Wednesday, May 5, 2004 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.
In recognition of Hepatitis C Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of this House to pay tribute to the month of May, which is Hepatitis C Awareness Month. This is important, Mr. Speaker, because approximately 530 Yukon residents have been diagnosed with this disease, and there are probably more people out there who do not know that they have it.
Hepatitis C is an infectious virus that is carried in the blood. The number of people with hepatitis C is increasing rapidly in Canada and around the world, primarily among those who are sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia. However, up to 70 percent of newly infected individuals will have no symptoms whatsoever.
For some of those individuals, symptoms may be showing up as late as 20 or 30 years, but in the meantime these individuals are unknowingly infecting others. Itís a never-ending circle. Sometimes we may question why it is so important that we recognize or pay tribute to a disease week, but it is important, Mr. Speaker, that we take advantage of these special weeks to increase awareness, promote positive prevention behaviours and closely examine our own ability to respond to health threats like the one caused by this disease.
Here in the Yukon we have programs through our Yukon communicable disease control unit to aid individuals with hepatitis C. Our department has also partnered recently with Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Blood Ties and Health Canada to introduce a new education and awareness campaign aimed at those who participate in risky behaviours.
As well, we continue to fund Blood Ties to provide services to infected hepatitis C individuals, along with many others.
Iíd like to undertake a little awareness campaign of my own, Mr. Speaker. Hepatitis C causes inflammation of the liver, which can progress to sclerosis, which is extensive scarring that can stop the liver functioning. Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected blood. Some of the most common ways of being infected are through sharing needles, straws, pipes and spoons. Tattoos, body piercing or acupuncture by an operator who does not used sterilized equipment can also cause the infection.
Health care workers can get struck by a needle or sharp piece of equipment that has been infected by blood and they can also become infected.
Mr. Speaker, all Yukoners need to be aware of the risks and how to prevent them. We will continue to work toward that goal through our own programs and with our partners.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of Randy Brant
Mr. McRobb:Iím honoured to rise in tribute to Randy Brant, who worked for the Yukon government as chief land claims negotiator from 1997 to 1999.
After a valiant battle with cancer he passed away on April 17. Born in 1944 in Deseronto, Ontario, Kaherake:ron, his Mohawk name, was a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Nation.
As a descendent of Joseph Brant, who negotiated many treaties, Randy carried on the proud tradition of his ancestors as a statesman and respected diplomat. Randy Brant was a teacher, a community leader and an ordained minister and a distinguished public servant. He is remembered with respect in communities from Moosonee in northern Ontario, where he first taught school, to Hope, Dawson Creek, and Westbank, B.C. In these and many other communities, he left behind an impressive legacy of community facilities and infrastructure. He was a builder of schools, churches, community health care facilities and seniorsí facilities, often when those around him said it was impossible and impractical.
In the early 1990s, Randy worked for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for the Alberta region. Before coming to the Yukon in 1997, he was the assistant deputy minister for Aboriginal Affairs in B.C. He spent many hours here in counsel with chiefs and elders, often around a campfire.
After leaving the Yukon he served in Ottawa as a director general of environment, lands and trusts services in the Indian Affairs program for DIAND.
Randy was known for his efforts to create better understanding of cultural differences and for building bridges between the aboriginal community and non-aboriginal governments, and between industry and First Nations, in his role as director of aboriginal relations for B.C. Hydro. His vision, determination and seemingly inexhaustible energy made him a force to deal with in government.
He often said it was important to make a difference and he did make a difference, because he brought such uncommon commitment and high standards to his work, whatever it was and wherever it took him.
Randy Brant was a charismatic leader who led by example, never coercion. In the historic tradition of the Hodenosaunee and the League of the Iroquois, he sought consensus in government. He was called upon to diffuse dangerously volatile political situations, often successful, often with compassion, intelligence and respect for the issues.
Honoured by many First Nations, he was passionate about the survival of the cultural integrity of all First Nation peoples. He believed the key to good government was building healthy, sustainable communities. His heart was always with native people, seeing ways and means to enable First Nations economic development and prosperity.
Former Chief Ron Ignace of the Skeetchestn Indian Band in interior B.C. describes Randy as a highly principled man who left a lasting legacy in that community by developing band bylaws and policies for orderly economic development.
Former B.C. minister John Cashore says Randy set the standard for how to be a "go-to" guy. He cared more about others than himself. He served to make life better for others, and he was successful in that. His hopeful spirit brought new energy to people in situations requiring clear thinking and practical advice. He was larger than life itself.
Randy loved the Yukon and enjoyed canoeing and fishing on Yukon rivers and lakes. Yukon baseball players and Kelowna hockey players will recall his ability at these sports.
Randy Brant will be remembered for his smile, his laughter and his generous heart. Our condolences to the Brant family in Deseronto, Randyís wife Ursula, son David, daughter Tamee, three grandchildren and many close friends.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following several motions:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to insist that the MLA for Klondike apply the $16,473 he collected from government employees staying at his hotel in 2003 while on government business toward the approximately $280,000 outstanding loan he has with the Government of Yukon.
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to insist that the MLA for Porter Creek Centre apply the amount he collected from government employees staying at his hotel in 2003 while on government business toward the approximately $120,000 outstanding loan he has with the Government of Yukon.
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to insist that the MLA for Lake Laberge apply the $2,500 a company he is part owner of received from contracts with the Department of Tourism toward the approximately $400,000 in outstanding Government of Yukon loans owed by the MLAs for Porter Creek Centre and for Klondike.
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to insist that the MLA for Porter Creek North apply the $15,000 he received from a contract with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources toward the approximately $400,000 in outstanding Government of Yukon loans owed by the MLA for Porter Creek Centre and the MLA for Klondike.
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to insist that the MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin apply the more than $81,000 a company he is part owner of received from contracts with the Department of Highways and Public Works toward the approximately $400,000 in outstanding Government of Yukon loans owed by the MLAs for Porter Creek Centre and for Klondike.
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue the practice begun by the Liberal government of opening Yukon campgrounds on May 1 and providing this service free of charge to Yukoners for the entire month of May.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Social assistance rates
Mr. Hardy: Now call me an optimist, but I have a question that I hope the Minister of Health and Social Services will actually answer. The ministerís agenda for employable single males on social assistance is finally becoming very apparent. Their rates are going to be cut ó plain and simple. We heard that this morning. The minister justifies this by referring to a $1-million increase in social assistance costs last year, and he blames much of that increase on summer transients. Does the ministerís department keep recorded statistics of social assistance intake on a monthly or yearly basis?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Statistics are kept on a daily basis.
Mr. Hardy: Now the minister has always been very quick to dismiss media reports in the past, including ones that quote him word for word, so I can probably anticipate the ministerís response to my next question, but as I say, Iím an optimist, so Iíll ask it anyway.
According to media reports, the ministerís department hasnít been able to come up with any figures that confirm the ministerís claims about what caused last yearís spike in social assistance costs. Can the minister explain this or would he be willing to table both sets of figures ó the departmentís and his own?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is only one set of figures, contrary to the suggestions made by the leader of the official opposition. What I can share with the members opposite and this House is that the department is currently bringing forth the statistics. Theyíre as is, but they canít allow the statistics to identify any individuals, so theyíre examining them from that standpoint because of the confidentiality of a lot of the information contained in the statistics.
Mr. Hardy: I find that a fairly strange answer, considering the one he gave just previous to that. This minister had indicated they keep statistics daily. Weíre talking about a period of over a year ago, last summer. I would assume those statistics are available; I would assume there has been a compilation of those, and Iím really wondering why those figures have not been presented to back up the arguments this minister is making. Thatís why Iím wondering if maybe they donít exist.
In the interests of accountability and to overcome all the scepticism, will the minister just provide the statistical information he used to reach his conclusions and save the overworked officials from having to deal with a flood of access to information requests? If we have to do it that way, we will do it, and I hope he stands up and gives us correct information and tells us now if those statistics from last year are available or not.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The statistics are available, but they have to be available in a format that will not allow anyone who is in the SA system to be identified. Iím hoping the members opposite can appreciate the issue of confidentiality.
The second issue is, Mr. Speaker, if the member would refer to the supplementary budget that was just recently debated in this House, the Department of Health and Social Services had two main amounts. One was to pay for the increase in the collective bargaining agreement and the second amount was to pay for the increase in the social assistance payout for the last fiscal period.
Mr. Speaker, what is appalling about all of this is this member and the official opposition and the third party voted against this important expenditure.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mrs. Peter:I have a question today for the Acting Minister of Justice.
Once again, the court system is prodding this Yukon Party government to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. In court this week, a judge has said there are too many men accommodated in an overcrowded and worn-out facility. This government is spending half a million dollars on renovations to a building that has outlived its usefulness. This jail was built 37 years ago, Mr. Speaker, to house only 30 people. In fact it has had as many as 80 people inside. Why is this government dragging its feet on correcting this dangerous situation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for the question and one may be reminded that we have schools in the Yukon Territory that are older than that correctional facility. There are such things as renovations. Renovations are done consistently, and right now there are renovations being done on that facility and they are going to be adhered to by recommendations.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this minister can use all the excuses he likes. We all agree that effective programming is needed for inmates to turn their lives around, but what good is programming in a building that is overcrowded or unsafe? In court it was humorously suggested that the inmates who rioted were trying to renovate the jail from inside. The point remains that the jail needs to be replaced, not renovated and not put on the back burner. The court has simply said what we have been saying all along.
