taking measures in the interim so that we do not lose any film industry support. Weíre working very diligently with industry and will continue to do so.
Mr. Hardy: Well, right off the top, if sheís willing, Iíd like to know whom she has been meeting and how ongoing these meetings have been happening. Has it all been within her own department or has she been out there meeting with the film ó
Speaker: Order please. Would you address the Chair, please?
Mr. Hardy: Sorry, Mr. Speaker. I would like to know if the minister has been meeting with the people who actually work in the industry. But thatís the first part of the question, if she could answer it.
The second part is that the Yukon is rapidly losing its position. All the advances that took place under the NDP have ground to a halt. The Yukon hasnít had a permanent film commissioner for a year now. At least the Liberals brought in a temporary commissioner, one of the best in the business. But he has gone; he has been gone for several months now. This minister has ignored very clear and comprehensive recommendations that he made when he left.
Why has the minister gone against the advice of the industry professionals and refused to fill the film commissionerís position?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, two questions, two answers. The first answer is yes. Iíve had the opportunity to meet with many of the stakeholders on a number of occasions. In fact, back in December, I first met with the executive and attended the AGM of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. I believe I was the first minister of any kind to ever attend that event. It was part of the Yukon film festival that was recently held, and I had an opportunity to speak with a number of stakeholders at that time.
We are proceeding with the film review. We think itís very important and we want a speedy, expeditious review, but we want to take our time and involve Yukon Film Society individuals, members of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association, independent film producers. We feel that those are all very important stakeholders, and they should have their day in the sun.
Mr. Hardy: The minister is promising an inclusive and open consultation for this review. That would take months and months. She says she has been meeting with industry representatives and yet we have heard that she hasnít been meeting with the representatives since December. If she wonít listen to the people in the business ó people whose jobs are on the line ó it makes me wonder to whom she is actually listening. This is a reality check for this minister. In this business when opportunity knocks and no one is there to answer, opportunity goes to another door. Will the minister at least confirm that one of the options that this government is seriously considering is an independent film commission, free of the usual government bureaucratic constraints, which is what the industry has recommended?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: My door is always open. I have never once refused anyone from my door and never will.
As for the film commission, that is one of the components of the film review. We want to take a look at other jurisdictions and what they are practising.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 67
Clerk:Motion No. 67, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) non-profit community organizations provide a wide range of necessary services to Yukon people on behalf of the Yukon government;
(2) effective planning and delivery of services requires stable, long-term funding agreements between the Yukon government and non-profit organizations that act on its behalf;
(3) arbitrary funding cuts not only jeopardize programs and services directly, they also jeopardize the ability of non-profit organizations to attract and retain both the professional staff and the voluntary board members that they need; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to enter into stable, long-term and binding funding agreements with the non-governmental agencies that provide services to Yukon people on its behalf.
Mr. Hardy: I guess some people would ask why we have brought this motion forward to the floor today. I believe itís fairly clear to many people, especially people who work in NGOs, why itís on the floor today. The reason would be that there is not a sense of certainty that they will have funding next year, or when their contracts end, or that they will not have the agreements they have signed in the past changed or altered by the new Yukon Party government, or that they may not be engaged in the services that they provide to the general public throughout the Yukon. And itís a very, very important service that they provide, Mr. Speaker.
Many of these NGOs deliver programs and services that the government does not. They fill a void that is so essential to the well-being of this territory, and it has been recognized over many, many years through the budgets of many other governments, many other parties.
However, there has been a change in the last four months ó or, if we go by the Premierís words, three months, but actually in the last four months ó in how the approach to NGOs is going to be under the new Yukon Party regime. What we have received and heard over the last while, over the last four months, from many people in NGOs, from people who deal with NGOs, and from the NGOs, the boards and committees themselves, is a growing sense of uncertainty around their funding, around their agreements that exist today that may not exist tomorrow, or else agreements that we have already seen being changed midstream. An example that has been in the news over the last week, of course, is the Dawson shelter.
Now, in that case, Mr. Speaker, it caused a ripple that went through the NGO services throughout the territory. This is in the riding of the Minister of Health and Social Services. This is his own riding. And in Dawson, an NGO, the womenís shelter in Dawson, was told that there was going to be $50,000 removed from an agreement that still, I understand, had one more year to run. This was arbitrary. This was not in discussion with the Dawson shelter. This was not in identifying ways to save money. This was just a unilateral decision made about this one organization.
On top of that, there was a letter that was sent out that said to the NGO in Dawson that they also had to change their programming, programming that they were based on, which was a shelter. This goes far beyond just cutting some of the funds. This actually enters into what the NGO was originally created for and tells them, now dictating to them, what they can and cannot do.
Now, NGOs out there, when they saw this happen and heard what was happening, very quickly looked toward themselves, looked toward their agreements and wondered if this is going to be the way the Yukon Party government is going to be treating the NGOs that exist today. Now, I have heard some of the figures. The Minister of Health and Social Services, on December 17, indicated that there were 46 NGOs that had a financial relationship with the territorial government. To admit it right here, I do not have those numbers in front of me ó if there are actually 46 that are providing services with finances ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:The hon. Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 3(1), Iíd like to bring to your attention that there is not a quorum present in the House.
Speaker: According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: Order please. I have shut off the bells, and will do a count.
There are 13 members present. A quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Mr. Hardy: I think I left off on the word "46". The member opposite, the Minister of Health and Social Services, had indicated on December 17 ó Iíll repeat a little bit here ó that there were 46 NGOs that the government had service agreements with, or had some other kind of relationship with, in the delivery of programs.
As I said earlier, I donít actually have those figures ó that there were 46. But if there are 46 at this present time that have a financial agreement for the delivery of programs, that is a substantial amount of money. That are also a substantial number of organizations spread throughout the Yukon, intertwined with our communities to improve living standards, to improve conditions, to assist those in need, to offer a variety of support, a variety of services, that the government will probably never, ever get itself involved in.
The role of NGOs is tremendous. I am going to go through some of the NGOs that are out there just to give a broad perspective of how many there are, how intertwined they actually are in our lives. This will take a couple of minutes. Iíll just touch on a few and then Iíll come back and touch on a few others. The Aboriginal Labour Force Alliance, the Acquired Brain Injury Support Group, which has been doing a tremendous amount of work in that area, the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with Disabilities, adult service units, the Alpine Ski and Snowboard Association of Yukon, Anti-Poverty Coalition ó now, I know that they donít receive money. Thatís just a start. The Anti-Poverty Coalition, which I know doesnít have a financial agreement with the government at this moment, does a tremendous amount of service for the government itself, not just the people who are living in poverty.
For instance, Iíll give you an example using the Anti-Poverty Coalition. Often Health and Social Services people meet with the Anti-Poverty Coalition to run ideas by them, to float programs or very simple things such as information brochures by the people of the Anti-Poverty Coalition to see if what is said in the brochure, as an example, would be, first off, understandable to people who are living in poverty. Secondly, it would have a strong benefit ó before they go out and print and distribute them ó to run it by an organization.
Thatís a free service by a group of volunteers, and thatís not even paid for by the government. I contend that there are 46 NGOs receiving money through financial arrangements, not only within the agreement that spells out what they do, but they also do a huge variety of other tasks that is included and benefit people of this territory. Again, I want to say that they are often services that no government would ever see itself doing, Mr. Speaker, and that ranges from ó as I just read off ó people with disabilities, labour force, people living in poverty, to organizations that deliver sports programs, to people who are involved in the arts ó the essential elements of cultural development that we need.
All of these are delivered by NGOs, and what is so essential, which we have to recognize, is that they often go beyond any agreement they have ó whether itís with the territorial government, the municipal governments, First Nation governments or the federal government ó and deliver things that are greater than their mandate. And they do that because thereís an essential need. Otherwise, they wouldnít be doing it. The volunteers and the people who work within the NGOs give up hundreds and hundreds of hours of their time per year to ensure that people throughout this territory are not left behind.
And we canít just put a dollar value on that, for if we do that, we can always find a reason to cut. That is kind of what happened with the Dawson shelter. The Minister of Health and Social Services and the MLA for Klondike put a dollar value on the services that they provide, and he has mentioned, maybe rightly so, that they provide far more than what is in the agreement the government has with them.
But, as I said earlier, this is often what happens with NGOs. They start to fill a need within our society, and they may do it with some financial assistance from the various levels of governments, but they also very often find that the needs grow or people start coming to them with other needs, and they canít turn them away because they recognize that these are very legitimate. They try to absorb that and they volunteer more often; they try to stretch the funds that they have to assist the people, the individuals and groups who come to see them for assistance from their communities, and they try to accommodate that.
They should not be punished for that, Mr. Speaker; they shouldnít be. If anything, they should be applauded for trying to assist to make this a better place to live. By these services by these NGOs, our community is stronger. Not only is it stronger, itís more liveable, and it allows people to live in smaller communities, knowing that there is assistance there, whether itís assistance in the development of their children or development of themselves, that thereís assistance in alcohol and drugs programming if there are needs in that area.
They know they have that within their communities and, because of that, they feel itís all right to live in a smaller area. They donít feel itís necessary to move to a bigger centre where often we find so many of the resources start to collect.
Now, Whitehorse is not a big, big place in the scheme of communities throughout Canada, but in the Yukon it is, in comparison to the other communities we have. And so many of these NGOs have their operations in Whitehorse, but that often is because of the population.
So, what weíre really concerned about and the direction we feel the Yukon Party government has been drifting toward, and we hope this motion will be taken seriously and have some kind of influence on the way theyíre thinking, is the attitude toward these NGOs and how it seems the feeling is that they can enter into agreements that have already been signed off and may have a year to run and change them at will, as well as the fact that there may not be any long-term funding. We havenít heard that yet from the Yukon Party government.
A few years ago, prior to the Liberal government regime, the NDP government put in place longer term funding, and it was put in place as a response to the needs of these NGOs. One of their greatest struggles was always trying to ensure that they had funding for the next year, so a lot of their time was taken up, Mr. Speaker, with working on trying to find funding so they could continue operations and deliver the programs that had become expected of them within our society.
We looked at that situation when we were in government previously and recognized that if we guaranteed our signing agreement with them of, say, three years, at the end of which we would review and negotiate again an agreement, and if we removed the year by year and gave it a three-year period, they would be able to focus for three years on delivery of the programs. Their attention would not be on continually trying to find the funds or continually getting ready for the next year-end to approach the government to see if it would contribute money to them. That was put in place in about 1998-99, I think ó probably 1998 ó and NGOs of all stripes within our society applauded it. It relieved a tremendous amount of burden. Since that time, there hasnít been that continuation.
Now, my understanding ó and I stand to be corrected ó is that the Liberals continued with what was brought forward with the longer term financing. If they didnít, well, then I stand corrected, but that is my understanding of this.
So, going back to the beginning here, what has changed is that there has been no indication whatsoever from the Yukon Party government that they are going to ensure that there is stable, long-term funding agreements in place. The actions point to there not being any, and if there are, they are going to be changed at will.
I have four that are coming due as of March 31, 2003. Blood Ties Four Directions is coming due on March 31, 2003. There is Crime Prevention Yukon, at the same time; the Salvation Army art program, and that is again at the same time; also, Yukon Family Services Association is the same time. All these will be coming due within the next two weeks. Iím not sure where the negotiations are, if they have been promised stable, long-term funding and ó Iíd like to add another word here ó "binding", or if there have been negotiations with them at the present time. Whatís going to happen is, they will come due and they will have a financial crunch and possibly have to lay off people.
Now, on top of that, there is the Challenge program ó many people will be familiar with that ó the Child Development Centre, the Dawson City shelter ó which I have already mentioned and how that has already been changed ó Help and Hope, and thatís a shelter down in Watson Lake; Hospice; Learning Disabilities; Line of Life; Second Opinion Society; Skookum Jim Friendship Centre; Teen Parent Centre; Yukon Council on Ageing; and Kausheeís Place. All of these are coming due in 2004, except for Kausheeís, which is 2005.
Those are all within a year now. Our concern, just on those ones, is that, within a year, there will be a substantial amount of concern by organizations that contribute a tremendous amount toward our society and are definitely needed, obviously. What we would like to know, and why we have brought this motion forward, is if the government is entering into stable, long-term and binding funding agreements with non-governmental agencies that provide services to the people on the governmentís behalf.
Iíve already talked about the long term, which is so essential for the NGOs to be able to proceed with the programs without worrying about the funding being stable. Knowing that they have that funding in place is so essential and that they wonít have any questions about it.
What has surfaced now is the "binding" part. The reason the binding is in there is so that when an agreement is entered into, it cannot be changed at will by one side, and that is exactly what happened with the Dawson shelter. Anybody in business knows that one side should not be able to go into an agreed upon contract and have the power to change it at will, when they feel itís necessary ó without any consultation and without working with the other side.
Many people on the other side are business people and they would know that when they sit down to negotiate a contract with another business or individual, with both sides signing their names to that agreement, they would be assured that they would be able to fulfill that agreement to the terms of the agreement. If there were any need to make changes to it, it would involve consultation. It would involve a negotiation again for that agreement and within the parameters of that agreement.
Now, as I say, many people on the other side are in business. I was in business myself. The agreements I signed, I expected to be honoured. What we saw was a signed agreement changed in midstream. Well, actually, even shorter than midstream ó toward the end of it.
I remember a debate I had with the Minister of Health and Social Services. My point was when you remove 26 percent of the funding to an organization, you are dictating what they can or canít do. That is too substantial an amount to remove from a small budget without changing the way they are able to operate or run their programs.
What also does it affect?
And a point I havenít mentioned here, Mr. Speaker, is the number of people who are employed through NGOs. Now, I donít have the figure in front of me, but I know that yesterday or this morning on the radio I heard the captain of the Salvation Army say that, because of the funding cuts from the federal government, they were probably going to have to lay off 12 people. Thatís just one program ó a shelter program, run by the Salvation Army.
Now, you take that many people in our society and you multiply it by ó well, we can just use the figure of 46 ó and you end up with a pretty substantial number of people employed full-time, part-time or casual, but it adds to our economy. And it adds to our economy in a very valued way. Many of these NGOs often serve the people with health and social needs, but there are a lot of them also that are involved in recreation, culture, information, education. All of those play a role in our society, and when we start to spread that out, we realize that the number of dollars that NGOs put into our economy is pretty substantial, and the number of people employed is probably very, very substantial, especially in the depressed economy that we live in today.
We cannot afford, at this present time, to be cutting programs such as these that have a strong role to play ó even a stronger role to play in depressed times. That would ultimately continue the spiral down into greater unemployment and less hope for this territory. Thatís one of the fears that I have: the gloom and doom picture that weíve had to deal with since the Legislature has been called and the actions we are seeing underlying a lot of the budget and the cuts that are being made, which are all targeted at many in our society who have the least chance to speak for themselves or a strong voice ó and NGOs happen to be one of these. Their clients often are people who arenít part of organizations or arenít able to rally protests or have a strong voice, especially with a government like the Yukon Party, which has indicated those are the cuts they were going with.
So, not only do you end up starting to cut programs when you remove the funding, but you also start to cut jobs and you also start to erode the social safety net that exists within our territory and which is delivered by these NGOs. Many of them, if they have to start to scale back, will be closing their doors, or they will not even be able to supply the bare minimum of services that they supply today. So is the government going to step in and fill those roles? Thatís the question. Are they going to expand their workforce and cut the contracts to NGOs, create their own workforce and keep expanding it to meet the needs that are obviously out there and which the NGOs meet?