What is the Cabinetís deadline for the minister to make a decision on this important issue, and do inmates and correction officers have to wait until a new government is elected before they can live and work in a safe environment?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I need to remind the member opposite that this government doesnít need excuses. There is one very fundamental fact with regard to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and that is that there needs to be justice reform taking place. This programming that the member opposite talks about is exactly why this government has chosen to have extensive consultation with First Nations right across the territory. The members opposite have constantly criticized this government for not consulting with First Nations, and then when the government does undertake to do so, we are criticized because we do. I think itís quite obvious that a lot of the First Nations really want a different process to happen for justice, and this government is listening, and we are going to take into account what First Nations are asking to have done with correctional reform.
Mrs. Peter: The Premier of the Yukon made all kinds of noise about signing a memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun First Nation to start work toward replacement of the jail a year and a half ago. We are still waiting for results from that agreement. We donít have any sign that anything has come from that memorandum of understanding. Tomorrow at the Council of Yukon First Nations leadership meeting, justice is on the agenda at 10:30 in the morning. Will the minister be advising the Yukonís First Nation leadership about the construction of a new jail at that meeting?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít know how many times this side of the House is going to have to repeat this, Mr. Speaker, but weíll repeat it again.
The MOU signed by Kwanlin Dun commits this government to exactly the process that was mentioned several times on the floor of this Legislature, and that is to do the consultation with First Nations. A lot of the First Nations do not believe that building a new warehouse to hold more people is the answer. There are a lot of suggestions from different First Nations about seeking out different avenues of dealing with justice, and rightfully so. They make up a very large percentage of the population in WCC and that always has been an issue with First Nations and is becoming more of an issue with all the citizens at large right across Canada.
Question re: Gambling
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Premier on the issue of expanded gambling and casinos in the Yukon.
Yesterday, the Premier admitted he has had discussions with several First Nations, including the Liard First Nation in Watson Lake, about this topic. As part of that discussion, the Premier told the First Nation that he was aware of their request and he would give it some thought. Yesterday in the House the Premier again said he would be prepared to "sit and listen" to proposals from First Nations or others to expand gambling and casinos in the Yukon.
Now, successive Yukon governments, including one that the Premier was a part of, have opposed the expansion of legalized gambling in the territory. It sounds like the Yukon Party has a new position, that it in fact does support the idea of new casinos, and itís a well-known fact that the MLA for Klondike has been a supporter of expanded gambling in the territory.
What is the position of this government on the issue of expanding gambling and casinos in the Yukon? Are they in favour or are they opposed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, letís correct the record. As was related to the House yesterday, this government, when any Yukon citizen, First Nation or corporate entity in this territory comes forward to the government with a good idea or an idea, we will listen to them. Thatís an obligation and responsibility of any government. We live up to it. Obviously the other side of the House takes a different view.
When it comes to the issue of expanding gaming in the territory, we are responding, through action, not rhetoric, in this budget, even with discussions prior to the budget being constructed. Not one thin dime to expand gaming in the Yukon ó thatís the position.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Liberal Party is opposed to new casinos and expanded gambling in the Yukon. We have been very clearly on the record for a number of years on that issue. The Premier owes it to Yukoners to outline a very clear position on this issue.
Several years ago the Yukon Party government conducted public hearings on this very topic. The reaction from the public was very negative. There is little public support for new casinos, other than from the Member for Klondike. Yukoners know that he makes decisions for the government.
Why is the Premier having discussions about expanded gambling when thereís no public support for it? He needs to clearly state that, yes, everyone listens to what Yukoners have to say. What is his position? Is he in favour or opposed to expanded gambling in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are in favour of listening to Yukoners, no matter what they bring forward. We have not proceeded with expanding gaming in the Yukon whatsoever, and thatís evident in the budget. Thereís tangible evidence that this government is not proceeding, but weíre not going to preclude anyone in this territory from coming forward to the government with ideas. The responsibility of this government is to ensure that, as we build a future for this territory, it includes Yukoners who have ideas. Thatís why we create partnerships.
Unfortunately the member opposite doesnít view partnerships as a valid approach to building the territoryís future ó the government does.
As far as gaming, weíre not going anywhere near expanding gaming in the Yukon and the budget shows that ó not one dime invested. Weíre investing Yukonersí money in other places to build a strong, vibrant economy and invest in the future of this territory where Yukoners want us to. Thatís how the budget was constructed; thatís exactly what the government has done.
Ms. Duncan: There are two very clear issues with respect to the expansion of gambling and gaming in the territory. The Premier has stood on his feet and said that thereís not one thin dime for the expansion of gambling in the territory. There are all kinds of funding proposals and grant programs in this budget. Is the Premier saying, unequivocally, that the government will not entertain any proposals for the expansion of gambling? Is that whatís heís saying, without any wiggle room?
The other issue for the government is that itís the government that licenses these operations. Is he saying that the government will or the government will not license expanded gambling?
Those are two questions, and I havenít yet heard an answer to either one of them from the Premier. Would he answer the questions, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, this may come as a shock to the member of the third party, but we do have gambling in the territory. We have gambling that is licensed. Itís operated by the Klondike Visitors Association. Thatís happening today in todayís Yukon and has been for years. We said, constantly on the floor of the Legislature in regard to this question, that we havenít invested anything ó any money toward gambling in the territory. Thatís an obvious position: weíre not expanding gaming, but we still have to deal with the existing gaming structure that is in place today in the City of Dawson. We certainly intend to work with the KVA on their issues when it comes to gaming in Dawson City as it is one of their fundamental attractions to bring tourists, for example, into the City of Dawson. This government did not license that. The licence for the KVA and Diamond Tooth Gertieís has been in existence for a long time, managed and operated by other governments to ensure that they follow correct procedures when it comes to gaming.
Nothing has changed, Mr. Speaker, but thereís one thing thatís important here. This government supports Yukoners coming forward to partner and help build the economy. The third party does not.
Question re: Mine site reclamation security release policy
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources revealed his approach to dealing with security for mine site reclamation was done on a willy-nilly basis. Our position, Mr. Speaker, is that the Government of Yukon must have a clear and fair security release policy developed in conjunction with stakeholders and the industry.
By avoiding the need to follow policy guidelines, Yukoners have no assurance their government will act in their best interests in the short term or in the long term. This minister claims that mining is in good hands. But then again, this is the same minister who said he wasnít interested in the past record of mining corporations outside of Yukon borders.
The minister needs to consider the pocketbooks of all Yukoners, present and future. How will he assure Yukoners they wonít be sold out for a willy-nilly photo opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Lang: With devolution, we acquired the responsibility, the management contract, on type II sites. We manage them and the federal government funds that management team. We certainly work with the First Nations where their traditional land is involved. So at the moment, the territorial government is managing the sites.
As far as regulations for new mines, weíre putting them in a process. We certainly are going to protect all Yukoners from irresponsible mining and certainly look forward to dealing with the mining companies as they come forward.
Mr. McRobb: Well, we have to ask ourselves, Mr. Speaker, why this government is so opposed to abiding by the guidelines of a publicly developed security release policy. This same minister touched on something else of public interest yesterday. He said the assets belonged to a corporation, but he didnít tell us itís no longer Viceroy Minerals Corporation. For everybodyís information, itís now asset liability management group, ULC. Surprise, surprise.
Perhaps this minister isnít quite the mining expert he wants everybody to believe he is. This minister needs to level with Yukoners. Is he not concerned this change in corporate status puts at risk the legal liability and security issues?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The irresponsibility of that last statement amazes me. The mine weíre talking about is going through a reclamation process on Brewery Creek. The assets belong to the corporation. They are a responsible mining corporation. For that member to stand in this House with that negative mining attitude, which their group is very famous for ó
Brewery Creek is very much of a success story for all of northern Canada. Theyíre out of line on that. Brewery Creek is doing the job they set out to do. The buildings are part of the reclamation. They have a responsibility to get the buildings off-site. Theyíre doing the job they said they would do and the job that Yukoners in the mining community are very proud of: actually seeing a mining company do exactly what they set out and said they were going to do.
So for a member opposite to stand in this House and malign a corporation that is doing the job they ó
Speaker: Order please. Final supplementary.
Mr. McRobb: The minister can call us whatever he wishes. Our position is a positive one for the interests of Yukoners. Now this proposition gets even shakier with this minister doling out premature releases of security. We are concerned about getting stuck holding an empty bag. Further, weíre concerned that this government is setting a bad precedent with its willy-nilly approach to security releases. There are lots of missing pieces to this puzzle, and this minister needs to fill in the blanks. Can he now tell Yukoners whether he has any concerns at all about the inadequacy of securities held with respect to reclamation at Brewery Creek?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, Iíd remind the member opposite that Brewery Creek is a type II site. Itís the responsibility of the federal government, managed by the territorial government. They certainly have security in place. They have up to $5 million in security as we speak. Part of the reclamation program is getting rid of the buildings. Theyíre doing that. Theyíre in the process of doing that. They have a workplan. The workplan has been agreed to by the federal government, by the territorial government and by the First Nation. They are working in cooperation with all three levels of government to reclaim Brewery Creek.
Mr. Speaker, it is a type II site. A type II site means itís the responsibility, at the end of the day, of the federal government. We work as management of that type II site. That type II site is proceeding in closure. Part of that, I remind the member opposite, is to get rid of the buildings on-site. That is part of the obligation of the company. There is also $5 million on deposit to cover any problems that arise.
Mr. Speaker, itís a type II site. Itís a federal government responsibility. Weíre working with the First Nation, the federal government and our government to resolve the problem. Theyíre moving ahead on schedule.
Question re: Mine site reclamation security release policy
Mr. McRobb:Where was this minister in the fall? We dealt with these issues. It was put on record. This governmentís actions may have absolved the federal government of its responsibility.
I can tell Yukoners that there have been discussions between the Yukon government and the Tríondëk Hwëchíin First Nation and others about the inadequacy of securities for the Brewery Creek property. In fact, the Yukon government hired a professional engineer to review the reclamation at the former mine site.
This engineer has identified many of the same observations and cautions made by others for the past few years. Why is this minister oblivious to those concerns, even though his own government knows of the engineerís findings?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I remind the member opposite itís a type II site. Brewery Creek is part of the seven type II sites ó the responsibility of the federal government, managed by us and the First Nation. We certainly have engineering studies done. I think there were three or four done, working toward closure because we need some professional input on what is happening and what is going to be independent of government and independent of the corporation. Certainly there are issues, and those issues are being addressed by a very responsible mining corporation. Those issues are being addressed as we speak, Mr. Speaker. Theyíre doing a very good job of reclaiming Brewery Creek.
Mr. McRobb: Itís the same old broken-record reply. The minister fails to acknowledge that the federal government may have been absolved by the premature release of securities.
The engineer identified concerns of a very serious nature, both in terms of the environment and the cost to fix a problem, should one occur. This country has legislation that holds corporations and board members financially responsible for their actions, should they cause environmental damage thatís not secured.
If this minister is so convinced this is such a big success story, will he go on record now and accept financial responsibility for his actions in the event a costly situation develops?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again I remind the members opposite that this is a type II site mine. We work with the federal government; we work with the First Nation to resolve the question of the closure of Brewery Creek mine. Weíre doing it at a responsible level. These engineering questions have been addressed and theyíve been answered.
Mr. Speaker, we certainly are looking forward to the next independent audit of the mine site so we can move on with the closure. Again I remind you, Mr. Speaker, Brewery Creek has been a very responsible corporation in the Yukon and, as far as our government accepting responsibility from the federal government or deferring responsibility, the member opposite is dead wrong. Itís a type II site. It is the responsibility, at the end of the day, of the federal government. Weíre working with them and the First Nation to resolve the questions and get closure to Brewery Creek.
Mr. McRobb: This minister is still stuck on the same page. This is a problem for the whole Yukon. This minister wants complete freedom in making the decisions of how much security should be held by the government, yet heís not willing to accept the same responsibility held by many Yukoners who serve on boards. Again, this government has one set of principles for the public and another for itself. Yukoners need to have greater confidence in knowing that the financial security is sufficient to reflect the risk accepted for this project by their government. The government needs to conduct its own analysis of the present value of the financial assurance. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can only tell the member opposite whatís happening. I only can work with the facts on this side of the House. The facts are that we get independent engineering studies on the ecological situation on-site. We do that through an independent agency. Again, it is a type II site. We are managing it for the federal government.
Brewery Creek is in the process of closing. They have $5 million on deposit, as we speak, to address the ecological responsibility the corporation has to the mine site. Part of that is getting rid of the buildings that exist on-site. They are proceeding to do that this season. As far as the government analyzing the ecological liability of the site, thatís why we pay independent engineering firms to go and do that. We, in conjunction with the First Nation, in conjunction with the federal government, have independent engineers audit the site to see where the mining company is on reclamation. This mine site is a success story. This is how I visualize all mining being done in the Yukon in the future.
Question re: Municipal accounting methods
Mr. Cardiff:My question is for the Minister of Community Services. The minister and the Premier have justified the firing of the Mayor and Council of Dawson City on the grounds that the town was broke, and the government based its claim on the draft report from BDO Dunwoody. The report was based on the new accounting system, which applied retroactively to Dawsonís 2003-04 budget year.
My question: why was the City of Dawson required to move to the full accrual system retroactively when other municipalities and even the Government of Yukon werenít?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Clearly, the City of Dawson has moved to full accrual accounting based on its request to move forward in that position.
And as far as the full accrual accounting, the comparison of the year-to-year was done on a basis of apples versus apples and from the previous year doing the same accounting process.
Mr. Cardiff: I donít think that the council in Dawson asked to move to the full accrual accounting system, and Iím pretty sure thatís what the minister said.
The other communities are concerned about the difficulties that they might face if they have to adopt this system, and weíre told that they are going to have to adopt the full accrual accounting system. At least two communities have concerns that the new system might make it appear that they are in the same kind of financial trouble as Dawson City. They may even be wondering if the minister has plans to fire their mayors and councils and bring in a trustee to run the show. This government has created a lot of confusion and fear in rural Yukon.
When will all the municipalities in Yukon be required to adopt a full accrual accounting bookkeeping system, and will they be instructed to do it retroactively?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have been in conversation with AYC on several occasions on this particular issue. In fact, we as a government have provided an expert to come up to attend their annual general meeting this May and present the aspects of the Public Sector Accounting Board for the smaller communities. In fact we have also provided additional funding to those communities to bring their treasurers and/or CEOs to that meeting to participate in that workshop so that they can learn first-hand what this PSAB is going to be doing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Unanimous consent re business of the House
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive our Standing Orders in order to call Motion No. 280, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Speaker: There is not unanimous consent.
We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT MEMBERSí PRIVATE BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 43
Clerk:Motion No. 43, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should implement an action plan to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that includes the following:
(1) promoting prevention programs to eliminate alcohol consumption by high-risk parents in order to foster the birth of healthy babies;
(2) establishing a system of early diagnosis of FASD before the age of six;
(3) supporting people and families with FASD through a wide range of services such as professional counselling and foster homes in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment;
(4) enhancing supported living arrangements for adults with FASD; and
(5) forming a diagnostic team of professionals trained in personal counselling and social work/health to provide services to Yukon schools in order to provide support for FASD students and their families.
Mr. Rouble: It is my honour, my pleasure and my duty to bring this motion before the House today.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Rouble:Before I begin, I would like to ask all members of our Assembly to join me in welcoming Ms. Judy Pakozdy, the executive director of FASSY, to our Assembly here today.
Mr. Rouble: I recognize that this motion has been on the Order Paper for some time now, but itís an important issue and one that needs to be brought to the attention of all members of our Assembly. I hope that we could have unanimous support of this motion and send a clear message that we, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, recognize that fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a significant problem and that we must take action.
To begin with, I would like to give a little bit of background as to what exactly FAS ó fetal alcohol spectrum ó is. We know it by many different names. Some refer to it as FAS, FAE ó fetal alcohol effects ó or in some circles it is known as alcohol-related neuro-developmental disorder ó or ARND. For the sake of our debate today, Iíll refer to it as FAS.
FAS is a disability. The brain damage created by exposure to alcohol during fetal development is permanent and affects the ability to process information. Most people with this brain damage have normal or near-normal intelligence, interests and expectations for their lives, but also have impairment of their memory, abstract thinking, attention, judgement and impulse control.
Although these people with FAS are individuals with gifts, potential and different strengths, all have problems learning and may need special cues to access information stored in their memory.
Mr. Speaker, everyone with FAS has some degree of brain difference caused by the alcohol. It could be that the brain is smaller, has parts or pieces missing or is missing some of the chemicals that are needed to transmit messages through the brain and the nervous system.
This physical brain damage shows up as many different neurological disabilities. They may include learning problems, poor coordination, hearing or visual loss, difficulty learning to talk and in understanding what is being said, very poor short-term memory, inconsistent learning or memory ó one day they seem to learn something, and the next day they cannot remember it ó difficulty or inability to learn from experience, poor judgement, hyperactivity, poor impulse control, epilepsy and many others.
Some of the difficulties that people with FAS have are a difficulty translating information from one sense to another. They have problems turning hearing into action, seeing into writing, reading into understanding or expressing their feelings by their voice. They have difficulty generalizing information ó that means transferring rules into new situations, recognizing patterns, forming associations ó sometimes referred to as that "ah ha" moment when you recognize, accept and get a concept and the light bulb turns on.
They have challenges predicting outcomes and understanding consequences. They have difficulty understanding similarities and differences. This causes problems when comparing and contrasting situations, judging or choosing, weighing or evaluating or comprehending the differences between two things, such as between friends or strangers, safety or danger, good or bad.
Mr. Speaker, this causes many problems for individuals, for families and for societies. In the family, good parenting skills and good teaching techniques or therapeutic techniques may fail to produce expected positive outcomes in people with this disability. They may, in fact, increase frustrations over time. Because of these increased frustrations, secondary behavioural characteristics may develop. Interpretations of these behaviours as wilful rather than being caused by the brain damage may lead to punishment rather than support.
Mr. Speaker, in doing some research on this motion, I had a couple of conversations with people from FASSY, and Iíve reviewed some information produced by the FAS/FAE Support Network of B.C. Just to keep things in context so that people have a greater understanding of what itís like for people who suffer under this disability, they have produced a developmental timeline that compares a personís chronological age and how many years they have been on the planet with their, say, emotional age ó what you would typically expect of someone of that age.
In their comparison, they looked at an individual at age 18. That is, physically, how do they look on the outside? Well, they physically look mature. Most people with FAS look like you or me. There is no physical or outward appearance or indication of their disability. They develop physically just like you or I would have. They have expressive language thatís typical of an 18-year-old. They have a reading level thatís typically that of a 16-year-old. Again, Mr. Speaker, this is for a person of age 18; however, they have a comprehension level typical to that of a six-year old. They have the emotional maturity of that of a six-year-old, the social skills of a seven-year-old, the money and time concepts of an eight-year-old and the living skills of an 11-year-old. Clearly, because of their disability, they havenít developed a lot of the skills necessary to live in our society that we would have expected them to.