Iím going to wrap this up in a couple minutes. I want to ask if the Yukon Party will agree with this motion and support this motion. As it says, "this House urges the Yukon government to enter into stable, long-term and binding funding agreements with the non-governmental agencies that provide services to Yukon people on its behalf."
I donít feel this is an offensive motion and it has not been brought forward to be challenging to the members opposite. We are urging the Yukon government to treat the NGOs with the respect they deserve, to give some long-term and binding assurances and that their agreements will not be changed willy-nilly whenever a member decides they donít like it, but they will be honoured and respected for the work they do within our society; that their funding will be in place for them to do that work and when negotiations for long-term funding come up, they will be entered into with a proper attitude of respect and sincerity to the NGOs that supply so much to our society.
I think what I am saying is believed by the other side. I have a little quote here from the MLA in Dawson City and the Minister of Health and Social Services when he was interviewed December 17, 2002. One of the quotes goes like this: "Yes, you are absolutely correct, but on the NGO side, these are some of the most effective service deliveries that we have. They are extremely cost-effective, very beneficial and well-received so it is to our best advantage to continue supporting the NGOs so they can continue with the effective programs that they have in place."
Now, this was December 17, 2002, by the Minister of Health and Social Services. So, at that time, he firmly believed that NGOs were cost-effective, very beneficial and well-received. He indicated that itís to the governmentís best advantage to continue supporting the NGOs. That was December 17. Then we entered into March and found out there was a change.
There has been the position taken by the Yukon Party government, in bringing in the budget, that there is no money left, that the trajectory being predicted will spiral the territory right down into a deficit and debt, and that a major crisis is looming. So thatís a justification for the changes that they have made, the action they have taken toward the NGOs and, because of that, thatís what has created this tremendous uncertainty among many of these organizations.
If these are the most effective service deliveries, as the minister has indicated ó they are extremely cost-effective and theyíre beneficial ó why would you target them? Why would a government target something that is obviously recognized as probably delivering services better than any other government or private sector can? Why not target something else? Why these? It doesnít make sense. The words on December 17 and the actions today do not match up.
Now, the minister also goes on to talk about a multitude of silos of administration, and that could be said about any organization, any business or any group. Of course there are the silos, and if a government can encourage NGOs to come together to share resources ó absolutely ó they should work on that ó encourage it, be the broker that brings it together and supply the services that could be shared. Absolutely. They should work on that, encourage it, be the broker that brings it together, supply the services that could be shared. Absolutely. I think thereís no problem out there in that regard, but you canít force that. The government has to take on a role of being the ones that broker that discussion, bring the parties together, find the resolutions to sharing some of the administration possibly, some of the rent or shared space, yet still allowing their unique features and the needs that they have in order to deliver the programs that they have, and doing that in a manner that, at the end of the day, maybe there are some cost-savings, but you canít force that. If you force it, it wonít hold together. It will break apart, eventually, and you will end up with probably a bigger cost down the road than what you initially have today. If the governmentís concern is that, fine; work on that; do that. Consult; collaborate; work together.
So, Mr. Speaker, Iíll wrap up, and my wrapping up is very simple. Itís a request that this government recognize that this motion has been brought forward to enhance, strengthen our NGOs and indicate to them that this government wants to work with them and not just tell them what to do.
I hope that if they accept this motion, this would be a good indication to many of the NGOs, many of the volunteers, many of the boards and committees, many of the people who are served out there ó they will get the message that maybe their decision might have been in haste and they are willing to work with the NGOs now and not after they have targeted them as part of their trajectory of cuts.
Mr. Rouble: Itís my pleasure to rise today and respond to this motion. Despite having a different personal philosophy than the member opposite ó I have a feeling that philosophy will come through in the discussion today ó I generally agree with the motion.
Non-profit organizations, clubs, associations, sport groups, culture groups and special interest groups are all very important to our society. They define us. They make us a community. These are the organizations that we hold up as land marks when we discuss who we are and where we live when we tell that to other people. These organizations help us to help other people ó organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross. They help us to solve common problems ó organizations such as the Raven Recycling Society, for example. These organizations help us to explore new opportunities, like the Faro Sustainable Development Corporation or the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon.
These are organizations that lobby for change. And thatís another key point that Iíd like to bring up too. These organizations lobby for change and they want change to happen. Our society is constantly changing. Our needs are changing. Demographics are changing. The characteristics, the technology ó itís always changing and we need to be able to respond to that change.
And, Mr. Speaker, these are organizations that also exist so that ó well, so that we can have fun. They satisfy an awful lot of the needs of society. I donít want to get back into another discussion about Maslowís hierarchy of needs, but I do find it to be a handy and useful model to use when looking at the needs of a community or the needs of a people.
Government is responsible for some of these needs, but certainly not all of them. We certainly canít take the family out of that equation, or the individual ó who also has an incredible responsibility ó but also our society. Collectively, we need to satisfy some of these needs. Thatís what an awful lot of these NGOs do. They are groups of people who get together to accomplish something ó a mission they all share, hold in high regard, and all want to accomplish.
It isnít necessarily a mission or something that all of society wants to accomplish though. Thatís how we get into this term of "special interest groups". But when we talk about government funding them, we need to remember governmentís responsibility when it flows money to these organizations ó when it flows the taxpayersí money, the cash that comes out of your and everyone elseís pocket, to these organizations. The government has a greater responsibility to all taxpayers, rather than just the membership in these not-for-profit organizations. And the government has a responsibility to ensure that a need exists, and also to make sure itís the most beneficial, or the most economical, or the best possible use of those funds.
Mr. Speaker, these NGOs and not-for-profit organizations, clubs, associations, et cetera, play an incredible part in our society. Iím positive that the curriculum vitae of every member of this Assembly is full of references to these types of organizations.
Personally, thatís how I got involved in this and I think how I found myself to be sitting in this chair today. Mr. Speaker, Iíd put forward that all the members here remember their responsibilities to their society and that we have all worked in these groups. Iím certain that we have all worked in many leadership and leg-roll positions to get out there and get the job done. It does mean putting in countless volunteer hours and volunteer time and your own money and spending money out of your own pocket, but it goes to accomplishing something that you believe in.
Mr. Speaker, in this territory we have hundreds of organizations. I have started to lose track. I used to run a business that provided help and assistance to many of these organizations ó assistance with sponsorship, assistance with fundraising. At one time, I went through and made an entire list of every organization that existed in the territory, and there were literally hundreds. It can almost be said, and I donít have the exact statistic, but thereís probably one organization or another, whether it be a not-for-profit or a sport organization, for practically every 25 people.
Mr. Speaker, having all these organizations makes it a vibrant and exciting place to live. Itís one of the characteristics that drew me to the community. When I first moved here in 1992, I was immediately attracted by the can-do attitude of the people who lived here. "Hey, we want to do this. Okay, letís go out and start an organization and get it done. Hey, we want to go and race stockcars. Okay, letís get an organization and get that going. Hey, we want to go out and clear some trails. Okay, letís get that going. Weíll get a bunch of people together."
Itís that can-do attitude that makes us who we are, and it makes it an exciting and a vibrant place to live.
Again, itís something that defines us as a community. Part of this too is ó well, I am proud to say our Yukon individuality too. You know, I havenít met any Yukoner who doesnít think that he or she canít do it better, regardless of what it is. We have seen that with an awful lot of organizations that have decided that "we can do it better" or "we can do it differently" and started up their own organization.
I have recognized, as a volunteer, this has splintered many organizations. I donít want to go into any specifics here, but we can certainly see where there was one organization and how it turned into two or three. And this is all working to satisfy the same mission. They still work with the same group of people. They still satisfy the same need, but they just do it a little bit differently.
We have heard a lot of talk of "silos of administration". Well, if I can continue the metaphor, this creates a lot of haystacks of administration where each one of these organizations then has their own executive director, has their own office space, their own telephone, their own fax machine, has their own Internet account, has their own Web site, and the list goes on and on and on. It isnít that they arenít going out and accomplishing the mission, because they are still working toward that, but they do have to devote an awful lot of time and energy to all of the other administration pieces and, unfortunately, that takes an awful lot of time and effort.
There are other challenges these organizations face, not only in accomplishing their mission but in obtaining the funds necessary to accomplish that mission. There are only so many places that not-for-profit organizations can get cash from. It typically comes from members, fundraisers, sponsorships or contributions from governments.
Mr. Speaker, getting money from members is often very limited. With our small and shrinking population, there is only so much that we as individuals can donate to an organization to keep it going, especially if weíre involved in two, three or four ó a half a dozen or more different organizations. Donations are another source of revenue for these organizations. Again, my personal experience on that is that Iím tapped out. There is only so much in my personal household budget that I can give to these organizations. At the end of the day, I do have to make a decision as to which organizations I believe in and which organizations I think are doing a good job and which organizations are likely to do a good job in the future and then make that decision. It does change from time to time, you know, based on the situation, based on the needs, based on my family situation; the amount that I contribute changes, the ratio of contributions for one organization changes ó well, even my time of life. As a younger person, it was letís get involved more in sporting organizations; and now, as I almost near middle age, then itís changing. The expectations of where Iíll be spending my money, of what I need to support ó my priorities are changing. I would expect thatís true of all members of our society. So donations are a source of funds for these organizations, but it is certainly a limited pod.
The other source is fundraisers, things like bake sales, raffles, dinners, dances. They are an excellent avenue for organizations to raise funds, but again, can only go to so many dances, one can only buy so many raffle tickets. When we start looking at where we get these prizes from, there are only so many that can be donated by our local shopkeepers.
Also, it makes a challenge on the organization to continually come up with new and exciting fundraisers, because there is a competition between these organizations to have the best fundraiser or to attract people to come to the fundraising event. From someone who has sat down and organized these events, you often sit down and ask who is already scheduled for that night and, "Well, I know theyíve already got an event on that night but thatís the best night for us so weíll have to put it on there too," which creates some conflict between the organizations.
Sponsorships ó we have some excellent corporate citizens in our community, but they can only give so much and there are only so many of them. From personal experience, I know that look of dread of going into some of the local businesses. Itís, "Oh, no, not you again. What are you looking for today?" Well, we donít have that many corporate offices up here. Weíre not Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver. We donít have the head offices here. There arenít that many corporate citizens around.
That brings us, then, to governments and the many governments that are responsible for contributing to these organizations and for contributing toward satisfying the needs that these organizations work toward solving. The federal government ó thereís another excellent example of an entity, a government, that makes contributions to not-for-profit organizations. We have heard a lot of debate in this House recently about programs that have started, only to have the federal funding removed, even if it does come as a natural conclusion. That natural conclusion often leaves an organization hanging and not knowing where their next bit of funding is going to come from.
There arenít too many entities out there that can take the place of the federal government. Who else in the country has the resources that they do? Provincial governments also contribute. The territorial government ó we also contribute millions of dollars to organizations, and different departments ó thatís something that I noticed as well when I was involved in a lot of not-for-profit organizations. We would tap into one program from one department and another program from another department, and then borrow assets from another department. Then there are the municipal governments, but they only have so much to give, and we all must recognize that governments arenít money trees and that the funds they do give out, well, those came out of our pockets to begin with. Those were the taxes that we paid into the government and expected them to handle them responsibly and to distribute them effectively and to get the biggest bang for their buck.
Another challenge that these organizations also face is now the battle of proposals. I talked to many folks in NGOs and they complain that 75 or 80 percent of their time is spent doing paperwork and writing proposals for programs rather than working on those programs themselves. Thatís a waste of their time. The organization has a mission to fulfill and thatís what it should be working toward, but spending all of the time writing a proposal ó and the level of proposals begins to escalate, too, because you do get various organizations all battling for that same pot of money, from proposal to proposal to proposal. It does create that sense of competition among the NGOs.
Again, the pot of money is only so large, and so now you get someone trying to outdo another organization by writing a better proposal ó we will get more research, so we will spend more money on that research to write a better proposal; we will put a flashier cover on it; we will use colour pictures; we have to find a way to sell our proposal to the powers that be. Again, this dilutes the amount of money and efforts that are there to actually accomplish the mission of the organization.
Back to the motion, which I do agree with. We do need to provide our not-for-profit organizations and our NGOs with some security. They do accomplish much in our communities. Our community certainly wouldnít be a community without it, and we do need to find a way in order to provide that same level of security.
I would like to back up for a moment there to the fundraisers, because that is another avenue that many not-for-profit organizations use to raise funds. But I have noticed a trend that personally disturbs me, and that is a trend toward not-for-profit organizations going into competition with for-profit business.
Now, there are many instances where we have seen money flow from taxpayersí pockets into the government and then back to not-for-profit organizations, which then, in some instances, buy assets and then start to use those assets or provide services to the community ó yes, sometimes needed services, but services that are often provided by for-profit businesses. So there are instances where businesses have started to create their own competition by paying their taxes.
That is an area of concern that has been voiced numerous times by my constituents. Yes, they want to see not-for-profit organizations satisfy the needs they were supposed to be there to accomplish, but they certainly donít want to see not-for-profit businesses, and the tax considerations and the structures around those businesses, go into competition with them. That, to me, is not a fair situation.
When voters vote in an election and they change the government, they expect some change to happen. And thatís governmentís role then ó to make those changes and to recognize the situation theyíre in, recognize the needs of the constituents, recognize the direction the community is going in, and to act accordingly. Sometimes that does involve making change. If changes werenít expected, the electorate probably wouldnít have voted for a change.
So, I am a bit troubled by the term "binding" that was used awhile ago, because "binding" doesnít allow the government of the day, those entrusted with the responsibility to change the situation that they face ó and when Iím talking "long term", Iím expecting, you know, five years as a funding time frame to be a long-term arrangement. A lot of things can happen in five years, and to say that we canít respond to a change in the community because weíre bound by a previous governmentís commitment from, say, four years ago, I think that would bind the governmentís hands too much and put too much pressure on future governments. I believe that governments need to be able to respond and to change according to the situation they find themselves in.
That being said, though, Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the need for some consistent longer term funding ó maybe more of a medium-term funding ó for these organizations to give them the security to be able to continue their operations, to continue to satisfy their needs, to continue to satisfy their mission. Having longer term funding for these organizations would allow them the sense of security to continue on with their operations, and it would allow them to focus their attention on their mission, on what theyíre there to do, rather than on constantly creating more paperwork and applying for more things.
Yes, I agree that the application process and the competition process probably makes organizations more accountable, which is an important thing to consider when looking at not-for-profit organizations and how they expend taxpayersí money, but we need to find an efficient way to do that.
So I agree that we need to provide some longer term funding to these organizations. I believe that we need to ensure that these organizations are using these funds wisely for the purposes for which they were intended, accomplishing a need that a great many in our society can actually believe in, and I believe that these not-for-profit organizations that weíre funding shouldnít then be going out and getting into competition with the for-profit businesses that build our society as well.
So, in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, yes, I would encourage governments to enter into longer term funding with not-for-profit organizations. I think that by doing so it will make the relationship much stronger, it will continue to foster faith and trust, and it will continue to get the mission of those organizations done in an effective manner.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll be short in my response to this motion. I think itís a very good motion brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. Itís also a timely motion, Mr. Speaker, considering the position that this government has put Yukoners in.
Mr. Speaker, in the very short time that the Yukon Party has been in government, we have seen change. We have seen change for the worse, I guess, in the way it affects Yukoners, NGOs and communities. It doesnít appear that the Yukon Party has a plan that theyíre following and, if they do have a plan, theyíre not presenting it to this House. They have some ideas ó one is to concentrate on administration and another one is to concentrate on duplication of services.