Would you expect an 11-year-old to live on their own, to manage their own finances, to make dinner for themselves every day, to raise a family? This is clearly a disability that has significant impacts.
Itís also very important to add that FAS is not a lifestyle choice. People who suffer from it suffer from a brain injury. They have a disability. While it may not be as visible as some disabilities, it has an impact on their behaviour, on their families and on our society.
So what does this all mean to the individuals, to the family and to the society we live in? To the individual who is afflicted with this disability, it means they have a lot of frustration in their lives. They canít do as many of the things they want to do; they try to accomplish things or try to make people happy and, unfortunately, it doesnít always turn out as they intended it to. This leads to disappointment: theyíre not happy with their accomplishments.
It means they often canít accomplish their personal goals and objectives and face many challenges in their day-to-day life.
This disability leads on to many other problems and situations. Many people are captured by our social safety net.
They might not be able to keep and maintain a job and then are captured by our social safety net and have difficulties growing and getting beyond that. It means that many end up abusing alcohol and drugs. Often thatís associated with the family or the lifestyle they grew up in, and they fall into that trap and end up abusing alcohol and drugs, which leads to many, many other problems, not the least of which is the increased problems that they might have with our justice system. Because of the lack of cognitive abilities in seeing the cause and effect, many people affected with FAS break laws. They might not understand the law; they might not understand the consequences; they might not understand why itís even wrong, so we end up with many problems with our justice system.
Then that leads to additional problems. Many people with FAS, once they have gone into our jail system, start to treat that as normal, that that is a safe place for them to go and live. They might not recognize the consequences that if they break the law again theyíll have to go back there for longer. So, indeed, this disability causes a lot of problems for an individual throughout his or her whole lifetime. It isnít a disability that one outgrows, and itís not a disability that we can cure with a pill. Itís not a disability that we can clear with counselling. Itís something we have to work with the individual on on a constant, ongoing basis to help them overcome their disability.
To the family of a person born with FAS or FAE, again it adds many frustrations ó the frustrations and challenges of bringing up an individual with a disability, and it increases the burden placed on that family. To our society, unfortunately it adds additional burdens and costs. There are increased medical costs. Many individuals afflicted with FAS also have kidney problems, and I believe they have heart problems as well.
This adds additional strains on our already strained medical system. As I mentioned, itís likely to increase the justice costs. Additionally, it can create division in our society and intolerance in some circles. Also, our society misses out on the opportunities that that individual might have had and the accomplishments that that individual might have made. Itís not too far-fetched to imagine what our planet would be like if Einstein had been born with this disability, or if Ghandi had been born with this disability, or ó well, the list could go on and on, Mr. Speaker. But this is a preventable disability, and we need to bring attention to it and find ways where we can take action about it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what happens if we donít do anything about this, if we just go with the status quo and have a laissez-faire attitude? Well, unfortunately, the circle will continue. Weíll have a continuation of this problem. Weíll have more cases; the cases will be more severe; and, as Iíve heard from others, it could lead to the devastation of some of our communities. Clearly, this is a situation that we need to address, and we as members of the Legislative Assembly need to draw attention to it and call for action on it.
Mr. Speaker, in putting forward this motion, I had several different objectives. One, I wanted to raise awareness of this issue, to get all members of our Assembly to think about this, to take a moment out of their day, to pause to do the research, to think about it and to think about the implications on our society and our way of life if we donít find some way of addressing this.
Mr. Speaker, I think just by bringing forward this motion we have accomplished that. Additionally, we all need to be aware of this problem in our society so that we ó the Legislative Assembly in our budgeting process ó can allocate additional resources to the problem, because clearly itís a problem that we need to address with budgetary decisions. We need to allocate more resources to address these issues.
Mr. Speaker, this motion identifies the situation and calls on the government to implement an action plan ó it calls to action ó we have to do something, and it lays out five fairly broad, different areas that we need to address. This isnít one issue where we can just take one magic pill, and it will solve the problem, because that certainly wonít. Thereís no one thing that we can do to make this go away. We have to have a broader approach, a more holistic approach, a multiple approach to address the situation that we have now and to prevent it from occurring in the future. Thatís why this motion lays out the five points.
Number one, promoting prevention programs to eliminate alcohol consumption by high-risk parents. Notice, please, Mr. Speaker, too, that thatís parents with an "s". It isnít simply the mother; the father is also included.
In order to foster the birth of healthy babies, we need to educate our young people out there, those people who are entering their child-rearing years or who are in their child-rearing years, of the importance of this issue, what will happen if they do drink while theyíre pregnant, and the consequences of that. And we need to work with others to ensure that they provide assistance to those who are pregnant to ensure that they donít drink. That could mean the boyfriend or the husband not drinking while theyíre both pregnant.
Itís simply not a situation where we can just say, "Donít do that." We need to develop some programs.
I should also add that these are very broad action plan items and we havenít gone into the specifics here. Those are for the department to come up with. They have the skills, the expertise and the talent to find ways to implement these and to create the programs. I just want to bring attention to the broad areas that we need to look at in order to address the situation.
Number two is establishing a system of early diagnosis of FAS before the age of six. It has been found that diagnosis of the situation leads to the treatment, and the earlier we can intervene or offer assistance, the better for all involved. Itís better for the parents, itís better for the individual and ultimately better for our society.
We need to identify this situation before we can address it. Itís a case where we have to know what weíre dealing with before we can solve it or resolve it. I shouldnít say "solve it" because that might cast out the idea that itís a situation that can be solved, and unfortunately itís one that canít. There is no magic pill that will make this disability go away. We can only work with those involved to ensure that they have an increased quality of life throughout their life.
But we need to approach these individuals, because of their disabilities, with different tools. The old tools that weíve used in the past donít work. If we treat an individual with FAS the same way we treat an individual with attention deficit disorder or hyperactivity or other mental illnesses or mental disorders, they wonít have the desired results. Because of the criteria and the conditions of this disability, they need to be treated and worked with in specific ways.
Thatís why the early diagnosis is extremely important. Mr. Speaker, that doesnít indicate that weíve resolved the problem, because we do have to work on diagnosis for additional people. There are some estimates that there are about 500 to 1,000 people over the age of six in our community who also suffer from this disability, and we need to work with them as well.
Speaking of working with them, thatís item number three. It calls for supporting people and families with FASD through a wide range of services, such as professional counselling and foster homes in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment, one that offers support and supervision. Because of the nature of the disability, as I outlined earlier, it can lead to a lot of very difficult situations and many of these individuals, depending upon the severity of their disability, require additional supervision.
We need to enhance supported living arrangements for adults with FASD and, number five, we need to form a diagnostic team of professionals trained in personal counselling, social work and health to provide services to Yukon schools in order to provide support for FASD students and their families.
Mr. Speaker, this is a disability that crosses many different areas in our society and crosses many different ministries in our government. Itís a Health and Social Services issue; itís an Education issue; itís a Justice issue; itís a culture issue. There arenít too many people in our community who arenít touched by this disability. Thatís one of the reasons why itís so important that we address this.
This motion gives direction to the department. It provides a call for action. It doesnít go into the specific mechanics of how these should be accomplished.
I think we can leave that up to our very competent professionals in our public service to accomplish a lot of these objectives. Additionally, Mr. Speaker, this motion doesnít preclude other items from being included in the action plan. As other ideas come forward, Iím sure they can be added to the list, but we need to start somewhere. Previous governments have done work in this area, and I applaud them for it. We need to build on that and go to the next step.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we also need to recognize some of the limitations that we as a government have. We are constrained by the fiscal reality of the world that we live in, and we canít accomplish everything overnight. There are demands on us in Education, on Health and Social Services, in Justice ó well, in the development of our territory, and ensuring that we all have the appropriate quality of life that we all strive for. So itís a situation where, yes, there is a lot of work to be done, but we can only do it one step at a time. I would like this Assembly to give the government the direction to take a step in that right direction. Can we do it? Can we go in that direction? I think we can, Mr. Speaker. And Iím counting on the unanimous support from all members of our Assembly so that we can send a strong message to the government that we should go in this direction.
Well, can we do enough? This is a really tough question to answer, because Iím not sure if we can ever do enough. I donít know that we as a government can satisfy every need of every constituent all the time, but this is a start. Can we solve the problem? Well, Mr. Speaker, thereís no magic pill to solve this problem. There are many different steps that we can take to reduce it, to work with those who are affected by this disability and to work with others to prevent the disability from occurring in the future.
Thatís the big thing. We need to work with those affected right now to ensure that they can learn, that they can work, that they can contribute, that they can live, and that they can live with a smile on their face. There are an awful lot of things that we need to do in order to accomplish that, and we also need to take steps to reduce this disability from occurring in the future. That means that we need to find ways to reduce the alcohol consumption in our community, in our territory, and reduce the alcohol consumption of those who are parents-to-be.