They do this without any consultation with groups. The reason for the wording in the final paragraph of the motion is to ensure that, when governments do come in, they donít change and alter agreements with the stroke of a pen because they feel that maybe this was not their initiative; it wasnít something they would like to do or are interested in, so they focus their thinking and future government thinking on the importance of groups that have been established and the kind of services they provide.
Having long-term binding funding agreements is important. Letís go back to what just happened with the Dawson City womenís shelter. The minister came in and changed the agreements. The focus was on the Yukon Partyís direction to look at duplication of services, and the minister also felt that a second staffer was not needed, without any consultation. Thatís why weíre bringing forward a motion like this, to ensure this type of thing doesnít happen. The minister did break the agreement because the agreement was signed off by the government to provide 24-hour emergency service for the Dawson City womenís shelter. Then the minister comes in and says, "Well, this isnít needed because it wasnít used for two months." Thatís not the whole idea. People feel safer knowing they have a place to go. I believe that this is an important NGO, providing a very important service on behalf of government and for the communities.
To have a minister come in and change that is just not right. I know that members opposite know that it isnít right to have a change just like that for the sake of saving money. The members opposite feel that the government spending trajectory is continuing on its way up, and they want to bring it down. We want to see some thoughtful changes if the Yukon Party is going to be changing things in Yukon; thoughtful changes, meaning that decisions arenít made with knee-jerk reactions but rather made with information behind them.
So far, in regard to the Dawson City womenís shelter, that hasnít happened. That is one of the reasons this motion is on the floor. There is a fear out there right now among NGOs that was brought on by the Yukon Party that slowly they will be phased out because government simply does not like some of the services they provide. I believe some of them feel that they are totally against maybe the priorities of the Yukon Party government, like the Yukon Conservation Society and so on. That is why this is coming back.
If there is ever going to be a change to a funding agreement where both sides recognize that things are not working the way they should or should be enhanced or changed somehow, then negotiations should take place. There should be some discussions. What happened with the Dawson City womenís shelter? The minister didnít even call anyone to see if this was okay, to see how they could make improvements to the services to the people. It was all about money.
This government has cried poverty for the last five months since they were elected, even though it had $78 million in the bank. People noticed, after the budget was announced, how this move by the Yukon Party was actually the same move the previous Yukon Party did when they were in power. They cry poverty even though they had $80 million in the bank. They move around some monies so it appears government has less money. We have just seen that happen with the MLA pensions. The monies didnít have to flow out of government immediately, but things like this are taking place on that side of the House. I would say they are hiding pots of money here, there and everywhere. Slowly but surely the general public will pull it out of this government to expose that. Mr. Speaker, you will see that, by the end of this term, the Yukon government does have money, and they will have a surplus unless this government intends to spend it down to the point where we are dangerously low if we had to handle any type of emergencies in the Yukon.
The way it is right now on paper, it says that ó a million dollars in the bank. I mean, what government has a million dollars left in surplus in the bank? I believe there will be a huge lapse of funding and the Auditor General will point that out in the fall, unless, of course, this Yukon Party decides to follow along with the Liberals and bring forward a fall capital plan, which will, again, chew up more into the surplus dollars. So thatís one of the reasons why this motion has been brought to the floor.
Of course, the other is just the fear thatís generated by the Yukon Party. We have a number of NGOs whose funding agreements will expire shortly.
Speaker:Order please. The Speaker is not entirely comfortable with the term "creating fear" and would ask the member not to use it.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, Mr. Speaker. If thatís your ruling, I will try to avoid that. But I donít know what else to say because this is coming from the public, and they are speaking in that manner, and theyíre afraid. I hope thatís a good word to use, Mr. Speaker. Theyíre afraid of where this government is going in regard to their future, and I think itís important at this point to give direction to government through a motion here to enter into long-term agreements that are binding so that somebody else doesnít come forward and say, "We donít like this agreement, itís gone" ó just like that.
I mean, then it poses the question: what good are agreements? What good are agreements signed by governments, if governments are going to constantly break them ó small or large agreements? If it involves more than $500,000, is that a small agreement? Well, the Dawson City womenís shelter is over $500,000 ó itís $576,000. Thatís not a small agreement, yet this government chose to break it. And itís one agreement after another, and I believe weíll see that again and again.
So, letís put that aside, and letís all agree that this is the direction that government should move in, and not delay this any longer, and try to give some certainty to NGOs across the territory, along with communities, that their organizations will be properly funded and for the long term. Five years is long-term funding, in my view, and it could even be a bit shorter. It all depends on how long they have been operating and what they would like to accomplish. It doesnít take much to acknowledge that that is important.
Mr. Speaker, we know that some of these NGOs have other monies ó they generate other dollars and raise money. FASSY is one of them. It has some federal money. I guess thatís the good part ó once you establish an organization and itís able to leverage other dollars into the community, it helps us as the territorial government and the people of the Yukon. The more money here, the better. Itís more money spent in the territory.
So, any time we make a cutback like this, without any prior notice, it creates anger in those involved with these NGOs, and it creates uncertainty.
It creates a question, and now that weíre in the middle of a budget, which the Premier says is a tight budget, and we have seen cuts in a number of different areas and different departments, such as the departments of Health and Education, all for the sake of bringing down the spending trajectory of government, it doesnít bring any comfort to NGOs.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge the members opposite to support this motion and ensure that NGOs do have long-term agreements in place and that they are binding so that others cannot come in and just change them at whim.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Arntzen: Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that non-profit organizations provide a lot of necessary service in all Yukon communities, and funding is a very important part of how they operate and their function. Therefore, itís very important that we, as government, must do our best to make sure long-term funding is available.
When I say long-term funding, it could be from yearly funding to four or five years of funding, and that is where we have to continue to pressure our federal government to not only provide seed money for some of these programs and organizations but also commit to long-term funding agreements.
I personally have been involved for many, many years in various organizations throughout the Yukon, and I know how important it is for the communities. I have sat on boards and organizations with some of the people in this room. You can only attract board members and professional staff if you have the proper funding in place. To operate these non-profit organizations in an effective and efficient manner, you must also have the funding in place. Therefore, as I said earlier, the non-profit organizations are a necessary service to our communities throughout the Yukon. With some modification to this motion, I canít argue against it and I will be in support of this motion, as I said, with some modification to it.
We need these organizations and, without governmentís help and funding, they will not function.
Mrs. Peter: It is my pleasure to rise today to support this motion in front of us. NGOs are a very important part of our communities, whether it be in my community of Old Crow or in Dawson or Carmacks or in Whitehorse. People in these positions give up a lot of their time so that the service and program delivery in our communities can be delivered.
Iíd like to share with members of the House a little bit of history from my community. Our people always enjoyed gatherings and helping each other out, Mr. Speaker. I remember, as a very young child in my community, any gatherings that I attended, whether to celebrate a birth of a new baby or to just come together after a long winter at an Easter carnival to enjoy each otherís company and to have some competition, activities, and eat together. We gather also at times of concern for one another. If a family has concerns, thereís a group of us that go and sit with a family and encourage them and support them until they can get past that issue for themselves.
We come together at a time of death in our community, to celebrate oneís life passing on. We come together in times of fun, in times of sadness and, as I mentioned, we like to celebrate life. One of the greatest values of our people is to honour our commitments, Mr. Speaker. That value we hold very dear to our hearts. If I say to my friend or a member of my community that I will do an action and I will be there for them, that statement in itself is taken as a value. If I do not follow through with that commitment that I made to my friend or to my community member, then that person will never trust me for a long, long time. Again, if I want the trust of that person, I have to prove myself in the end, and that can take a very long time.
When we make commitments to one another in my community, itís a very serious thing for us. Itís the same with agreements, whether it be in our jobs or whether it be to our children. In all our First Nation communities, our children and our elders hold a very special place.
We make sure we take care of our little children so they can grow up to be healthy, responsible community members. We seek the guidance and support of our elders, especially when we hold key positions such as leadership, or hold a position where you make a difference in peopleís lives. We go and seek their guidance and say, "Do you see me going in the right direction?" and, if I am not, then they will be willing to walk with me and guide me the right way. We take that very seriously.
I share this with the House today because, today, we have a motion before us that is so important in everybodyís life in this whole territory. Not one community over another; all our communities value services that are offered. All these services have commitments from levels of government for funding, and those commitments of funding are always unstable. Whether it is proposal-driven or whether it is an agreement that we have with the territorial or federal government, in the end, the bottom line is that women, children, and men from all walks of life will suffer, whether it be a homeless person on the streets of Whitehorse or a woman in need of safety and protection in a community or the children in a community that like to attend a physical activity.
There are such programs in every one of our communities. As I shared earlier, we try to offer our children healthy environments to grow up in so that they can become secure, responsible individuals in our community, and they may one day be our leaders. When we take away any kind of funding that jeopardizes these positions, then we create uncertainty in our communities. The people who are trained and more than willing to offer these services and programs in our communities become uncertain about their future.
When we create uncertainty out there in the public, then that uncertainty has a ripple effect, from the person who delivers the program to the person who receives the program and services. The environment that we would have liked to create out there is no longer there. The homeless person who is walking around the streets of Whitehorse is going to continue to walk around until something tragic happens. The women and children who are unsafe out there in the communities and have no place to go for protection are going to continue to stay in a cycle that is very unhealthy.
The child in that situation is going to grow up not knowing whether to believe or trust. It falls back to that commitment I was talking about when I first started. When we say weíre going to follow through with something, weíre taken at our word. Iím not sure if thatís understood in this House by other members, but I share that because in our First Nations community that holds very true.
The people who become uncertain in these positions start to worry. It causes more stress so the very positions that we create out there to deliver these programs and services would start to degrade, because if Iím not feeling very good about my own position, then the way I deliver the service is not going to be very effective. It would not have that same impact it was created for in the first place.
The commitment that was signed for whatever time period ó whether it be three or five years ó because there was a change in government, by the stroke of a pen, my future is no longer secure, nor is the future of the people who depended on that service or program I was supposed to deliver.
And now weíre at a place where I can make excuses why I will not be there for these certain people after a period of time. And then, where do I send the people who depend on the services and the programs? Weíre talking about people who donít have a home, who look forward to going into a warm shelter every night. When I need security, when Iím not feeling very safe, whether Iím in my community or in the City of Whitehorse, I know thereís a place out there that I can go to. But all of a sudden, the shelter that I need is full to capacity and they have no room for me, so now Iím stuck out on the street with my little child, and Iím scared. I have nowhere else to turn. Where am I going to go? I donít know anybody else in this city. I have relatives, but I donít want to depend on anybody. What am I going to do? Phone a social service after-hours hotline so that they can tell me to wait until tomorrow or wait until tomorrow at lunch hour, so we can give you a bus ticket to go into the city to create more uncertainty?
The decisions that we make in here, Mr. Speaker, affect a lot of people. I hear a couple of the members opposite make statements that, yeah, weíre a government, and we had to make some really, really serious decisions.
I heard and read some of the commitments that were made before the election took place, and again, they sounded good. And I bet they sounded good to a lot of people out there in the Yukon public, and thatís how come each of us are where we are today.
Going back to my initial statement about commitments, about honouring the commitments and what that means to people, I never forget ó I try not to forget and I hope I never will forget ó how I got here. Itís from the community where I live and the trust that people put in me, and we honour those commitments and say that weíre going to work on behalf of people out there.
I always have hope, but sometimes I see that hope dwindle a little bit.
We have to be accountable and we have to hold people accountable so that we never forget how we got in here and whom weíre speaking to and whom weíre speaking for, because there are a lot of people out there right now who need our help.
And we donít do that by cutting budgets and saying, "Well, go out and raise your own money." We have enough volunteers in our communities and they do an excellent job, and every person in my community puts out what they can so that our children and people in our community can have activities to attend.
You can see that, especially at special times of the year. We have an awesome group of people who come together at Christmastime and make sure that the children know what Christmas is like. Whether they have money in their pockets or not, every person is acknowledged. But we also need these other positions to create the kind of certainty we needÖ
Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mrs. Peter: Ö so that we can have those services and programs and so that our men, women and children in our communities can feel safe and secure and that they can rely on a service if they need to. We are not only talking about women and children here. I know there are many men out there who rely on services. Some of those people are personal friends of mine. So with that, Mr. Speaker, I support this motion and I thank you for the time.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start by talking about how one wins support of a motion. I think itís my own opinion that if you want a motion to pass through a House, you donít do that by criticizing the actions of others. You may question them, but when you start criticizing, it helps to defeat a motion.
I want to start today by talking about First Nation traditional ways. Some of our core values that we have as First Nation people are respect, caring, sharing, patience, balance ó all of these things are really important in society in order for society to become functional and to stay functional in a good way. When we talk about respect, we mean that we must respect the opinions of every other person around us. We must respect where everybody is in their lives, whether itís the President of the United States or whether itís the individual living on the street suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. We respect where everybody is at in life. We do not judge, but we respect.
We talk about caring. Caring is a really important value for anybody to possess and to honour. When you care for somebody, you must be able to have feelings.
Thatís where a lot of speaking from the heart comes into play, because speaking from the heart is basically being able to feel what you say. When you say that you care about somebody, do you care about that person, or do you see a way to put yourself at a higher place in life? Are you speaking on behalf of these people because you sincerely care, or because you want to become the next Premier or get elected in your riding, or whatever it may be? To care is to be able to go there and put your hand out and help somebody get up off the street. You donít walk past them. If you are caring, you will stop. I have seen this on numerous occasions right in this city, where an individual was lying on the road having a seizure and numerous people went by that person. Nobody stopped.
When I talk about sharing ó sharing is another very important thing in life. First Nation people used to have all of these qualities, but a lot of us have lost it too and itís not as strong as it used to be ó I mean that we share what we have with the people who are less fortunate. For example, itís quite a common practice among First Nation people, like myself, to go and shoot a nice healthy, fat moose in the fall and to come to the community ó to single mothers or an elderly person or the disabled ó and give them some meat. When you give, you must never expect anything in return.
Thatís what sharing is about. If you can do that, then youíre on the right path. And when we talk about patience, again, this is another really valuable thing for anyone to possess. Patience is something that I know is very limited in government, especially in the YTG and the federal government. Itís getting the same way in the First Nation governments. We have no more patience. We expect everything to happen the moment it comes out of your mouth. Well, thatís where the cultural clash comes in between YTG, the federal government, municipal governments and First Nation governments, because the traditional way was, when youíre asked the question, you must be given the time to walk away, think about that question for as long as you need, so that when you come back with your answer, that answer will come from the heart, and it will be there forever. There will be no changing of your decision. Thatís the way the First Nation governments used to work, and itís not the case today.
We also talk about balance ó what does that mean, to be in balance? Well, there are several scenarios that will go with that word "balance" but, for the sake of what weíre talking about today, you look at balance and what comes to my mind is how we are working to try to find balance. Money is not always the solution.
I believe everyone in this Legislature has heard several times that it takes a whole community to raise a child. When we talk about balance, we also mean that we need to balance the organizations out in this city and we have to look at what monies are available to support those organizations, and there has to be some kind of a balance there. The government, I donít believe, will ever stay afloat if there was such a policy that anybody can come to the government and demand or request large sums of money and the government is obligated to do that. So we must balance things as best we can with what weíve got, and sincerely hope and pray that weíre not going to severely affect the lives of anyone.
Again, I donít believe the people should be so dependent upon government. We need to start looking as a society and saying, "What can you give to contribute to the homelessness in this territory? What do you do as an individual to limit the number of children who have no home to go to? What are you going to do as an individual to ensure that the high-risk youth are not just thrown away?"
I know, in my lifetime, I have contributed approximately 16 to 17 years of my life skills to working with children. I have opened my home to foster children. I have opened my home to very high-risk youth, ones who have had severe problems in life. No one else wants them, no one else can keep them. I have taken them into my home and I have worked with them.
My wife and I both work together with youth. Our contribution was not to expect somebody else to do it. We also opened up our home to open-custody youth. We worked for many years with children who were already in the justice system. Now, some of those youth were very difficult, but one thing I know and learned about them is that theyíre all salvageable, theyíre all people. They all have a spirit and they all have needs.
When people talk about wanting to help society, we need to all think about that and see if we canít start opening up our hearts and homes to the youth at risk and others. Itís quite simple to go and say, well, itís the governmentís fault, but I donít think itís that simple. I think it becomes more of an individual, instead of a collective, situation.
I think that First Nations used to be very good at helping out their family members. That was a value of our people. When someone was having problems in their family, it was not uncommon for an aunt, uncle or grandparent to assist them with the problem they were having with the children. As a grandparent, I have taken my grandchildren and looked after them. I would never say, "Go down to welfare and see if theyíll help you; the government can pay for you." Never. I would never do that. I would look after that grandchild before I ever went and asked the government to do it.
I think society in general has to start thinking like that, because not only First Nation people had that kind of value. I think it was probably all over the world. We need to go back to thinking like that.
And I know that the non-governmental organizations play a very important role in society, and I have a lot of respect for the non-governmental organizations that work on behalf of people. I, too, have voluntarily sat on numerous boards for non-governmental organizations, and I always felt good about doing that because it was a way to contribute ó putting your mind to work to try and maybe help someone else in society who is looking for help. I have a lot of respect for non-governmental organizations. FASSY is one of them. I have a lot of respect for the FASSY organization and Blood Ties. Words cannot really describe how important of a role those organizations play, because society quite often writes this calibre of people off.
So it is good to know that there are organizations that can sincerely work, from their hearts, for the people who are in need of their services.
I also think it is very important to talk about the governmentís responsibilities. I know that some people believe that the government has a responsibility and that the governmentís pockets are so deep and they have so much money that they will never run out. I beg to differ with that approach to government. I think there is a time in society when you can and do max out the governmentís financial capabilities.
I believe that you can break a government. I believe that quite often when people get too dependent upon the government coffers, they really forget about the contributions that they should be making to some of the issues and some of the problems. I believe that the government comes to a point in time when it has to start looking at working out how it is going to balance things out. In my opinion, the government that looks at the money situation very seriously is providing good governance. That is essential to survival. I believe you can get carried away to a point where you run a deficit that youíll never recover from, and most governments do that. I think the Taxpayer Protection Act in the Yukon is actually a good thing, because it sort of limits any government from being able to do that. It keeps you in check and balance.
There is something else that is important to all of this discussion. The non-governmental organizations have been around for years. I remember in 1964 when I was in the Yukon, the Salvation Army was heard of ó they are still here today. They donít disappear just because all the dollars they need arenít forked out. They are here on their own accord, which is quite different from when youíre contracted to do a job.
I believe that they are valuable enough that the government has to always keep in mind that they need support. I hope that we never, ever see the day when a non-governmental organization is totally ignored financially.
The other area I want to go into, because itís relevant to this, is the federal government ó Iím very aware, from being a counsellor in First Nation government, how the federal government are masters ó they are absolute masters ó at being able to put a carrot in front of you and have you run after it for two or three years and then cut your funding off, leaving you high and dry. That happens repeatedly with the federal government, and I, being a First Nation person, know that all too well. Thatís the story of our lives. The story of our lives has always been, "Here, we will feed you. We will feed you just enough so that we can keep you interested and we can control you." So here again is a good example of the organizations within the Yukon Territory, and I know several of them that actually got started by this very thing Iím talking about today. Because the federal government put money into a two- or three-year initiative, they get the people conditioned to where they canít do without the program, then we end up with a responsibility thatís going to be loaded on to the territorial government or the municipal government or the First Nation government. So itís a consistent thing within government.
I will end my contribution here by saying I have the utmost respect for non-governmental organizations. They do represent a large portion of society. I do support this motion, and probably with a few changes, I hope it goes through this House successfully.
Mr. McRobb: It gives me pleasure to speak in favour of this motion today as well. Now, there have been a lot of good comments mentioned today and on previous occasions before. Hansard speaks clearly of my commitment to NGOs. After all, thatís where a good part of my background comes from, being involved with non-governmental organizations and working for the public interest.
While, in some ways, those days seem like a long time ago, I can clearly recall a lot of the circumstances that occurred seven years ago and beyond, as well as many of the issues. I can also vividly recall a number of the people I worked with in those organizations and how important it was to come together in order to make the group or organization function.
I believe itís important for advocacy groups, in particular, to function to the best of their ability.
We all know how important it is to be credible and productive in our comments, and I believe that is the ongoing challenge to a lot of advocacy groups. In most cases, they perform quite well in that function.
Now, when it comes to government funding, Mr. Speaker, not every group, of course, gets government funding. As a matter of fact, the list of groups that actually do receive support is quite small, but that is no indication of the size of the need out there in our society.
We all know that the Yukon has a relatively low population in comparison to other provinces and even territories in our country. We all know that that has no bearing on the number of issues we have to deal with. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of issues important to Yukoners, and thatís probably why many of the people in the territory support or even belong to a non-profit organization, because the opportunity is there to participate in the public interest.
Mr. Speaker, one can only wonder what it would be like to live in a Yukon void of public interest groups, and that would really impair the governmentís ability to operate in a democratic way.
Often in this Legislature, we feel that our opinion from the opposition is shunned by the government that seems to already have reached decisions on many issues.
Mr. Speaker, public consultation is a very necessary aspect of governing in the public interest, and quite often the public participation is fulfilled by these non-governmental organizations bringing forward their concerns and integrating with government personnel on whatever issue in order to ensure the public interest is considered.
Part of my memory from back then, Mr. Speaker, is not all that pleasant. I recall a previous Yukon Party government not being too kind to non-profit organizations I happened to be involved with, as well as a number of others out there, and they actually felt targeted, at the time. I certainly hope this is not a repeat performance by this Yukon Party government. If it is, Mr. Speaker, we on this side certainly wonít tolerate it, and Iím sure Yukoners wonít either.
I did hear some supporting comments from the government side about this motion, and hopefully we can all do the right thing and support it today and come to another unanimous conclusion on motion day. That would probably break a record for an entire sitting in only about 16 days to date. I see the Clerk is probably nodding in agreement with me.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of groups out there. I was scrolling through a list of non-governmental organizations and volunteer organizations earlier today. I donít have that list before me, but I do recall some of the names of the groups that I would like to mention, starting with the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs. We all recognize the contribution from our firefighting personnel in the territory and certainly the fire chiefs who are among the most experienced on those squads in each community. They certainly deserve recognition. I know, from attending previous conferences of the fire chiefs, how committed to the cause those individuals are. Similarly, the search and rescue groups deserve a lot of consideration from the government for the value they provide to our Yukon society. There are countless organizations out there. There is the Yukon Transportation Association, which I know some members in here are familiar with, which provides feedback on transportation matters. There is the Yukon Agricultural Association, which is having its general assembly this weekend. It provides feedback on agricultural issues. There is the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which provides feedback on wildlife issues. The Yukon Conservation Society provides feedback on environmental and conservation type issues. Mr. Speaker, I can go on and on, but I think the point is clear. We all recognize the importance of these organizations.
The fact there are many of them in our territory is a fortunate thing, and I think this is something that adds to the appeal of our territory. I know from talking to people who have moved out of the territory and come back again ó which is a common occurrence ó when asking people why they returned, weíll hear, on one side, derogative comments about life in the big city, but we also hear kind reflections on life in the territory. Sometime what I hear is people mentioning how important it is to be involved in our society through community groups and volunteer organizations and so on. We all have to recognize the value of that to our society. We all know that we live in one of the best places in the whole world. There are several advantages here in the territory as well as several disadvantages that we avoid by living in the territory. One only has to look at recent world events to recognize that.
Some of the other groups I want to briefly mention are the Alsek Music Festival, which provides support to a very important function in Haines Junction each June, and the Kluane Quilters Guild, which is very widely renowned and recognized for the quality of their work and their contributions. There are also other local volunteer groups. In Beaver Creek, there is the drop-in centre and the Beaver Creek Community Club. Burwash Landing has the Kluane Child Care Association.
In Destruction Bay, we have the Kluane Lake Athletic Association. In Haines Junction, thereís the Haines Junction Chamber of Commerce. Iíve already mentioned the Alsek Music Festival and the Kluane Quilters Guild that is mainly centred in Haines Junction. There are people on various boards ó library boards, school boards, training trust fund boards ó and all kinds of activity on a volunteer basis. The Haines Junction Help a Family and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation Christmas bazaar working group are very important. Anyone who has read the regionís local bi-monthly newspaper called the St. Elias Echo will recognize the important effort from the volunteers from that organization. Coming this way, Mr. Speaker, there is the Mendenhall Community Association, which integrates with government when it comes to public consultation of the various issues, and there are probably lots more but I think the point is clear.
These groups are all working hard to make the Yukon a better place to live, and their production and value to our society is undeniably substantial and very much appreciated. We all owe them a lot of gratitude for the work they do.
I just want to touch on the funding aspect, because that is a substantial part of the motion before us today. Now, we all know about the administrative requirements of a society, the paper burden of forming and operating a society and the day-to-day tasks that a society faces. There are many costs associated with those items. Usually those costs are made up by the volunteers themselves.
Now, one can say that the membership at large can help support the costs to run an organization, but even fundraising or taking on membership drives are very resource intensive themselves and, quite commonly, groups are strained when it comes to finding volunteers to go off and fund raise, host events or sign up members, and that doesnít always happen. If every group were required to achieve all of that, to a substantial degree, a lot of them wouldnít be able to do the things necessary to input to the government and provide feedback on issues important to Yukoners.
I guess what Iím getting at is the value of government funding, albeit a reasonable amount to these groups, in order to help them overcome the administrative barriers and proceed, unencumbered, in meeting their objectives for the betterment of the territory, which is what itís all about.
I think I have made that point and the other ones I wish to make at this time and, as mentioned, I hope we can all agree on this motion. I look forward to the vote.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: First of all, Iíd like to express appreciation for the Member for Kluane referring to some of the organizations that my department funds. The Yukon Conservation Society is indeed funded by the Department of Environment, as is the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which has done a marvellous job in terms of hunter education and working with youth in a variety of areas. In fact, such a good job in some respects, Mr. Speaker, that they have actually caused some of the departmental initiatives to be able to be rolled back and for the money to be put into other areas.
And thatís really what this is all about, Mr. Speaker. Itís a good motion. I have some reservations about a few of the words, which Iíd like to get to, but to give some of my thoughts on this, one of the first speakers from the side opposite today referred to the government members as basically business people, and I think that is the perspective that many of us bring to this House.
I made the statement at the door many, many times during the election that a government is a business, and I donít mean that in a bad way. Businesses can accomplish many things. There are many businesses that do very worthwhile things. But a business it still is, Mr. Speaker. In any business, you have to be aware of both sides of the ledger. You have to look at the income, you have to look at the outflow, and Iíve said that before in the House. You have to look at what youíve got to work with and how youíre going to accomplish what youíve got to work with.
I go back, again, to when I first sort of started getting into my own business and leaving institutions where the paycheque was deposited in your bank account ó I think it was the first Thursday of the month ó and you learned very quickly that if you turned in your timesheets a little bit too late, you missed that one and you didnít get paid until the next month. You learned very quickly how the organization worked.
But when I made the decision to actually go into a business, it became quite a different thing. I stumbled across a Canadian book, a very good book on how to start your own business. Itís excellent. I highly recommend it to anyone, but I have to admit again that I bought it really for the title. The title is When Friday Isnít Payday.
You have to look at any business as not necessarily having to turn a profit. I mean, weíre really talking about not-for-profit organizations here. But even there, when youíre running a business itís the same thing. Whether there is money in the books at the end of the day to pay the owner of the business, to pay the employees, to put food on the table of the people working there, to pay off the union contracts, to pay off the non-union contracts ó at the end of the day with a non-governmental organization that is not-for-profit, you then have to have at the end of that day a zero balance, because if youíre in the negative balance, youíve got a big problem. The money has to come from somewhere and this is the perspective I think this government brings to the House and to the government.
One of the speakers before referred to a 26-percent cut and how this would obviously have an effect. Obviously it would. In my own business if I had a 25-percent reduction in income, it would have an effect.
But as a businessperson, as that organization or NGO is also a business entity, they then have the ability to make their own choices. No one is telling them how to run that business; theyíre simply telling them that these are the parameters that they have to work within. This is where I have some real problems with the whole debate. Itís certainly not in the value of the NGOs, although, as I will get to in a moment, some certainly are a bit strange. But many do a wonderful job and they do it with limited resources, and they do it out of love for the issues of what theyíre doing.
What scares me is, again, what we get from the side opposite is there are cheques left in the chequebook, so therefore we can keep writing them. And nobody bothers to actually look within that chequebook or within that bank account to see that thereís no money to cover the cheque. At the end of the day, what we have to do is look at what the final product is. We have to look at what the NGO did; we have to look at what was accomplished. The members opposite expect the government to be accountable, and so they should, by one means or another. People have to be held accountable for what they do. And what bothers me is when you give examples of groups to fund ó for instance, a shelter, when no one is in the shelter for a period of six months ó I have to make the assumption that maybe thereís a better way to use some of that money. To cut all of the funding off is not reasonable, and the members opposite are very well aware of that. But to withdraw some of the funding, to reduce some of that funding and leave that group to make its own decisions, it doesnít say that a shelter has to close. It has to say, perhaps, that itís not equitable to have one, or to double-staff that facility 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It leaves the decision within that group.
There are many different solutions, and Iím just thinking off the top of my head ó a pager works just fine. If someone is in crisis, itís identified very quickly. There are people on call; the response is made and the programs are activated.
An example of that is the victim services unit and the victim assistance unit of the RCMP in town. During the business day, the victim services unit of YTG is there and, after-hours, the victim assistance volunteers of the RCMP are there. They have training; theyíve been screened; they provide a valuable service. There is a pair of them on call during all outside hours, all nights, all evenings, all weekends, and they serve this function admirably. The salary for this? They get a jacket, Mr. Speaker, which I believe they have to turn in if they leave the program. They donít even get gas money.
So there are other ways to look at these problems, and itís these alternate ways that we have to look at and try to understand. To throw money at a problem and simply continue to throw money at a problem, frankly, is a very scary attitude, but there are cheques left in the book, Mr. Speaker, so I guess we can still write them.
Some of the things Iíve heard in the House also scare me, in terms of a business sense. One of the things we heard earlier was about cutbacks to school councils. For the education of the public and the members opposite, much of what the school councils get is to cover per diems for members of the school council to attend. Iíll give an example of a fictitious school council. Letís say there are 10 members, and each member receives $100 per diem per meeting, so in the budget it shows $1,000 for those meetings, but only five members show up. There are maybe very valid reasons why they donít show up: somebodyís sick, somebodyís away on holidays, the kidís sick. There are all sorts of possibilities, but five members show up and $500 worth of honorariums ó or per diems ó is issued.