Iíd like to ask for the support of all members of our Assembly to take this step, to send this message that yes, the Government of Yukon should implement an action plan to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, that we should go in this right direction. Once we have started this, then we need to do some evaluation. We have to find out if yes, indeed, our actions are actually working. Are they working as weíve intended, as weíve designed? What can we do to our programs to enhance them? This is one of those things where we need to have our plan now and revisit our plan a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now, to constantly to be rebuilding this, because this isnít a situation that will go away overnight. Many of the individuals who are afflicted with this disability are young people. There are people being born with this disability unfortunately each and every day and they will be members of our society for the next 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 years, and weíll need to work with them for their entire life.
In conclusion, I would like all members of the Assembly to join with me in support of this motion, to recognize the seriousness of this issue, to recognize the sincere request for a call to action that is being put forward in this motion, and to vote in favour of it. I would like to thank you for your attention and to thank all members of our Assembly.
Mr. Fairclough: I wonít be long on debating this motion either, Mr. Speaker. I thank the member opposite for bringing it forward. We on this side of the House do support actions of this type by government, and Iím glad that the member opposite did recognize the work of previous governments on this. Itís certainly not an issue that has arisen over the last couple of years. It has been around for a long time, and we need to recognize that. As a matter of fact, weíre dealing with it, and if I can remember later, I want to point that out in the motion here.
I can remember a time when governments dealt with this matter. This was definitely an issue raised by communities. People were concerned about their children in school not learning. Is it the education system? Is it society? Is it the home? Why are some of our children just not learning? This was fairly recently recognized as a disorder and a symptom as a result of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
There was a time, if I go back even not too many years ago, when children were being labelled as children with FAS. They just couldnít write exams and do as well on exams as other children. It came to the point where communities, as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, were labelled as having a high number of FAS children. This was unfortunate, because governments should not have even gone close to that. It labelled the community for years and, I would say, still to this day people recognize some of the communities that have been labelled. This is without having diagnosed children with FAS. This is just coming round. I know a lot of areas in Canada have been dealing with this matter, making sure that we get it right.
In this one particular community, Mr. Speaker, parents were outraged at this action of government, because it was on a public paper and so on. I have been approached by parents who have been told their children have FAS. The parents did not drink. They are non-drinkers. They are not into drugs or anything like this, and their children were labelled that. Itís very wrong. As a matter of fact, their children are now very successful and have done very well in the school system. Iíve had parents come up to me and say that their child will not succeed and is doing very badly in the school today. That child was taken out of the school by the parent, send outside to Alberta where there are probably more services for them there, and they have done very well. I mentioned this in the House in the past. They have done very well, straight As.
Now, how did that happen ó going from a small community to a big city environment, which we always say is a problem because Yukoners always want to come back home, and they do very well? Is it a problem with our education system or our health system? What is it? Is it the parents? All of these questions have been floating around communities for a long time.
Some of them chose to do something about it. I can give an example of that, Mr. Speaker. The community of Carmacks held an education conference a couple of years ago, which I attended. There were a number of First Nations there, Northern Tutchone nations. There were teachers who came from across the Yukon to that conference. There were teachers from Carmacks, Pelly and Mayo, I believe. One of the big issues there was to talk openly about FAS and FASD.
They had a speaker come up from Alaska ó and I canít remember the name ó who has been dealing with this matter for a long time and has done talks and seminars on FAS and FASD. It was very useful to the people there to get a really clear understanding of what FAS and FASD really mean.
To my surprise, there were teachers who did not know what this meant. And there were some teachers who did have some background in this FAS and FASD, and they made some really good comments about it. They were wondering why children had short attention spans, were not able to remember, were hard to keep control of in the class and so on. This woman from Alaska went through the effects of alcohol during pregnancy and what it means to the child. And I canít remember it all, and I wasnít there for all of the presentation, but I have to admit that I did not know a lot about it either. I was wondering why this was such a problem in the past, and now I have a better understanding of what it means. It is definitely not something that is learned. FAS and FASD isnít a problem with the parents or the raising of the child. It is permanent damage to the brain, but it doesnít mean that the child cannot learn.
One of the things that the woman talked about was the development of the brain. I know the mover of the motion talked about this a bit, where their brain is underdeveloped, smaller, has holes in it, and the two hemispheres are not connected the way a normal brain would be. If there is some understanding with the teachers and so on about how the brain works, then there is a better understanding of the actions of the children themselves.
Iíll not go into detail because Iím not a professional in this, but as an example if a child listens to instructions, they take it, they hear it, they remember it, but part of the problem is that they canít retrieve the memory. Itís all to do with the development of the brain. If thereís not the right communication within the brain; if it goes in one side it doesnít mean you can retrieve it through the other. Itís the same with the holes in the brain.
So with that simple understanding of how perhaps some complex matters that are being taught in school ó whether theyíre math equations or so on ó it is heard, it is sometimes stored, but itís pretty difficult to retrieve, and thatís the same with short attention spans and their ability to bring back the information quickly to respond to your command or direction. I found that quite interesting. The teachers also found it quite interesting and are perhaps changing their attitude in how they deal with children. I think this was quite important to many of the teachers. They found it a fascinating presentation. There were many thanks to the organizers of that education conference in bringing this woman forward because it did educate our educators and, in turn, this means our system would have a better understanding of the problem with FAS and FASD.
The member opposite laid out the five-point plan that was campaigned on; it was in their platform. Other parties: the Liberal Party has made a commitment also, and the New Democrats have made this commitment to better diagnose our children before taking any type of action on treatment, and so on.
Thatís where we were. There is a large concentration on our kids and not so much on adults with FAS and FASD. I want to get back to that too.
I know it was frustrating in the past even for governments to deal with this. I remember a minister of the Yukon Party at one time having to deal with pregnant moms who drank, and one of his actions was to put that woman in jail, along with the spouse. Thatís how hard it came down to, rather than trying to do some prevention, because weíre going to have to deal with this matter for years to come rather than deal with prevention.
I know this is not a government issue. Itís a community issue. It is one that parents have to deal with and communities have to deal with, and they have. I could probably name a couple of communities here in the Yukon that have taken some control, but I wonít name them. They have, as a community, recognized this as a problem. They have made sure they made comments to any woman they knew who was pregnant and may have a drinking problem ó and the spouse ó and gave them some good direction not to consume alcohol. It wasnít just that, it was, "Okay, come to my house, and Iíll teach you to do this." It was trying to keep them busy and keep them away from the whole drinking-of-alcohol atmosphere. I applaud those communities for that. There is a recognition, especially among aboriginal people, that this could be devastating to aboriginal people.
I believe that First Nations definitely recognize that this is a problem within the First Nations themselves and would really like to move on a number of different fronts. What they need is government assistance. They donít want names to be out there and children labelled, and so on. I think weíve kind of moved away from that. The Yukon Party has come forward with one of their bullets for the early diagnosis of FASD before the age of six. There are five points here.
What I didnít hear ó and Iím hoping that the next speaker who gets up from the Yukon Party will tell us more about the actions that the Yukon Party has done on each one of these points, because I think some of them are thought about, theyíre in the works, but no action has been taken in a couple of these areas. Some of them kind of miss adults with FASD, for example.
I would like to hear that from the Yukon Party and make it clear because, after all, they are the party thatís in government and we have to hold them to their word.
So, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to definitely keep track of governmentís action on the five-point plan.
We are not opposed to this plan. I think our party has made suggestions on early diagnosis with young children and adults in this matter. I donít think that any party here would say that they would like to do anything other than that. I believe right now government has all kinds of money in the Health department to move forward on some of these issues and work with the Department of Education so that our children can learn, even though they have FASD, because I do believe they can.
They may not be able to learn complex matters but for the basics in life and how to survive and so on, they can learn that and, with the help of the community, definitely we can try to deal with the matter as best we can. There are organizations out there that have been dealing with this problem in the past and have made some good suggestions to governments and probably, because of their input, thatís why you see directions coming out of the parties, particularly at election time. Obviously, this was an issue during the election. This has been part of the Yukon Party platform and we would like to see the governments continue and uphold the five-point plan that they have, which we thought they were going to do anyway. The member in his motion said that the Government of Yukon should implement their action plan and we agree with the member opposite. I donít know if he has any different information than we do on where the government was going on this, but we certainly believe that if government makes a promise, they should uphold it.
Mr. Speaker, FASSY has made comments on this matter also, and Iíll read a couple of points that they have made. One is that they say there is a desperate need for diagnosis of adults with FASD and, when I go down the points, a number of these points, I know that a lot of the action plan presented by the Yukon Party deals with children with FASD.
It says that the Department of Justice has no money for diagnosis of adults ó and send FASD offenders out for forensic assessments, which only look at psychological reasons for behaviour, not for brain damage problems. They do not address the true reasons behind the behaviour of FASD. I think those are important comments that have been made ó that the Yukon Party should be addressing from FASSY. They also say this: supported housing for adult FASD is needed. There are presently only five spaces funded in the options for independent living program. They have to be referred to by court. They have to have committed an offence. The number of spaces needed, even in the Whitehorse area, is probably close to 10 times that amount.
So the government has a lot of work to do in this matter. I donít think that adults have to commit a criminal act in order to get help or even housing.
It says the Roadhouse has 30 percent FASD clients there and it is estimated that FASD probably affects more like 80 percent of the residents. They have worn out their welcome at the Salvation Army because of erratic behaviour and lack of skills dealing with money. FASD adults need housing that deals only with their conditions and not other problems.
This is what ó I believe the Minister of Health may get up and speak next to this motion ó Iíd like him to respond to because I feel that this is an important matter to deal with also. We cannot just focus on one area, on our youth; we need to really take into consideration some of the things our adults are going through too, because there have been many years of neglect by our communities, our justice system, our health system in dealing with this matter.