And that happens, say, over 10 meetings for the year, and that $500 has now turned into a $5,000 surplus. So the budget comes up the next year, and the government looks at it and says, "It doesnít matter. They didnít use $5,000. Weíre going to fund it to the same level it was in the first place." Because if we donít and we cut the $5,000 funding because there was a surplus, somebody is going to stand up in the House and say, "You cut the funding." Not very good business sense, and that does very much scare me.
When we talk to some of the NGOs ó like other members who have spoken today, Iíve been involved with a large number of them ó itís interesting that, more often than not ó Iíve heard in the range of 90 percent, but Iím suspicious that that might be too high ó itís the non-governmental organization, the NGO, that has come back to the government with modifications to an agreement. I wonít say a "contract" because when you look back to the 1998 policy, the Government of Yukon administration manual, which is a public document, there is quite a range of possibilities in there, in terms of contracts, grants and everything else, and there are all sorts of different ways of doing it.
But the interesting part about that, too, is that when you start going back and reading the document, under Principles, 1.5.2, it says that the Yukon government does not have the budgetary means available to assume all funding areas vacated by the federal government or to fund all requests received by NGOs. Itís recognized as far back as 1998, it covers three governments and all three political parties, and it has been a known entity all along.
The goal of the policy is to ensure that Yukon government funding decisions for NGOs are consistent, rational and in line with the governmentís overall goals and priorities.
We have to look at those priorities and goals and determine what we want to do. Throwing money at them, I would submit, is not the most rational choice.
There is also a policy here which, under some circumstances, I might disagree with, Mr. Speaker, but under section 5 it says, "Core funding will not be provided to NGOs." Perhaps under some circumstances core funding is necessary, and I would have a problem with necessarily sticking that one right out and supporting it.
There are a lot of different groups and I think all of us here, Mr. Speaker ó whatever your political stripe, whatever your beliefs and however you ended up in this House, your interest is to serve the people. I recognize that of everyone in this House. We may want to serve it in different ways; we may have different ideas on how itís best served, but we all have our hearts in the right place. If we donít, we have a real problem in being here.
I look at some of the different groups, and I know another group that Iíve been involved with in the past who, over 31 years, have brought huge numbers of dollars into this territory, large tourism, hundreds of people in, thousands of dollars spent. They do it every summer for an annual dog show, and not once in 31 years have they ever gone to the government and asked for a cent. Itís a non-profit organization, registered under the Societies Act. Itís an example of one of, I suspect, quite a large number.
One of the members opposite earlier mentioned "change" ó a big word ó change in government, change in direction of government. That was certainly obvious in the selection by the Yukon population in how this House is configured today.
One of the biggest issues in that election was certainty, and I submit that certainty was afforded in that election.
It scares me at times when members opposite are critical of us not accomplishing in three or four months what they couldnít do in two or four years. I am honoured by that; I think it is an incredible compliment ó I see the Member for Mayo-Tatchun smiling over there ó and I do mean that. I think it is an incredible compliment that they think we can do much better.
People wanted a change and they want the money to be used wisely. People expect that simply throwing money at a problem is not the way to go. It is not the way to accomplish our problems. I also agree with something one of the members opposite said ó that NGOs will often complain that they spend more time doing up requests for funds than they actually do what they are trying to accomplish.
My background is biomedical research and surgical research, and that was one of the most common things, that if you worked 12 months on a research grant, you could pretty well count on the first two months being spent redrawing the applications, which were usually much, much larger than the piles of papers that have appeared on the table in front of us in the last little while ó huge piles of paper submitted to do that. And I agree that when you look at the amount of time that goes into this and what could be done otherwise, so much more could be done. But that is one of the problems of this whole thing, whether it is about research or anything else.
In some of these cases and with some of the programs and applications that have come in, I have learned in the last four months that it is very much like fishing in a bathtub. It might be a lot of fun ó I have to admit that I have gone fishing not only with a barbless hook but actually with no hook on it at all. The whole idea wasnít to catch a fish, and that seems to have some other analogies with what we have gone through in the last two weeks in debating motions and the reality of spending money that was spent a year ago. There is so much more that could be accomplished that is simply getting missed here.
One of the other problems that we have in terms of the non-governmental organizations is that all of them have an agenda, and thatís why they exist, and thatís why they do good work. But often, like any organization ó like this organization ó we all want good work, we all want much the same things, but we tend to want to do it different ways, and that is why there are two sides to this House, Mr. Speaker, and thatís why there are often two sides to many of the NGOs.
It is not reasonable to have five NGOs looking at the same problem that differ on small areas of philosophy. Each wants office space; each wants a telephone; each wants to hire an executive director; each wants to put ads in the paper and hold fundraisers. And I agree with one of the first speakers that, as a businessperson, every time somebody clears the door with a little box or a file folder, you just panic. Youíre immediately terrified that theyíre going to have their hand out, because they usually do. Thatís not a bad thing. I mean, we all do fundraising but, after a while, you can only donate to so many causes. Like with the government, you can, after a while, only do so many things; you can only support so many NGOs; you can only support them to some level.
And thatís why, eventually, you have to sit back and ask, "What are the priorities? Where are we going to go with this? What are we going to do with it? Who is worthy of that funding?" And that is not an easy issue. That is a very, very difficult issue. But when you have your pot of money in one hand and youíre trying to juggle that, at some point, when you throw something in the air, itís going to come down. Itís a simple law of physics. I mean, you donít need a Ph.D. in physics to understand that. At some point, that money is going to land on something, and you have to have the ability to determine where itís going to land, because there are an awful lot of targets that nothing is going to hit, absolutely nothing is going to hit.
We have a saying in my profession ó because weíre in a very unusual position, we provide medical services in a country where medical services for humans are free so no one really equates the fact that that $150 surgery would have cost $8,000 had it been done on your kid.
We have a saying that says, basically, "no money, no medicine." If you donít have the money to invest in the program, you canít use it; itís not there. This constant juggling scares me. People want to throw all the money up in the air, but they think that everybody in the room is going to catch it. Well, I hate to say it, but not everybody is.
In closing, I like the principles of the program. NGOs serve an incredible purpose and many ó probably most ó are well worth supporting. I have problems, however, with the wording that basically puts it on a timetable that says it would be unlimited, and that doesnít recognize the fact that many of these are the boutique programs of the federal government. Itís real nice to say that weíll give you two years of funding, but the federal government is not giving an end point. They are firing an arrow off into the field and there is no target out there to hit. That, I have a problem with.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I rise in support of the motion that has been brought forward by the leader of the official opposition. This motion recognizes that non-profit community organizations provide a wide range of necessary services to Yukon people on behalf of the Yukon government. There are countless non-profit community organizations and community groups in the Yukon. Each time we think there is an exhaustive list, in fact, someone says that weíve forgotten one more.
For example, in Health alone, there are, I believe, in excess of 150 non-governmental organizations related to health that are regularly in to see the minister and to see the government. In Energy, Mines and Resources, the government funds the Klondike Placer Miners Association, and I have brought forward motions urging the Government of Yukon to increase the funding to the KPMA, and they are, without a doubt, in the fight of their life with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and for their industry. Iíve recommended that the minister support them, as the industry has supported the work done by that organization.
Environment: the minister mentioned ó Iím not sure if he did mention the Yukon Trappers Association. The Trappers Association also does the trapper education workshops ó a very necessary role. Itís not just providing a wide range of necessary services to Yukon people on behalf of the Yukon government; they meet a wide variety of needs, Mr. Speaker ó needs within our community that we, as members of the public, have recognized; needs that we as a community do not want to see left wanting or unanswered.
The decision of which organizations to fund and to what level is very difficult. These are very difficult choices. Members were elected to make difficult choices. They arenít easy. Itís important that choices be made. We canít fund every organization. I think itís important, when examining this, to look at the need that is being met in our community by the particular organization.
There was discussion earlier about transition homes. The transition home in Dawson, in particular, has come under much discussion in this Legislature as it is funded as a non-governmental organization.
The minister, in response to these discussions, started out speaking about the volume ó whether or not the transition home had met a need and had been used as a safe refuge.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to share with the House the comments that came back to me about the ministerís comment. We fund and support, in a variety of ways ó sometimes with equipment, funding, or moral support ó volunteer fire departments throughout this territory. Never once have I heard a member of this Legislature suggest that because a volunteer fire department hadnít had a fire in six months we should withdraw that support and those services.
For the life of me, I donít understand how the minister could suggest that, because particular use had not been made, or an organization hadnít met a need in a period of time, that funding was no longer required. Of course itís still required, because thatís a safe haven, and thatís about safety, itís about mental health, and itís about people.
With respect to the organizations and their funding, the McDonald government entered into long-term agreements. In preparation for this debate, I didnít pull out the Hansard of that time. I do recall supporting that notion because itís not about a one-time issue for these organizations. We arenít going to need the transition homes in Watson Lake, Dawson and Whitehorse for just one year. We arenít going to need the volunteer fire departments for just one year. We need these organizations. They are meeting needs on behalf of the people of Yukon, and they require long-term contribution agreements.
I must, with respect, disagree with the Member for Southern Lakes, who suggested that, while there was a vote for change, organizations should expect change. Well, the Public Service Alliance didnít expect that because there was a change in government on November 4, their union contract would all of a sudden be changed. Yes, they understand that negotiations are going to happen, but no one reasonably expects that a legal agreement, an agreement reached with a government, is going to be changed. When it comes time to renew that agreement, when it comes time to review and see if the organization is still meeting the need or if there is an ongoing requirement, then yes, understandably there are negotiations, but you donít change a contribution agreement, not in mid-course.
That, Mr. Speaker, would change a trust relationship, which no one wants to see happen. Trust is an important factor to all of us. Thatís why weíre here. A contract with a non-governmental organization is no less binding and should be considered no less binding than the contract the Government of the Yukon has with its employees, with anyone else. A deal is a deal. Fairís fair and trust is trust. You sign a deal, you live up to the deal. You make a campaign commitment, you live up to it.
The non-governmental organizations throughout the territory are meeting a need; theyíre providing a service. Providing them with long-term, stable funding is an important action of government, and itís an important recognition by government that the organization is meeting the need.
I believe very strongly in working with these organizations and recognize it is about making choices. I also recognize that in these non-governmental organizations ó and I have brought this issue many, many times to the floor of this House ó that government has a need met or service delivered and often the director of the non-governmental organization is paid at a far lower wage rate than others who are working in the so-called public sector and without the benefits. These individuals are working because their hearts are in it, they believe in it and to spend their time filling out endless applications for funding as opposed to delivering the service and doing what the non-governmental organizational board has directed them to do is not the most productive use of their time. A stable, long-term funding arrangement enables those non-governmental organization directors and others to focus on the task at hand, which is meeting a need or delivering a service that government has asked them to do.
I am very concerned that the members opposite have indicated they donít support the motion and have suggested there be some wording changes but have yet to bring forward any amendment. There is some history in backing out of agreements from the side opposite that troubles me and it troubles me greatly because individuals have signed in good faith with the Government of Yukon no matter who is in that office, and there should be every expectation that agreement will continue to be upheld.
I believe very strongly that agreements should be lived up to. Thatís why, for example, although we didnít enter into an agreement on Connect Yukon, there are balloon payments that are required in subsequent years of the government. Upon taking office, we were locked into that agreement. We didnít rip it up; we didnít change the course. We lived up to it, and the ongoing payments showed in our financial documents.
There are a number of non-governmental organizations with which we were in the second year of a three-year funding agreement. Upon taking office, we didnít come in and change that. We believed, as a party, in living up to those agreements, and it troubles me greatly that some others have suggested that the current government does not believe ó some others on the floor of this House believe that they should be open to change. That troubles me greatly. I believe strongly that the government should live up to signed agreements. I believe that they should enter into long-term, stable funding agreements with non-governmental organizations. Itís not just non-profit ó itís non-governmental organizations, as well, with which the government currently has funding arrangements. I believe they should live up to them. I believe they are a good thing, a good use of taxpayersí money, because many of these organizations meet needs in our community that government cannot meet. And, dare I say it, they also deliver a service at far less than what it would cost the Government of Yukon sometimes.
The voluntary board members who serve on these organizations ó we commend them not just during Volunteer Week but throughout the year. They are the volunteers who serve on the athletic organizations; they are the volunteers who serve on the boards of the transition homes. And their volunteer hours and their contribution to our community ó and by that I mean the whole Yukon ó is invaluable, by ensuring that they are spending their time working on the organization to which theyíve pledged their volunteer time, instead of chasing after endless funding applications.
Thatís why people serve on boards, because they are committed to a cause. They donít want to spend their time chasing after money, doing endless fundraising and raffles. They want to ensure that, for example, the transition home is meeting the safety needs of women. They donít want to be spending their time planning yet another bake sale and yet another walkathon.
I do support the motion. I commend it to the House. I would urge the members opposite, if they are prepared to support it, and some have indicated that they wish change, to bring them forward so we could have a reasonable discussion. However, I believe the motion, as worded, reflects the intent and the recognition that the Yukon government should enter into stable, long-term funding agreements, and that they should live up to those agreements.
Mr. Cathers: Iíd like to first of all clear things up for the member of the third party and any others who are unclear on how we on this side of the House stand. We support the need for non-governmental organizations. We support the benefit of them and we commend the hard work that they do.
I stand here supporting the intent of this motion and certainly, from listening to my colleagues on this side of the floor, I understood that they were all in support of it as well.
Itís important when we look at this motion that we look at what weíre doing with this. It is a very beneficial intent.
I think there are some minor changes that would be appropriate. Itís important to recognize that many of the problems being faced ó the cuts to funding ó are because the federal government has a history of starting programs and then backing out of its commitments. It starts the programs and takes the credit when the cameras are there, and then pulls out and leaves YTG holding the bag.
Mr. Speaker, I move the following amendment:
THAT Motion No. 67 be amended by:
(1) substituting the words "Yukon and federal governments" for the words "Yukon government", where those words appear in the motion;
(2) substituting the words "on their behalf" for the words "on its behalf", where those words appear in the motion;
(3) adding the words "by the federal government" after the words "arbitrary funding cuts"; and
(4) adding the words "subject to annual appropriations" after the words "long-term and binding funding agreements."
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Lake Laberge that Motion No. 67 be amended by:
(1) substituting the words "Yukon and federal governments" for the words "Yukon government", where those words appear in the motion;
(2) substituting the words "on their behalf" for the words "on its behalf", where those words appear in the motion;
(3) adding the words "by the federal government" after the words "arbitrary funding cuts"; and
(4) adding the words "subject to annual appropriations" after the words "long-term and binding funding agreements."
Mr. Cathers: I think itís important that when we present this amendment ó and Iím hopeful weíll be able to present it, and I hope weíll be able to get unanimous support on what I feel is a very important amendment ó that weíre all inclusive of the picture.
We, on this side of the House, willingly accept our responsibility, as the Government of Yukon, to act in the best interests of the people. I suspect that the members opposite would concur with me when I say that it is time for the federal Liberal government to step up to the plate and honour its responsibilities.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to bring up a point relevant to this. Itís the case that we just saw yesterday, I believe it was, the vote by the federal government to add another $59 million to the black hole they call the federal gun registry. The Auditor General says theyíve already wasted over $1 billion on it and thatís only what she can trace. Most of the amounts are untraceable, she feels, but she canít even begin to put numbers on it for the amounts for the Justice department and other associated departments, but sheís very suspicious that it is far more than that.