It was recognized, like I said, many years ago, and itís time that governments assist organizations and communities on this matter that we have here.
The other thing is that there are communities that are putting on seminars and doing workshops on FAS and FASD that do need government input. If the one that was held in the community of Carmacks was so successful among the government employees, particularly teachers ó government staff was there too ó why not have it more often? Why not have a clear picture of what the effects are of alcohol and what FAS and FASD really is and have our professionals who are dealing with people with FAS and FASD to know this matter so that we can deal with it properly and they are fully part of our society. We cannot rule anyone out in this matter, and itís because some of the direction is good ó and we support that, of course ó that we on this side of the House would like to enhance this motion slightly. I know that the members opposite will agree to this too. This is a friendly amendment to the motion. The mover of the motion put out five points here, and itís directly related to their platform.
Mr. Fairclough: I move
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by adding the following: "(6) providing appropriate resources at the community level to enable voluntary screening of adult persons who may have undiagnosed FASD".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Mayo-Tatchun
THAT Motion No. 43 be amended by adding the following: "(6) providing appropriate resources at the community level to enable voluntary screening of adult persons who may have undiagnosed FASD".
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun, you have 20 minutes.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This amendment does not change the intent of the motion. It is actually a friendly amendment. You cannot separate people with FASD. If thereís an action plan by government, it should involve everyone. Like I said, on a number of points ó five points ó some did not have a clear action plan for adults with FASD and we would like to add that in. Itís as simple as that, Mr. Speaker. Children are born with this problem. They donít choose to have it, like the member opposite has said. The effects of alcohol during pregnancy are there and these people grow up and are adults. This issue has been around the Yukon Territory and in Canada for a long time now.
This simply adds and ensures that governments have the resources available at the community level to deal with matters of FASD with adults. I guess itís as simple as that, Mr. Chair. I know that the government side supports this type of action, because itís laid out clearly in the five-point plan. I cannot see government rejecting this. It has been a year and a half now that government has been in power, and the member opposite is bringing this motion forward to ensure that his government carries out their action plan. I donít think that any members on that side of the House would disagree with the sixth point that has been added as an amendment to the motion, at all, unless they have a good explanation for it. Other organizations around the territory are looking at this as a serious matter and would like governmentís attention to the matter. So this is exactly what itís doing. Itís bringing the governmentís attention to this matter and not excluding any adults in the communities dealing with this important matter.
So I urge the government side to support this amendment, and I look forward to their comments on this amendment, and Iím sure that they would support it. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the amendment, what we have before us by way of a motion today is one of the most serious difficulties facing society here in the Yukon ó FASD. Mr. Speaker, our party was one of the first parties ó the first party, Mr. Speaker ó to clearly identify and enunciate with the steps we would take, should we be elected and be privileged to hold the office of government here in the Yukon.
We have not wavered. We have not hesitated. We have moved forward. What we have done is we have focused our resources on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. It is a matter of top priority to increase public awareness of the effects of drugs and alcohol on the unborn children by building upon educational programs in conjunction with all stakeholders. And our government promoted a five-step FASD action plan, which the member from the beautiful Southern Lakes amplified very well in this House.
When I look at the statistics ó and letís look at the issue of children in care ó currently there are 303 children in care here in the Yukon, 60 percent who are there because of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or a combination of drug and alcohol abuse ó 60 percent. FASD has affected the lives of a number of these children. Our government took immediate steps to address FASD. Promoting prevention programs to eliminate alcohol consumption of high-risk parents in order to foster the birth of healthy children ó that was one of our first initiatives. If you want to look at the statistics for the Yukon, we have the highest consumption rate of alcohol in this country. Thatís on a per capita basis. Yet the leader of the third party in this House goes on about making liquor more readily available around the Yukon, increasing the number of outlets, suggesting, perhaps, that we should be increasing alcohol consumption.
Letís look at the downside of that issue, and that is the effects that alcohol is having on our society.
We can make the case that drugs are illegal, by and large, yet they are a scourge on our society. When you start to see the statistics regarding the needle exchange program in Whitehorse, and we look at the summer months where we give out 13,543 needles and we take in 15,057 needles, that suggests to me ó given that weíre taking in more needles than weíre giving out ó that we have an inward migration of intravenous drug use during the summer.
Itís very interesting what one can see. Letís look at the early diagnosis of FASD before the age of six. To that end, our government is committed to funding the Yukon Medical Association for meconium testing of newborns. This is an initiative that began back in Ontario. The project has expanded to Alberta, and we would be a satellite of the project out of Alberta. Our government is firmly committed to the YMA and their request of us for funding for meconium testing.
Thatís just one example.
We have also worked very closely with the Child Development Centre. The Child Development Centre has received an increase in funding to support a diagnostic team and an individual there to address the needs here. This is the first time ever in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that we will have a diagnostic team in place. That itself shows our governmentís commitment to FASD.
Mr. Speaker, there was recently a training program hosted by CDC, funded by Yukon government, that took place in Whitehorse, and we brought the diagnostic team from Alberta to put on this training program. Every First Nation in the Yukon was invited to attend and send representation, as well as the departments of government involved in this area, as well as NGOs. It was well-attended, well-accepted, and will be repeated.
The leader of the third party is snickering at some of the suggestions that weíre bringing forward, but we have recognized the problems that alcohol causes. We recognize the problems that are caused by drug use and weíre recognizing and funding an FASD diagnostic team.
Mr. Speaker, the third step is supporting people and families with FASD through a wide range of services such as professional counselling and foster homes in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment. To that end, we fund quite a number of initiatives and quite a number of NGOs here in Yukon. And we have increased funding as funding became available from the federal government, and currently today we have provided FASSY with some $210,000 ó $70,000 more a year for three years. Thatís the funding envelope that was provided to Yukon by the federal government and we moved the money over as quickly as possible. Also, funding has been made available from the primary health care transition fund and FASSY is going to receive word this next week that their application for funding for a summer camp has been successful.
I know the Member for Mayo-Tatchun went on at length about what we should be doing, and I would like to remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that he has spent the same amount of time in this House as I have and was in government for a four-year period. In the short time that the Yukon Party has been in government, we have spent more time analyzing funding and bringing to fruition programs for this area than any of the previous governments combined. Our government fully recognizes the issue and the importance of the scourge this has on society.
Living arrangements for adults with FASD is another issue that is going to be receiving attention. We have to move forward one step at a time. We would like to move faster and we will move quickly as soon as funding from Canada has been increased for health care. Health care funding by Canada to Yukon was clawed back a number of years ago, and weíre just catching up. We still have a long way to go.
We are reliant and dependent on federal transfer payments for the provision of health care here in the Yukon. Thatís the nature of the economy here. And as the economy turns around, as our government is committed to ensuring it does, in the resource extraction sector and also in the visitor sector, as well as every other sector possible ó we donít have a monopoly on good ideas.
That was quite evident earlier today when I asked for unanimous consent in this House to debate a motion, given that the official opposition only has one motion day left and theyíll probably require it for budget debate. That motion was a very good motion moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. Itís a motion that could stimulate the economy and recognize the importance ó
Speaker:Order please. The minister is speaking to the motion, so I would ask that the minister stick to speaking to the motion, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am speaking to the amendment to the motion.
Speaker: The amendment ó my mistake. I knew what I was saying, but I just didnít get it across right.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment to the motion requires funding, and the point I was making was that we need to restore investor confidence in the economy, we need to create some wealth here in the Yukon and reduce our dependence on Ottawa so that we can fund a lot of the health care initiatives. If I deviated somewhat, I apologize, Mr. Speaker. But I believe the issue before us is the importance of funding FASD initiatives. The amendment to the motion is of a monetary nature, and itís one we support.
What itís requesting is the provision of appropriate resources at the community level to enable voluntary screening of adult persons who may have undiagnosed FASD.
Mr. Speaker, what we have to do as a government is identify the source of funding for this area, and the motion that we looked at debating earlier today ó hopefully we looked at debating ó from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin was a very good motion, in that it would have provided an economic stimulus celebrating the Dempster Highway celebration. That funding would have produced tax revenues. Those tax revenues would have flowed to the Yukon government, and our government could have identified with this motion here ó the amendment to the motion tabled by the MLA for Mayo-Tatchun ó and we could have addressed the request. But without the funding identified ó thatís the first step ó we canít proceed with making commitments. The first step is to identify where weíre going to source the funding from. The second step is that we have a recognized need that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has identified, and let me share with you that our side concurs with this amendment to the motion and we will be voting in favour of it.
It means that we as a government have to go back and identify where weíre going to find the money to support this program.
Mr. Speaker, when you get into the area the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has identified, we have to recognize that with respect to residential services for persons with FASD who require a high level of supervision, our government has several specialized group homes that are specifically dedicated to this purpose. Let me share with the House what these three homes cost annually.
Mountainridge, $552,000 annually; Canyon Mountain, $402,000 annually; and Balsam, which is an adult home, $736,000 annually ó almost three-quarters of a million dollars a year. Thatís the order of magnitude of the costs that our government is currently incurring in this area. We will do more, and weíre going to do more.
As I was saying earlier regarding the Child Development Centre, we have committed funding for the FASD diagnostic team for several years. Our total funding to the Child Development Centre is $1,405,989 and is continuing to rise. Special needs childcare: we budgeted $25,000 for this and we identify and spend according to the needs as they arise. Sometimes more come into the system; some leave. All the children are not affected by FASD, but weíre still in the diagnostic stage.
In addition to that, we provide respite services to the families and foster caregivers. Our budget for respite is $92,000 a year. In addition to that, adult services have $108,000. Again, these are not all for FASD-affected individuals. There is the healthy families initiative. The independent living program ó the budget for this program is $522,000, over half a million dollars, of which $504,000 is for the SIL worker. That worker deals one-on-one with clients. Suffice to say, the Yukon Party government is the first party government in a long time ó in fact since the inception of party politics ó that has identified the issue of FASD and laid out a path as to how weíre going to approach it and steered the course clearly on that path.
The amendment to this motion is a good amendment. We support this amendment, but in order to fund this amendment we have to identify sources of funding.
Mrs. Peter: Itís my pleasure to speak to this amendment.
Before us we have a motion and amendment that address a very serious issue in the Yukon Territory. There is no room for politics while addressing these types of issues. We have families in our communities that are dealing with this issue.
Fetal alcohol syndrome, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has affected our society for a long period of time and yet it seems like we know very little about it. The families that are affected in our society have to be patient. They have to do a lot of soul-searching. A lot of times, the mother who gave birth to a child affected with FAS continues the kind of lifestyle that brought her to that point and, because of guilt, continues a lifestyle that is harmful for her and then someone else has to take responsibility for raising that child.
Alcohol and drugs, Mr. Deputy Speaker, affect us all in various ways and this is unfortunately one area that sometimes we think we can never fulfill, especially when itís our own children.
We can eliminate alcohol or try to eliminate alcohol from society. Weíve had that experience in my own community, Mr. Speaker. Our community is supposed to be alcohol-free, and yet we still deal with the effects, and alcohol is still brought into our community.
I can speak from personal experience when I say that we can try to eliminate alcohol from a personís life; however, it is an addiction. If one is addicted, whether it be to alcohol, to drugs or to tobacco, we can try to enforce a personís abstinence by eliminating the product or trying many ways so that the person can see what the effects are. Sometimes that alone is not effective unless the persons themselves are ready to change. That again, Mr. Speaker, affects the family as a whole.
We would all like to have healthy, beautiful children. Thatís every coupleís dream. But today we have to face the reality of what we have in our society and to try as decision-makers to address these issues in the best way we can, promoting the prevention programs within our school system, within our health system and the many areas where we can speak to audiences where the message can be made very clear that alcohol consumption does impact and affect your unborn child.
Establishing a system of early diagnosis of FAS before the age of six ó thatís better said than done. The reality in the territory is that with most of our children in the communities we donít have that luxury. We would like to. A lot of the resources that weíd like see are all centred in Whitehorse. The parents who have to take care of children affected with FAS sometimes have a hard enough time accepting that reality.
Some of the young parents I know canít even say this word. Some of the young people I know who are impacted in this way donít want to acknowledge what their children are about to face in life. Yes, we can provide a lot of services but, first, we have to be open to even talk about this situation that affects families out there. In small communities, thatís very difficult. Itís painful and hurtful, and itís a painful process for families.
If we have communities that are working toward healthier lifestyles and that want a healthier community, then we would be able to go to these families in order for them to be able to be open and acknowledge, and to guide them so they can be supportive to their children, whether it be throughout the school system or coming to Whitehorse to have these assessments done without feeling ashamed, without feeling the whole world is looking and pointing a finger at them.
That is the kind of service we need out there.
Supporting people and families with FAS through a wide range of services, such as professional counselling and foster homes to provide a stable, nurturing home environment ó that may work for Whitehorse, Mr. Speaker, but you have heard me many times in this House try to explain how one feels when they have to leave their home community and come into a bigger centre when theyíre not used to it. The changes that they have to address, whether it be with their food, sleeping in a different place, whether it be a hotel or a different home, and then having to wonder, you know, where they have to go and who is going to be asking them serious questions about their families, about how they are taking care of their kids, and how much are they going to tell these people because, in the end, what is going to happen? Maybe children and family services are going to get involved because they suspect theyíre not taking good care of the children in the first place.
So, thereís all this anxiety, all these questions, and theyíre in a centre where they know nobody except some very caring resource people who are helping them along.
Iím trying to paint the picture, Mr. Speaker, here, so that one can understand how a parent may feel addressing what they have to face, dealing with FAS in a small community and having to come to Whitehorse and having an assessment done. I could be wrong. And when theyíre addressing these issues that they have to deal with in regard to their children and trying to help them and guide them through the school system, Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of respect for the teachers who have to deal with the special needs of people afflicted with FAS. It requires special training. It requires patience.
We heard the Member for Southern Lakes list some of the ways a person is affected. We can teach them something in the morning and by the afternoon it wonít be remembered. So we have to say it over and over and over again. And I canít imagine how that could be for the parents.
So what weíre doing with this motion before us, Mr. Speaker, is urging the Yukon Party government, and Iím pleased to hear that the Minister of Health and Social Services supports the amendment my colleague brought forward, and thatís providing appropriate resources at the community level to enable voluntary screening of adults, persons who may have undiagnosed FASD. Because from being a young child, we eventually grow into adults. If a person is diagnosed with FASD, they have to deal with that for the rest of their life.
Iím in support of each of the recommendations that were made in the original motion and the amendment brought forward by my colleague in regard to making sure that resources are available for adults in our communities in the area of housing, continued education and, more especially, to try to help them have a quality of life in their own lifestyle where they grew up as a child, whether it be in a community or an urban centre ó that they stay where they would like to live for the rest of their life.
We cannot take that away from people just because theyíre affected.
I heard the Minister of Health and Social Services say that they put resources toward all these areas, and thatís great. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, in our society the amount we spend in the various areas we have to address within our society always has to be an issue. I canít help but wonder if you can put a price tag on a personís life, especially when theyíre afflicted with FASD.
Mr. Rouble: I will just briefly speak to the amendment. I would personally like to thank the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for bringing forward this amendment. Indeed it does make the motion stronger and it does accomplish more. Thank you.
As we have said before, weíll listen to good ideas and incorporate them where we can, and indeed the member has brought forward a good idea. I stand in support of the amendment and would encourage all members to also support this.
Speaking as a representative of a rural riding, I too believe that we need to have the appropriate resources in the community. Additionally, as I mentioned during my first introduction to the issue, I think itís also important to address the needs of those adults who are afflicted with FAS, and this motion does address those.
Mr. Speaker, I am a bit cautious, though, because I could see adding about another dozen items to this list. I think there are other good initiatives that we could add, and we will add those in due course, in due time, as we accomplish additional objectives, as we take action on the items that are brought forward. I did mention in the introduction that there is more to do, but I hope adding more to this list doesnít get in the way of passing this very important motion today, and Iím asking for the support of all members to work with the motion as amended, as we have agreed to, or as I hope we will agree to in very short order, and that this doesnít turn into a political football of motion gamesmanship.
I think this is a really important issue that we need to address. We have the opportunity right now, as all members of our Assembly, to unanimously support this motion and send that very important message, and I would encourage all members to do so.
Iíll ask that we move this to a vote on the amendment now, so that we can continue on with debate and get to additional matters on our agenda.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
The Member for Porter Creek South.
Ms. Duncan: No disrespect to the Member for Southern Lakes, but Iíd also like to address the amendment and the motion today.
First of all, I appreciate the fact that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has amended the motion and recommended that there be appropriate resources at the community level to enable voluntary screening of adult persons who may have undiagnosed FASD, and that approval and support for this amendment is a requirement for resources, which the Minister of Health and Social Services pointed out, and that poses a very serious issue and a very serious question for the government and truly encourages them in their commitment.
Overall, if the government and members opposite are truly, absolutely committed to dealing with FASD, as it is now referred to ó and just a word about that, Mr. Speaker. Itís interesting that in the short time that I have been in this Legislature and that the Member for Klondike and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the Member for Kluane have been here, our language has evolved around this particular issue from FAS to FAS/FAE ó fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects ó to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD. Just one other word about that, because language is so important and our use of language is so important that I have also been strongly cautioned against the use of the word "afflicted" with respect to FASD, that it is not an affliction, that it is fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. When we are discussing motions on Wednesdays, language is so important and itís interesting to note the evolution of our language with regard to this and also how we use it. It is an interesting sidebar to the debate. My point to the government: if they are truly serious about recognizing and dealing in a responsible and effective manner with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, we have to deal with the root cause ó and the key word in that phrase is "alcohol". In that respect, if the government is serious about dealing with this, they have to deal with the Liquor Act.
I would just like to share again with the House the response I have received from the government when asked about the Liquor Act, ó
Speaker:The Chair fails to understand what the Liquor Act has to do with the amendment to the motion. Weíre speaking to the amendment.
Ms. Duncan: I understand that, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Iíd ask the member to speak to the amendment, please.
Ms. Duncan: Right. The amendment calls upon the government to provide appropriate resources in the community, enabling voluntary screening. It is also dealing with the issue of fetal alcohol ó "alcohol" ó spectrum disorder, FASD.
The Liquor Act is the legislation around this, and this FASD at the community level was raised significantly in the Liquor Act, and I would like to point that out for the record. That is how it reflects on the motion.
In the Liquor Act review, a committee travelled through the territory meeting with concerned and interested Yukoners. There were 56 meetings with individuals from Yukon communities ó again, the community level is noted in the amendment ó the hospitality industry, First Nation governments, social service organizations, the RCMP, licensees and interested parties. In that common theme of the review was the need for greater personal, parental and community responsibility, the need to prevent access to alcohol by children and youth and, a key point, the huge societal and financial cost of ó at the time, back to the language issue again ó FAS and FAE.