Itís important here because the point is that I donít feel Yukoners would appreciate those actions. I think itís important to be responsible with the money and I would challenge anyone to find me one Yukoner who would rather see that money spent on the gun registry ó that $59 million or the other $1 billion-plus ó rather than having the federal government use a small portion of it for health spending or to keep up their commitment to the Salvation Army here, instead of yanking the funding.
We just saw the situation where the Yukon and the other two territories and all the provinces went out with hats in hand asking the federal government for more money, please, for health care. Well, we were successful here. We managed to get a fund that totalled $60 million for all three territories. And thatís beneficial for us. Itís a huge thing for us. Yet, on the other hand, this $59 million is spent like itís pocket change on another dead-end program here: the federal gun registry.
Mr. Speaker, I suspect, then, that the members opposite, at least the official opposition NDP, would agree with me in saying itís time for the federal Liberal government to start being responsible, to start living up to its commitments instead of just posturing for the cameras and pulling the plug as soon as the camera turns elsewhere, which is what a lot of people feel itís doing.
The average Canadian citizen pays 47.5 percent of their income in taxes. It is very important that those commitments be met and, yes, it is important ó as the members opposite had in the original motion ó to recognize that the Yukon government needs to meet its commitments, needs to be responsible with its money, and needs to provide certainty.
However, itís also important that the federal government do likewise, because we cannot pick up the slack everywhere the federal government yanks the plug.
NGOs do a very important job. They are very cost-effective and can often deliver that money and those programs and services far more efficiently than government could.
I would also like to address the point in here ó youíll notice in the amendment that we have added the words "subject to annual appropriations" after "long-term and binding funding agreements". There is a principle here in a democracy called legislative accountability. All funding agreements are legally subject to approval by the Legislature each year. It is one of the principles of parliamentary democracy.
We have a situation here ó the possibility that as a government we could transfer money to an organization and, if it were long-term and binding and not subject to Legislature approval, we would have no control over how it is being spent. This is something that my constituents raised to me as a concern on the doorstep ó how government money was being spent. Is there accountability? Are we accountable as a government? Where are we sending it? Are they accountable?
When we transfer money, we must ensure that it is being spent well. We have some NGOs that are depending on very small groups of people. They have a huge responsibility and a large turnover of money that they are using for program delivery. If there was no Legislature control and accountability, there is a possibility here, with some of them dealing with large amounts of money, that a group of unprincipled opportunists could overwhelm this non-profit organization, take the money and leave the people depending on that NGOís services desperate and with nowhere to turn. And that is not an acceptable situation.
By keeping the Legislature with the powers of review every year, it makes it obvious to someone that there is no point in them going out there because they wouldnít have the ability to access any large amount and they would be caught. We are dealing with limited funds and this is the taxpayersí money.
I would like to bring that back to a point that is even more important than the potential ó there may be, admittedly, in many cases a small potential for what I mentioned, but it is a possibility of being overwhelmed by a group of unprincipled opportunists, a small board.
It is the accountability of the government. If the government has the ability to sign any deals they wish for any length of time and the Legislature has no power of review or control or ability to stand up and say no, this is a backdoor means of budgeting. We as a government have to present the budget each year; the members of the Legislature stand up, and the majority have to approve it. If they donít approve, that doesnít happen. The budget is killed and you have to go back to the table. Well, the way we work in our system is that the government is killed if the budget is defeated.
But there is the ability of the Legislature to exert control, to maintain the controls necessary in parliamentary democracy. If you have a long-term and binding funding agreement that is not subject to the review of the Legislature, you would have the possibility that a government, one minister, could go out and sign a binding 15-year funding agreement ó to pick a number out of the air ó but say for 15 years they sign a binding agreement with a non-governmental organization, and then they leave office and you have three full governments sitting within the term of that agreement ó which could be for who knows how much. There isnít a limit on it, if there wasnít the ability of the Legislature to review it and say yes or no. So they can sign an agreement with an unlimited amount, unlimited power and three full governments come and go before they can change it. That is why every agreement, everything that the government does ó the budget, every departmental spending, everything ó has to be subject to the review of this Legislature. Itís about accountability, and we have to maintain accountability.
So in conclusion here, Mr. Speaker, I think that the two ó what I feel are additions to this motion and I hope that the members opposite will be supportive of this ó are to recognize that itís not just the Yukon government but also the federal government who has a responsibility to honour their commitments, to fund the NGOs that they have committed the funds to and also to recognize that it is important that the Legislature maintains control. And I believe every one of us in this House respects the need for deals that have been signed to be respected, but we do have to maintain that control as members, or else we have lost democracy.
Mr. Speaker, Iíll conclude, as Iíd like other members to have an opportunity to express their thoughts. Iím hopeful that we will pass the amendment to the motion and the motion unanimously by the end of this afternoon.
Mr. Hardy: I am only going to speak for a very, very short period of time and thatís about all I have to say because I donít think there is any use going around and around on this. The amendments nullify the motion and alter it in a manner that we are not comfortable with. I do not disagree with the comments that have been made on the other side in regard to the way the federal government, over the years, has operated in setting up programs or raising the hopes of organizations of people by infusing capital into a program or organization, or even starting a new one, and then bailing out. I do not disagree with that. We saw it when we were in government as the NDP. There was a motion brought forward on the floor and I remember very clearly a debate on the floor that was exactly the same thing. But it was a particular motion in regard to exactly what the federal government was doing. This one does not deal with that, and I would be quite happy to bring another one forward in regard to how the federal government sets up ó you can say it that way ó sets up provincial and territorial governments in this manner and then leaves them holding the can, as the expression is.
That is not what the intent of this motion is. In number (3) "adding the words Ďby the federal governmentí after the words Ďarbitrary funding cutsí" indicates that we are only talking about the federal government in number (3), which is not the case. We are also talking about cuts by the territorial government. Because there has already been one incident in this matter ó one situation ó it has to apply. If there wasnít, I may not have a problem with it.
However, it has happened, and thatís partly why itís in there ó to raise attention to what has happened because of the actions of the territorial government, in the hope that will be an incident that wonít happen again, and hopefully, this motion would have gone forward.
Finally, the ending "subject to annual appropriations" basically nullifies the motion. Because Iíve heard it on the other side, I want to make it very clear that when we talk about stable, long-term and binding funding agreements, we have already been working with long-term agreements. They are basically three-year agreements, which have been accepted by the industry and NGOs and accepted by the governments. To throw out figures like 15 years and some rogue minister out there signing all kinds of agreements is hallucinogenic-type thinking at best.
There is already an example, and we have been working with it since 1997 or 1998. Somebody should actually find out whatís going on before they start to talk like that. Thatís what weíre looking at: the continuation of what we have, enhancing it a little bit and ensuring that the contracts that are signed are honoured for those periods of time, until itís time for renewal.
Thatís why I canít support the changes because, as I said, it nullifies the motion and changes the intent. It also doesnít recognize that itís not only the federal government that has arbitrarily cut funding that jeopardizes programs, but the Yukon Party government has does it as well.
Those are my comments and pretty much the comments of our side over here, of the NDP.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the amendment.
I was very interested in the comments by the Member for Lake Laberge. Heís very passionate about democracy and accountability. Iím particularly interested in his comments about accountability, and I challenge and suggest very strongly, then, that, believing as he says he does in accountability, Iím sure heíll be prepared to support me as I disagree with the governmentís repeal of the Government Accountability Act.
The member mentioned boutique programs and suggested it was just unique to the federal government and just unique to the federal Liberal government that boutique programs are introduced. Well, there are a number of governments of all levels and all stripes that are guilty of introducing boutique programs and then withdrawing from the funding. There are a number of them, Mr. Speaker, and itís not unique to one particular level of government, nor is it unique to one particular stripe of government.
To me, the insertion of "the federal government" into this motion negates the purpose of the motion. The member opposite has stood here on the floor many times and said we should focus on what we can do and focus on what the Yukon government is about. Well, this motion focused on the Yukon government and the member opposite introduced an amendment that adds the federal government. Letís stick to the program. Weíre talking about the Yukon government and Yukon government actions, and thatís what the motion is about. Letís stick to it.
So, I donít support the inclusion of the federal government. And thatís not about partisanship; itís about focussing on what the Yukon government is ó its actions and our recommendations to the Yukon government in this particular motion.
The "subject to annual appropriations" line is spurious reasoning, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that every single dollar is always subject to annual appropriations. Every dollar, every departmental funding, is. Our own contributions to the pension plan are subject to annual appropriation. That goes without saying, and it doesnít need to be spelled out in this particular motion because the thrust of the motion was urging the current Yukon Party government to live up to funding arrangements that have been made and contribution agreements.
And it was brought forward because we have seen that the Yukon Party has demonstrated they will not live up to signed agreements. There have been unilateral funding cuts, and I share with others the concern in this House for that kind of arbitrary action on a signed binding agreement. I believe governments should live up to agreements. I believe we should recognize and work with non-governmental organizations. They meet needs in our communities; they deliver services on our behalf.
So I donít support the amendment. I donít believe it enhances the motion, and I donít believe it is consistent with what the member has previously put forward in this House in terms of focussing our discussion on Yukon issues and urging the Yukon government to take particular action, and I donít believe the addition of "subject to annual appropriation" is necessary. As the member ought to know, any Cabinet minister entering into an agreement on behalf of the Government of Yukon is subject to Cabinet, as well, and Management Board. So the idea that there would be a rogue minister out there without the knowledge of his colleagues ó well, it happens, but it usually winds up on the Cabinet table sooner or later, or on the floor of this House.
So I would suggest that we stick to the motion as it has been brought forward. Weíve all offered comments on it, and I would urge members to support the original motion and defeat this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím surprised that the member from the third party is not happy with this motion, with all her capable background in government ó her 24 long months.
On the motion ó
Youíre getting very, very close to a character assassination, and I would ask that you bring yourself back in a little and not use those types of terminology.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay. On the memberís amendment to this motion, I think itís very important that we highlight the federal government, because we enter into agreements with the federal government and they should honour their commitments. In this motion we are also saying to organizations that there are federal government contributions out there, they should be aware of them and they should manage accordingly. In other words, if we are joint funding this or if they are funding it, everybody at the table should understand that they are being funded.
As far as the other amendments, "subject to annual appropriations" just means exactly what the third party says. Everybody knows that every year it has to go before the government for checks and balances. So, again, all weíre doing is putting on the books the facts of the matter. So, in other words, weíre going to manage the money in a proper fashion, which we were elected in this House to do. We are going to give guidelines. In other words, we are going to make sure that everything is running according to the agreements. We have a corporate funding policy from 1998 that all three governments have lived under. I notice that the parties across are so worried about this side of the House. Well, they were in power for a period of time and they didnít make the changes that theyíre asking for today. In other words, we enter into different agreements with different groups.
Now, are NGOs necessary? Certainly they are necessary. I mean, nobody in this House is going to argue that they arenít necessary. I appreciate the comments, all the positive comments we hear.
They certainly arenít a make-work project. That is not what we have NGOs for ó to guarantee people work. That isnít why we have them. I hope that people in the House realize they do serve a purpose, and itís not that, if we donít need the NGO any more, we would continue it because someone needed a job. I donít think that is part of it.
Another thing is that we, as politicians, play politics with the NGOs, like we are doing today. We bring up certain groups, talk about them and whatever. I guess that is all a part of politics. I am a novice to it and not as experienced as the leader of the third party. I donít have that massive background, but looking from the sidelines, I look at it and think that if I were a part of the NGO working away in a positive fashion, would I like to be brought up every day in the House and red-flagged? I donít think so.
So anyway, what we have to do is ó we all agree that NGOs serve a purpose. We all agree they need funding, and I think we all agree they need management ó the money needs to be managed. In other words, the money has to be given in a way that the people of Yukon understand that it is being given in a proper fashion and being accounted for on a yearly basis.
The amendments are involving the federal government, yes, because there are a lot of things out there that they commit to, as we all have talked about, and so we just put that in the amendment as a reminder that they are there and that people should understand that, when the money runs out, maybe there isnít more money to beef it up.
As far as the annual appropriation, as the third party says, we do it anyway.
So, again, all weíre doing is reminding people that we do it. We have long-term funding in place for some. Some are shorter. Some NGOs are in place for a shorter period of time. We donít need them for a longer period of time.
So, I am going to support the amendment, and hopefully the House will reconsider its decisions.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise to also support this amendment, as was brought forward by the Member for Laberge, for a number of reasons.
First, I would just like to say that over the last few months I have certainly had the opportunity to meet with various non-governmental organizations to discuss matters of mutual importance. Organizations such as the Northern Film and Video Industry Association, Yukon Quest, Sourdough Rendezvous, Salvation Army, Yukon Arts Centre, Yukon Historical and Museums Association, Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, Wilderness Tourism Association, Tourism Industry Association of Yukon, and Yukon Convention Bureau, to name but a few.
Now, each of these organizations throughout the Yukon provides a very integral service on behalf of all Yukoners. They offer service cost effectively and in such a manner that it is beneficial to all of us.
In the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, Iím pleased to say that there are well over 200 contribution agreements with various organizations, to the tune of $3.8 million.
In Justice we have a number of contribution agreements, as well, totalling almost $2 million. Again, I recognize the very important roles that these groups, these organizations, play in our territory. They provide the most cost-effective service we could ever begin to imagine. I believe the motion before us is very timely, and Iíd like to thank the member opposite for bringing it forward.
The amendment, which the Member for Lake Laberge has also brought forward, is also timely as well as appropriate, as it reflects some of the challenges we face in the territory here today ó challenges as a result of the federal government and its continuation of backing out of programs that they first started, placing additional pressures on our NGOs and how they operate. I just refer to the Salvation Army as a case in point and their difficulty in securing funds to operate the downtown emergency shelter as a result of the federal government pulling its funding from the Salvation Army. It is truly unfortunate and is very much unnecessary.
As members opposite are fully aware, we on this side of the House are working very diligently trying to get this financial house back in order. As members opposite are also fully aware, the government has had to make some difficult choices over the last four months. Unlike the previous two governments, who had the opportunity to enjoy record government surpluses, we on this side of the House have had very few options available to us as to how to distribute funds.
Now, I believe all of us in this House have had the opportunity to volunteer time and energy to a number of organizations that, again, play an important role in the territory.
Certainly, as a fellow volunteer, Iím especially aware of the hard work and effort that goes into keeping an organization up and going ó numerous hours of unpaid work that members contribute on a daily basis. Some organizations rely on government funding and some do not. Whatever service NGOs provide, I believe all Yukoners can agree that services are provided on a professional basis and they are offered at the best rate one could provide today.
As I mentioned earlier, funding many times becomes an issue of concern, particularly when funding is reduced. As I also mentioned earlier, by and large, this matter is of particular concern and can be directly attributed to the failure of our Government of Canada to maintain its own commitment. The Outreach van is but one of the recent examples where the federal government, again, provided funding to commence a program ó a very good program ó only to rescind its funding the following year. In this instance, itís the territorial government that is left to pick up the pieces. In this instance, when resources are strained, it makes it especially difficult to step up to the plate.
So I just want to go back to what I and most of my colleagues have been saying throughout the afternoon, and thatís regarding our financial house. Itís not my intention to lay blame on the side opposite for the economic woes we are in today or for the financial state we find ourselves in. However, it is very important to recognize that the reductions that our government had to make were not out of want but were simply out of need ó the need to get our finances back on track. As a result, difficult decisions had to be made.
As the leader of the third party alluded to earlier, governance is certainly about making difficult decisions, and we on this side of the House know this especially to be true.
The rationale for introducing this particular amendment is twofold. Itís to reflect the pattern of federal spending and its inconsistency and the very matter of having to live within our own means.
Mr. Speaker, Iím very pleased to support this motion, with the amendment that is presented by the Member for Lake Laberge, and I would especially hope that the members opposite would reconsider their views on this amendment.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion as amended. Itís a friendly amendment. It brings clarity to the issues and it addresses, head on, where the responsibility for the funding clearly lies and how it should flow.
Let me share with the House, Mr. Speaker, some of the initiatives in my department that are funded, some of the NGOs. Teen Parent access to education, $18,000; Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, $30,000; and the Child Development Centre, $1,241,000. In addition to that, they have an additional funding contribution agreement for other tasks that theyíll be taking on. Kausheeís Place, $632,000, and our government has given the womenís shelter, Kausheeís Place, a firm commitment that if the needs increase beyond the current levels, we will assist.
The Help and Hope for Families Society, $192,000; and the Dawson shelter, $142,000 and, in addition to the contribution for this year, our government is committed, should the need arise, to provide additional funding ó $50,000 was relocated or removed from the Dawson shelter and funded into Kausheeís Place; the Dawson shelter was using that $50,000 for double staffing. The need was not there and the need for an increase in funding was at Kausheeís Place. Hospice Yukon Society, $145,000; Yukon Council on Ageing, $40,000; Yukon Association for Community Living, $42,000; Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, $50,000; Challenge, $428,000; Line of Life program, $20,000; Salvation Army, $40,000; Signpost Seniors, $40,000; TeegathaĎOh Zheh day programs, $308,000; TeegathaíOh Zheh adult programs, $464,000; AIDS Yukon Alliance Blood Ties Four Directions, $139,000; Second Opinion Society, $90,000; and Yukon Family Services Association, $820,000.
Mr. Speaker, there is a significant amount of funding flowing from the Department of Health and Social Services alone to a number of very capable NGOs. These organizations are, without exception, doing an exemplary job of filling a much-needed role.
Thatís just part of the equation, because it goes on and on and on, into the arts community and all other areas across the Yukon. This motion, as amended ó with this friendly amendment ó brings clarity to the issue, and I urge the members opposite to reconsider their position on this motion and support it. Itís a good motion. I recommend it to this House, and I would encourage the members opposite to sit back, analyze it, and Iím sure theyíll come to the conclusion, as we have on this side of the House, that weíre in full and complete support of this motion. We look forward to bringing this to a vote.
Mr. Rouble: I stand in support of the motion as amended. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I was under the expectation that this would be received as a friendly amendment.
Mr. Speaker, I support longer funding for NGOs. I believe that it will give them greater certainty and allow them to continue their operations more effectively and more efficiently. I believe that we need to create a better process for funding NGOs ó a process that will allow them to accomplish what they want to, but wonít have them ó if I can coin a phrase ó jumping through hoops to get their funding.
Itís not easy for NGOs to raise money. As I stated earlier, itís challenging for organizations to raise money. Memberships, donations, sponsorships and fundraising arenít the solution for every organization.
Mr. Speaker, the amendments to this motion go to clarify it. They indicate there are additional responsibilities by additional levels of government. And the federal government is certainly involved in funding many of our NGOs.
When the federal government funds local initiatives, it certainly becomes a local issue. Further clarifying the situation by including the phrase "subject to annual appropriations" ó well, Iím confused, Mr. Speaker. If thatís always understood, why is it objectionable to include it in the motion? If we always understand that, then why is there an objection if itís included? I believe it just goes to further clarify the issue.
On the issue of change, change can also mean an increase. As the Minister of Health and Social Services just said, there was a commitment to increase funding if there was a need. If the organization came back and said, "Look, we have a demonstrated need, weíve had such a huge increase in demand", should we be hamstrung by the contract and say, "Well, Iím afraid we have a contract and thatís it, itís written in stone, we cannot amend it"? We need to have that flexibility to react to the situation, to react to the changing needs of the community.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this amendment goes to clarify it, it goes to include the responsibilities of others, and itís a good amendment. Iíd like to see the House pass this motion that calls for longer term funding to organizations. I think thatís a good thing, and Iíd urge the members opposite to reconsider their position on this and hopefully stand in support.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 67 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Motion No. 67 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 65
Clerk:Motion No. 65, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House recognize that:
(1) the Child Welfare League of Canada conducted a review of services to children in care and prepared a report to the Liberal government in June 2002, which resulted in 15 recommendations;
(2) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended as first priority that government address social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls;
(3) the Child Welfare League of Canada recommended that government hire child welfare policy staff as a second priority; and
(4) the Yukon Liberal government publicly agreed with these two recommendations and was working toward their implementation; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to detail its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada and to provide timelines for the implementation of recommendations for addressing social worker, supervisory and policy staffing shortfalls.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion that I brought forward. Wednesdays are an opportunity to bring matters to the floor of this House and to the attention of the government.
Itís also an opportunity to urge the government to take action ó it can be the Government of the Yukon or other governments. Itís also an opportunity to publicly discuss and bring to the publicís attention matters important to our community and to our health as a community 1 and 2 of the Child Welfare League of Canada report, and I will be addressing those recommendations. I think itís very important that we have a full and thorough discussion this afternoon of these issues. I think itís also important ó as there are a number of members in this House who are new and who may not have been part of the debate or be aware of previous debates in the past ó to provide some background to the Child Welfare League report and how it came about and the reasons why Iím bringing this particular issue forward at this particular time.
Fundamentally, itís about children, Mr. Speaker. I believe that every individual in this House recognizes how valuable and important, how most precious, is that special trust that our children have in us as adults and how important our children are, and how we treat our children and care for our children is a reflection on us.
Most Yukoners are very busy in their own lives, caring for their own children or being part of the community as a volunteer or part of non-governmental organizations. Unless youíre paying close attention, an individual may not have a high level of awareness of the number of children who are in care or the number of families who are in crisis. Itís about parenting; itís about drug and alcohol abuse; itís about dysfunction; itís about a number of difficult subjects that, in our busy lives, we donít always take the time to examine and recognize.
It doesnít come up in our everyday conversation, unless itís broached or raised by someone. I strongly believe that we, as a community, have a responsibility. As legislators, we have responsibilities. Of course, we know about the Childrenís Act and about a number of other pieces of legislation. These are very sensitive subjects.
Previously, in debates in this House, we have had many discussions about mandatory reporting of FASD. I believe we need to talk about this. We need to recognize these issues. We need to talk about our families in crisis, we need to recognize that the issues exist. We also need to recognize that government has a role. We need to recognize that there will always be children who require care and the need for some kind of care. And we could talk about some of the root causes. We could talk about addictions and how weíre dealing with addictions and abuse in our society. We could talk about homelessness, and we could talk about violence. We could talk about a number of different issues.
But I want to focus the discussion, and Iíve asked the House to focus the discussion by bringing forward this motion on children in care ó not the root causes for why theyíre in care, but to recognize that we will have children in care and how we, as a government, deal with that. Itís the role of government to recognize the need and responsibility. Itís also the role of government to recognize how best to resource and address the issues that have been raised.
Iíd like to recommend very strongly to all members of the House the reports that were commissioned by the previous government on children in care in the Yukon. There are two reports. They were commissioned in 2001. In 2001 the government of the day recognized and undertook a comprehensive review of the services to children in care. There were two reports. One is the Anglin report ó Professor Jim Anglin from the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria ó and the report is entitled, Their Future Begins Today: Yukon Residential Care Review. For the sake of expediency, Mr. Speaker, Iíll be referring to this as the Anglin report rather than to its full title. This report was delivered in December 2001.
The importance of this issue and the importance of this discussion can be found on the first page. The report itself is dedicated respectfully to all of Yukonís young people living in and out of home care.
That goes back to my point about youth and children. Just a statistic from the report ó there is recognition in the Anglin report that there are 7,500 children in the Yukon under the age of 18. At any given point in time, or at the point of time of the report, 200 were in foster care and 40 were in residential care.
I think itís also important to note that the Anglin report, at the outset, acknowledges the hard work, the dedication and the professionalism of the Government of Yukonís staff involved in this particular field.
As Professor Anglin reported, it has been a rare privilege to meet so many Yukon young people and so many adults who truly care for and about them. There were also members of the public at large who oversaw and worked as a committee with Professor Anglin, and he acknowledges and thanks them for their work. And I would also like to again publicly thank the members of the committee: Mr. Buchan, Addie OíBrien, Truska Gorrell, Mary Battaja, and Bonnie Clark. Professor Anglin acknowledges them and recognizes them, and I would also like to do the same. I have named these individuals, as it is a thanks, Mr. Speaker, and a recognition of their volunteer and valuable contribution to Professor Anglinís work, as he has publicly acknowledged them. I also note that, in his acknowledgements, Professor Anglin says he hopes that the recommendations made in this report do justice to these individualsí dedication to children and to their aspirations for the future.
His recommendations were four key recommendations that I would like to put on the record and then would like to delve in greater length, as my motion does, into the Child Welfare League of Canada recommendations. Professor Anglin recommended in his report the involvement of First Nations, and he recommended that family and childrenís services branch enhance their current partnership and co-planning processes with Yukon First Nations and recognize the need for more First Nations involvement with respect to children in care.
His second recommendation was a system of care, and he noted the need to move away from several of the current institutional-style group facilities, and that was the debate of the 29th Legislature of this House. It was significant and spread throughout the 29th Legislature in daily Question Period and in debates in Health and Social Services.
Professor Anglin also recommended expanding the current range of smaller and specialist family home options available for youth requiring out-of-home care.
His two other recommendations were quality assurance and advocacy. In quality assurance, he suggested that a high priority be afforded to ensuring that appropriate educational training is available for current and prospective child and youth workers and specialist foster care. With respect to advocacy, Professor Anglin recommended cultural advocacy throughout group care services as well as the child-in-care system as a whole.
The government of the day response on January 7, 2002 to the recommendations was that the department was considering a staged response to the implementation of the reportís recommendations and added that there was a preliminary cost estimate of these recommendations of $3 million annually. I highlight that because itís important to recognize, when weíre discussing recommendations or weíre bringing forward motions, not only the intent of the motion, but if weíre recommending something to government, we should recognize that there is a cost attached and be prepared to make recommendations on that as well.
So that was Professor Anglinís report in brief, the summary.
Part 2 of the comprehensive review of Yukon services to children in care was the Child Welfare League of Canada report, which was delivered in the summer ó July. Itís dated June 2002 and was publicly made available in July to the Yukon public.
Just for membersí background, the Child Welfare League of Canada is a nationally, federally incorporated charitable organization, such as we were discussing moments ago. Their mission statement, if you will, or their raison díêtre, is they are dedicated to protecting and promoting the well-being of Canadaís children.
The Government of Yukon, through family and childrenís services branch, is a member of the Child Welfare League of Canada and has indicated its public support for standards of excellence for the child and family service programs and the contribution of these excellent programs to good outcomes for children.
I would like to discuss the recommendations and the report by several references to the report. I recognize the motion specifically deals with the first two recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada report, and I have brought other motions forward and hope to discuss them as well, but for now I want to focus on these two recommendations. Just as the motion itself is about children and children in care, it is also about the people who serve them. Those are the two specific recommendations. The motion asks the government to act on recommendations 1and 2.
I would like to briefly outline, if I might, the broad context of the Child Welfare League of Canada report and the support, if you will, for my arguments that the government should immediately act on recommendations one and two. In this broad context, we have to understand what it is that those who are involved in child welfare and, in particular, family and childrenís services branch do. The report says that, in the simplest of terms, the tasks of child welfare in-care services are actually described in the Child Welfare League of Americaís foster training manuals. It is about what we are talking about today ó the protection and nurturing of children and about meeting childrenís developmental needs and addressing developmental delays and the relationships between children and their families and connecting children to safe, nurturing relationships that are intended to last a lifetime.
Itís about working as a member of a professional team when youíre involved in this field. And I think itís important that we speak about the context in which these professionals are working.
Marilyn Callahan is quoted as saying, "Child welfare work is fraught with profound strains. The contradictions are clear: save the child from harm, but keep families together. Police family performance, yet support family strengths. Satisfy personal and professional obligations for good practice, yet deliver service within the mandate of the employing organization. Work collaboratively, yet bear the responsibility of that work individually." And thatís a very important point, Mr. Speaker.
This motion is about people who perform those tasks on behalf of government. The people who serve these children in care need additional resources, and that point is made very, very clear in this report. We, as Yukoners, do not need a crisis, a critical incident. Weíve seen them happen in the nightly news in other jurisdictions ó in Alberta and Ontario ó and our hearts have ached to see the news reports of these situations. We donít need them here. We donít need them anywhere.
There is also a difficulty when such critical incidents occur ó I go back to the point of "yet bear the responsibility of that work individually." People, the public ó whoís at fault? How did this happen? There is also a liability. There is a responsibility when something goes wrong.
I contend, Mr. Speaker, that that responsibility is not with the hard-working professionals. Theyíre professionals doing their jobs. The responsibility is with us ó with us as a Legislature to urge the government when thereís a recommendation for more resources, to urge the government to ensure those resources are there, to ensure that these professionals are supported in what they do.
If I might digress for a moment, Mr. Speaker, I couldnít do what these professionals do, and Iím sure many of us have run into individual Yukoners on the street who have looked at us and said, "I couldnít do what you do." We all look at other professions and recognize that there is professionalism and there are skills associated with those jobs. Iím asking that we recognize these professionals, recognize the incredibly important task we have entrusted them to do on our behalf as a society. Iím asking that we give them the resources and that we support them.
The Child Welfare League of Canada report notes ó and I would note, Mr. Speaker, that the report makes mention of the fact that the problems and issues that were encountered here in the Yukon are no different than they are anywhere else in Canada. These issues are common to elsewhere in Canada.
The problem in Yukon is ó I would say again from the report, on all fronts ó that child welfare agencies are experiencing extraordinarily high turnover rates, low employee morale, and stifling competition from other human service sectors. In essence, we have given an impossible mandate to child welfare professionals: work longer hours with heavier workloads under increasingly stressful and, at times, threatening conditions.
This is what weíre asking these Yukoners, these professionals, to do. This is the environment theyíre in, so Iím asking the government to consider giving them more resources to help them do their job. It is a recommendation straight from the report, and this was the report and the reviewerís report ó substantiation for asking this.
I have to note that the report also recognizes that there is a talented and diverse child welfare workforce in the Yukon. There is considerable commitment and concern for the children at risk and the families. Thereís also a dedicated management group that is very well-informed about the cause of caring for children. We have to recognize that these are dedicated professionals working in an extremely stressful environment.
The report also recognizes that thereís generally workable legislation.
And weíre not talking about the legislation this afternoon. The motion doesnít focus on the legislation; the motion doesnít focus on the root causes and it doesnít focus on some of the other recommendations. It is strictly focused on these recommendations ó recommendation 1 and 2. There were 15 in total, for those who are not familiar with the report.
There is a sound infrastructure in the Yukon. Thereís a very talented workforce. Thereís a very committed workforce. They need more resources.
I would also note that there are other governments involved in this particular issue, and Iíd like to speak briefly about the First Nation governments and their involvement. This aspect of this issue is also addressed in the report, and the report expresses some very positive elements in this regard, Mr. Speaker. It notes that thereís a willingness to work together, as partners ó First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon.
What is needed are ways to ensure this happens, and one of the suggestions in the report is the establishment of a secretariat. I donít know if the minister, if he chooses to respond to this motion, will enlighten us on the progress in that particular area. The approach that was being considered was a child welfare secretariat at the Council of Yukon First Nations. I donít know if that has moved forward significantly since the report or not.
I am looking forward to, hopefully, a discussion by the minister. I would also add, as I had said earlier, this is perhaps not an issue that comes up in everyday conversation. It may not come up at a business after-hours at the Chamber of Commerce or in a meeting between a minister and a non-governmental organization that isnít directly dealing with children, but it is an issue we need to talk about and have a responsibility for, and an issue that we need to address as legislators. Again, I commend to all of my colleagues ó there is a lot of food for thought ó but take the time to read these two reports that were very well-received, because they do address this issue.
Although I have indicated it doesnít come up necessarily in door-to-door or in ordinary cocktail conversation, I did hear this issue door-to-door during the last election campaign. What I was asked at the doorstep was: the government had commissioned these reports, and was I content ó as a member of the Legislature or as someone seeking their support to be a member of the Legislature ó to let these reports, with their clear recommendations, sit on the shelf, or was I prepared to urge the government to bring them forward. I was, during that campaign as I am now, strongly committed to seeing the government ó whoever is in office ó seeing these recommendations implemented, and I know it is not easy.
They take substantial resources and substantial commitment, particularly by the minister at the Cabinet table.
I would remind members, however, that weíre also speaking about children. And I was asked by voters, who were aware of this work, to continue our commitment. I feel Iíve done that. I also recall very clearly a very passionate conversation with a Yukoner who was very straightforward. She said it to me, "Let it be on your head if the governments do not live up to these commitments to children." I take that comment very seriously. I believe we need to do everything we can to ensure that these recommendations are lived up to and put in place, and I will continue to try and press the case until I can convince the Minister of Health to add the additional resources to implement recommendations 1 and 2.
As I said, itís not inexpensive. I also recall that the government is not without resources. There have been expensive, extensive sole-source contracts under this government. There are new deputy ministers being added.
Government has made choices. Theyíve made choices in the new budget theyíve presented. One example is that there is a doubling in the amount the governmentís expending for agricultural land development. In the supplementary that was tabled, there was $397,000 less in social assistance.
When the Cabinet and Management Board are making their choices, I urge them to make this choice: to follow recommendation 1 and address the social worker and supervisory staff shortfalls, and address recommendation 2, which is child welfare policy staff.
Iíd like to give the "why", Mr. Speaker. First of all, itís about workload. The volume of work that is expected of the child welfare staff and managers exceeds generally accepted standards, so not only have we asked these individuals to do extremely difficult tasks, in the Yukon weíve given them a workload that is well beyond what is considered normally or acceptable anywhere else in the country. As the report says, the caseload size, when measured against generally accepted standards, provides a good indicator of the degree to which child welfare workers are working in reasonable or unreasonable conditions. The number of children in care in Canada has increased by 50 to 65 percent between 1996 and 2000. The Yukon is also experiencing this surge in demand.
The standards for child welfare practice ó there are caseload benchmarks. So, in the Yukon, in the intake assessment in family services, these teams and these professionals are the front door to child welfare services for children at risk and their families. These are the people who respond to referrals. They do the initial assessment of risks. They are the front line. The benchmark for intake and assessment is 12 cases. The current caseload in the Yukon, as of June of last year ó so nine months ago ó was 25 to 30.
Thatís more than double. For child protection and family services, the benchmark is 15. The current case load in Yukon is 25 to 36.
Under-resourcing ó so what happens if we donít fill the need? We just say, "Well, too bad. Weíve made other choices with our funding." Well, under-resourcing directly impacts services to children in care. Overworked front-line staff doesnít have the time to undertake investigative, assessment of risk, or to support families fully. They defer decisions. They just simply donít have the time to properly and professionally ó the way they were trained to do ó deal with this number of cases.
So, not only have we asked them to do the impossible in their job, weíve asked them to do the impossible twice over by not resourcing them. Although there is a strong commitment on the part of these individuals, and theyíre working incredibly hard, theyíre constrained by time limits and resources.
Now, the report recognizes that there is a particular burden of responsibility on the state, and I consider that to be all of us, because we all have a responsibility. Earlier, the Minister of Education made note of the fact that it takes a village to raise a child. We have a responsibility as legislators to examine the budget and to urge the government to deal with this particular issue and these recommendations.
With the child placement services, their work load is in excess of recommended standards.
That places an incredible level of stress on individuals. Staff are desperately concerned about their ability to meet the needs of children in care. There has to be the ability to keep their existing case files ó theyíre double the generally accepted workload ó to try and keep them current. There is also, with respect, a preferred benchmark regarding foster families ó 20 foster families for each foster family support worker. The caseload in the Yukon is between 38 and 47 foster families. The Child Welfare League report also specifically addresses the issue of regional workers, which I think is important, given that all of our understanding of the nature of the Yukon that we have a large population in Whitehorse and we have a number of rural communities. Itís important that we understand that weíre talking not only about the family and support workers here in Whitehorse, but there are the regional workers as well.
In this particular case, the report notes that regional workers have a generalist function, so it would not be perhaps as specialized as the Whitehorseís responsibility for social assistance, young offenders, child welfare, plus they manage a small office and supervise administrative support staff, family support workers and supported independent living, so those offices really do perform a wide variety of functions outside of Whitehorse. The report says there is a substantive and immediate need to increase the supervisory resources in this particular area. There is one supervisor responsible for 10 full-time equivalent regional workers. The standard recommended by the Child Welfare League is one supervisor to five.
That is important, given the breadth of work that we are asking the regional workers to do. But in the Yukon it is 10 ó so again, double.
The report also addresses the support staff required, and support staff are too often overlooked and unrecognized. And I am not going to get into the standard ratio in this particular instance, but it is safe to note that we all appreciate ó as we are getting letters out to constituents or from our other lives that we have come to this place from ó and recognize the importance of solid support staff and how important administrative staff is. So if you are trying to keep your case files current and juggle phone calls and work with different families, you know that that administrative support staff is incredibly important. You also want your highly skilled social workers and family support workers working on what they are supposed to be working on, which is cases as opposed to trying to put away a number of files, something that administrative staff are highly skilled and able to do as well.
The direct recommendation from the report ó the first says that, given the serious consequences of understaffing on the front line, departments should review the current level of supervisor and social worker positions compared to the benchmarks and address the staffing shortfalls. And I canít emphasize those particular words enough ó the serious consequences of understaffing. It is about the people, the people we are asking to do these jobs and to whom we, as the state, are giving the mandate, and it is about the children in care and the families in crisis. This is a people issue.
The recommendation is very, very clear that the department has to be resourced, the Minister of Health must ó given the serious consequences of understaffing, there must be additional resources.
Itís clear that the best intentions of well-meaning and capable staff and management ó heavy workloads resulting from under-resourcing undermine their ability to do their job. The result is, how many workers have we lost to burnout? How many workers ó excellent, professional individuals ó are we losing to stress, to burnout? Then what happens is that there is a partnership established and someone has to start all over again.
It also increases the Government of Yukonís liability and all of our responsibility, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that those resources are there because we donít want to see ó God forbid, heaven forbid, we should have a situation for which all of us would feel responsible, because we did not adequately resource the people and didnít ensure that there were the right resources and enough staff to be able to cope with this situation.
The need is there. The need has been very clearly demonstrated, very clearly documented by independent experts in the field. This is the Child Welfare League of Canadaís objective. This is what they are about ó care for children and ensuring good outcomes for children.
I hope that the government will make the choices, that the Minister of Health will make this choice, will encourage and seek the additional funding required to ensure the resources are put there. It can be done. Itís about making choices and I have heard the financial situation of the territory from all different varieties of government and from a number of different locations in this Legislature and outside this Legislature. The fact is that government is about making choices. Financial resources are there to make this choice.
Itís on our conscience if the government doesnít make that choice, because this is fundamental. Itís about who we are as a society and what weíre about. Thatís the first recommendation in terms of social worker and supervisor staffing shortfalls.
There is also a second recommendation to hire child welfare policy staff. Although Iíve spoken about the infrastructure in the territory ó infrastructure being the legislation and so on that supports these individuals and supports the family and children's services branch ó there is also a clear recommendation to hire child welfare policy staff ó the policy that supports the workers. It was envisioned that the child welfare policy support would continue to work toward the policy development support for implementation and review.
Regardless of the size of the child welfare jurisdiction, whether small, like the Yukon, or large, like Ontario, policy development and review is a key core function and it needs dedicated support. We canít make ad hoc policy. Weíve seen what happens when governments do that. There is no consistency. It changes ó interpretation changes with different staff and so on. And in a field where youíre dealing with a high stress level, burnout factor and staff turnover, the policy needs to be clear and readily understood by everyone. It also needs to keep up with current situations as well.
So, itís kind of like the base and roots that support the tree, if you will, of family and children support services. Itís the policy; itís the grounding. We need that support as well.
I believe my motion is quite straightforward. What Iíve asked the government to do in the motion is to immediately implement recommendations 1 and 2 of the Child Welfare League of Canada. So that means that Iím asking the Yukon Party government to give us a timeline, to say to those of us who are interested in seeing this motion come forward whether they agree or donít agree with the Child Welfare League of Canada report and that they recognize the serious consequences of recommendations 1 and 2 and that they are prepared to act upon it.
Now we have a new fiscal year beginning in April 1, and the Minister of Health has had opportunity, for some time now, to construct a budget.
I know he was well aware of this report from his seat in this House, and I hope today, by bringing this forward, I have shared with other members the existence of these reports, encouraged them sufficiently to examine them and encourage their support for the Minister of Health to bring forward this funding request, to make sure we provide Yukon professionals ó who are meeting the needs of children and families in crisis ó with the support they need to do their job.
It isnít a job to them; it is a vocation, it is a calling, it is a cause and something they care deeply and passionately about, as we all do, about children. These are children in care and families in crisis. The government has a responsibility and a role to ensure that we answer this need. The need that is being articulated today is the need for more support workers in this field. It is about making a choice as a government to provide additional funding and additional resources. We were looking at it and working toward it. It was to come before our Management Board. We didnít get the opportunity to complete and see these recommendations implemented, but I am urging the government to do that because, as that constituent said to me, itís on your head if we donít heed the call to support these people.
I can hear, off microphone some, folks saying, "Why didnít you get it done"? It is not an easy task, and I have recognized that from the beginning. We received the report in June or July and were working toward implementing. We publicly stated in the news release accompanying the report that we agreed with these specific recommendations, and we were working toward their implementation.
From this perspective, I encourage the Yukon Party government to do the same, and I would ask members to support the motion on the floor of the House and ask members to support their colleague at the Cabinet table in a request for additional funds to implement recommendations 1 and 2 of the Child Welfare League of Canada report and to, in their response, outline their timelines for doing this.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Rouble: We do have a daunting task ahead of us, donít we, Mr. Speaker? Every day, when we enter the House, there is another issue that arises to the top. Every day weíre faced with the continuum of the pipe that seems to be leaking all the way around and looking at where we need to fix the pipe now. Can we fix it at the front end? Can we fix it at the back end? Is it leaking in the middle? There is a responsibility to do all of that.
The issue of child welfare is a tremendous issue and arguably the most important issue facing our future. If we fall down on the welfare of children, then what do they grow up into, where do they go from here?
The concept of child welfare is one that involves so many different characteristics, so many different components. There are so many different variables that influence the welfare of a child and the development of a child. Thereís the child himself or herself, any medical conditions that that child may face. Thereís the family and the situation that the family might find itself in. Thereís the relationship of the parents of the child and the family structure. Certainly the income of a family is by no means a small characteristic in this equation. Alcohol and drug abuse is another incredibly important variable that will have an influence on the family and therefore on the development of the child.
The economic characteristics ó as I mentioned, the economic characteristics of the family but also of the community.
Mr. Speaker, there are so many issues around this that it could be argued that each one of the ministers is responsible for child welfare. The Minister of Environment is responsible for, well, the environment, ensuring that there is a clean place for children to grow up in. The responsibilities of the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture include ensuring that there is a community with enough businesses to keep the economy going, that there is a culture for the child to grow up in so that the child will remember his or her past. And we could certainly make the case for the Minister of Education.
Mr. Speaker, our government is taking steps to address all of these areas ó a holistic approach, if you will. We canít just solve one individual need of a child. Thereís a whole system that needs addressing, because that whole system will impact and influence the development of that child.
Mr. Speaker, one of the components of the Yukon Party platform was a commitment to a five-step fetal alcohol spectrum plan. It was a component of the platform that I personally took a great interest in because I cannot overemphasize the impact that FASD will have on our community if itís not addressed. My background includes being a coach for Yukon Special Olympics and working with children with FAS/E and FASD. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that itís certainly a challenge to work with these individuals with that affliction, and it is an affliction.
It certainly isnít anything that they have done to themselves or have asked for or had any part in. Itís a situation they were born with and that they had to deal with. Now they will have to learn how to live with that, and our society will have to learn how to work with them, too, to integrate them into our society. If itís not addressed, it will have a tremendous impact on our society and on our economy and our culture ó it could be argued, the existence of whole communities.
I recognize ó and I must qualify this ó that, unfortunately, we need to have social workers. They provide an incredibly valuable source of information and work and expertise, and they do a tremendous job, but it certainly is frustrating that we live in a society that requires them.
With working in other areas, perhaps we can augment our economy, our health services, and our social services, so that weíll reduce the need for social workers. It would certainly be a brighter place to live in if we didnít need them.
The social workers are serving things at the end of the pipe. The problem has been created. Itís coming through, and now we have to solve a problem. What Iím looking forward to working toward is programs and services so we fix things before the end of the pipe.
We need to do what we can to prevent that situation from happening.
There are also some other characteristics and ideas that we need to include in our debate and our plans on how to look at this issue.
The Yukon Party has committed to taking a family-centered approach to establishing special foster homes and is working with individuals with FAS/E and FASD.
To that end I would like to introduce the following amendment.
Mr. Rouble: I move
THAT Motion No. 65 be amended by
(a) adding the following clause to the first paragraph:
"(5) the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada respecting staffing do not take into account the services required for children in government care who are afflicted with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; and"
(b) deleting the final paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government, when determining its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada respecting staffing, to give full consideration to:
(1) the advantages of
(a) the family-centred approach to children in government care, and
(b) the establishment of a system of special foster homes as recommended in both the review of the Child Welfare League of Canada and the Anglin report, and
(2) the needs of all children in government care including those afflicted with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Southern Lakes that Motion No. 65 be amended by
(a) adding the following clause to the first paragraph:
"(5) the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada respecting staffing do not take into account the services required for children in government care who are afflicted with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder; and"
(b) deleting the final paragraph and substituting for it the following:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government, when determining its response to the recommendations of the Child Welfare League of Canada respecting staffing, to give full consideration to:
(1) the advantages of
(a) the family-centred approach to children in government care, and
(b) the establishment of a system of special foster homes as recommended in both the review of the Child Welfare League of Canada and the Anglin report, and
(2) the needs of all children in government care including those afflicted with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned to 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on the amendment to Motion No. 65 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 26, 2003:
Yukon Lottery Commission 2001-02 Annual Report (Hart)