Another point that is very noteworthy was the repeated and strong call for change by the Yukon government on a number of fronts related to a critical issue: the health and social costs of alcohol abuse. Yukon people need and want better resources, such as is noted in the amendment and, specifically in the report, education and awareness programs, tighter laws and improved law enforcement to curb alcohol-related problems.
The report also says Yukoners indicated they want the Yukon Liquor Act to be rewritten. The legislation is outdated, hard to understand and cumbersome due to over two decades of add-ons in the act. This is a direct quote from the report: "The huge social and financial cost of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are of great concern to Yukoners."
Clearly, at these 56 meetings ó over 56 ó community meetings, these representations by hundreds and hundreds of Yukoners said a government that wants to deal with FAS/FAE, which was the appropriate language at the time, has to deal with the Liquor Act. Yukoners said that. It wasnít a government of a particular political stripe; it was Yukoners who said that. Yukoners, elected Yukoners, have said that we have to deal with this issue, from every political stripe.
One of the key recommendations ó and there are others ó included to help deal with FAS/FAE ó the specific recommendations in the law included: that the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation had to convey to appropriate ministers the concerns of Yukoners regarding the need for alcohol education and awareness and treatment programs in rural as well as urban areas; that the act had to be reviewed on a regular basis ó a multipurpose ID card. The act should state that minors arenít permitted to sell alcohol at off-sales establishments. The Yukon Liquor Act should extend the ability of municipal bylaw officers and First Nation governmentsí enforcement persons to issue fines and penalties for public drinking and public intoxication. The Yukon government has to work with the City of Whitehorse, other municipalities and First Nations to resolve the problems of loitering, panhandling and related activities and resolve jurisdictional issues. Most importantly ó and this relates to dealing with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder ó there are a number of issues ó legal ó and theyíve been dealt with by other governments ó moral and constitutional around the serving of alcohol to a pregnant woman. And the Liquor Act, as reviewed and as redrafted and as recommended by Yukoners, should state that the granting of a liquor licence is contingent upon the licensee and all servers completing the be-a-responsible-server program.
The Liquor Corporation offers this course now, and the rewritten Liquor Act, as recommended by Yukoners, said that everybody had to have this course. That sort of responsibility would enable a server to indicate to someone the effect of drinking alcohol while pregnant. There are other issues around penalties, enforcement, inspectors and inspections ó all very strong and clear recommendations that relate to the community level, that relate to dealing with that root issue of alcohol that is part of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
My contention and point I wish to make this afternoon with regard to the amendment and the motion is, if the government is truly serious about dealing with the effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, they have to look at the Liquor Act and listen to what Yukoners have to say, and they have to bring it forward.
I also noted in the debate on the amendment to the motion that the government side has repeatedly stated that they should be judged and assessed by Yukoners by how much money is spent on a particular issue. I believe the Member for Southern Lakes particularly made that point, to which I would respond that this government is spending $1.5 million on a bridge that has significant public ó Iím trying to think of the appropriate word, but itís of significant public debate, and support is questionable. The requirement for such a bridge is doubted by many Yukoners. Thatís $1.5 million, yet thereís only $328,000 identified in the budget for FASD.
Thereís half a million dollars in repairs to a building that is 37 years old and, as a government report has labelled, "beyond repair". It currently houses 80 people and a significant number of staff. Thereís not one cent for portables that are as old, if not older. It was designed to be a temporary structure in which 80 children plus spend five hours a day, 180 days a year, and the staff as well.
So I would encourage the government, in allocating the necessary resources as the member suggests, to take a hard look and do as they have suggested this afternoon ó judge themselves by what theyíre spending in what areas and what they are not spending in other areas.
Every party in this Legislature ó and I believe every individual ó believes very strongly that FASD is a direct result of brain damage from alcohol during fetal development. The issues around alcohol and our support for healthy moms and healthy babies ó we all recognize the issues. Every party has recognized and every member of the Legislature recognizes these issues; Yukoners recognize these issues. The question is: how do we go about helping, working with, ensuring that those who have suffered with FASD, who are provided with support, and that those who are helping those who live with FASD are supported as well? And members have spoken eloquently about the patience and commitment and skill level required of individuals who work and live in this particular situation.
The amended motion and the motion itself suggest that the Government of Yukon should implement an action plan, and the amendment adds to that action plan. What I appreciate about this particular motion is that at no time has anyone suggested that this is the only answer and that this is the full and complete answer or that the work stops here with this specific action plan.
I will say that it is my firm belief that the action plan, as laid out by the Yukon Party ó both in their platform and to date ó is woefully incomplete and is not as well conceived, as well laid out as one would expect from a party that is in government and has had 16 months to work on this particular, more full, development of the party commitment.
An example of that is establishing a system of early diagnosis of FASD before the age of six. The issue of early diagnosis has been argued in this House since 1996 and has been much discussed. It has taken some time to achieve full and complete support. Has it been enacted, and if not, why not? There are issues around the steps as laid out. I have concerns. I donít believe they are as complete as one would expect or as they should be. Thatís not to say that I do not support the government, whatever their stripe, dealing with the issues surrounding FASD and support for organizations such as FASSY and others. I strongly support the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Society of Yukon, FASSY, and the work theyíve been doing. I support the work of the government, of the medical community, of the educators, of the individuals trying to assist those who are born with FASD, as well as those in their adulthood ó as the amendment addresses ó who have FASD, undiagnosed or diagnosed, ensuring that government resources provide appropriate education, support systems in the education system, that we work as a community to deal with this issue that affects us all.
This is a community issue and it needs to be dealt with by all of us ó by government, by members of the Legislature, by support we give for organizations, both monetary and as individuals, to our community. I am not going to vote against the motion or the amendment and engage in that kind of a ó I hate to use the word "political" but that sort of politics around this particular issue. Itís far too serious and far too important to be the subject of media releases such as "Another unanimous motion". I believe the government should be open to ideas on how to deal with FASD and how to allocate their resources. They have shown some openness in terms of accepting the amendment. I would suggest they display further openness and commit to bringing back the Liquor Act that so many Yukoners spoke about and did hard work on, and which deals with the sale, distribution, the legislation around alcohol. We are, after all, talking about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
There has been a great deal of work done by a number of governments, by the community and by members on the issues around FASD, and nationally there has been work as well.
I myself have raised this issue of funding by the Government of Canada to deal with FASD.
I understand I only have a short time left. I could speak at length about that. I will not. Suffice it to say I believe that FASD is a serious issue. The government should approach it with seriousness, with financial resources and dealing with the root cause, and dealing with the Liquor Act, as well as the sale and distribution of alcohol in the territory, in addition to these other initiatives.
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: There have been a lot of points made today. There were a lot of points made in the motion that was brought forward, and there have been more points added to it with the amendment that was brought forward to expand it a slight bit to recognize the other concerns that are out there and to basically allow the opposition to feel they have some input into a motion. Itís very important for elected members to feel they do have an opportunity to give input into any motion brought forward.
Thereís no such thing as the perfect motion. No member in this House should stand up and feel that, once theyíve brought a motion in, input should not be accepted. That would be a travesty of democracy, and it would be a slight against peopleís very deep concerns about issues that are brought forward through motions.
Weíve had many motions brought forward in this House, and many of them deserve input from all members. Many motions are of a serious nature, a direction people would like to see the government go in. Sometimes theyíre brought forward to make a statement about a situation, whether itís locally, nationally or internationally.
What is most important in a motion, I believe, is that debate happens and that itís open debate and any suggestions to improve it are welcome. That should always be recognized and appreciated. I think everybody in this House will support the amendment. My understanding from the mover of the motion is that he indicated he accepts the amendment that was made. Thatís wonderful, and I have heard somebody else as well ó I believe the Minister of Health and Social Services ó did recognize the amendment and was willing to accept it and everybody on this side. So weíll be able to move from this amendment to this motion into the mains, back into the amended motion and hopefully move forward and pass it, and that will be excellent, because people feel that they have had the input.
Now, there is no question that the five points in regard to FASD are legitimate points that were brought forward, and I know the mover of the motion, the Member for Southern Lakes, has indicated that there probably could be more points. Now, he also indicated a concern that we would start to put more and more points into it.
Well, I think any time a person stands up in this House and adds something to the debate, it should be welcomed, and Iím sure the Member for Southern Lakes views it that way, as well. I donít think he has to worry. I think everybody in this House has indicated that they support this. However, like any motion, there is opportunity to strengthen it.
Now, I know I could put four or five points down that are just as legitimate and which I feel from my perspective and those of people Iíve talked to in regard to FASD as being very legitimate and not part of this motion. But why would I do that if I felt that it would cause a disruption around the debate of the motion and destroy the intent of the mover? I have no intention of doing that.
I already indicated that Iím going to support this.
Now, saying that, I do have a couple of concerns. One is the time that it has taken from the time that this was a promise made. These five points are realistically taken directly out of the platform of the Yukon Party when they ran in the election 19 months ago. There have been two major budgets, as well as supplementary, and we still do not see the action taken on a very, very important item in the promise during the election campaign.
Now, saying that, there is still a little over two years left in the mandate of the Yukon Party and hopefully this will not get delayed any longer and we will see some kind of movement by the government to start to fulfill this.
I understand the frustration of the member who brought this motion forward. From my perspective and from what I see, heís bringing this forward because it is 19 months since these promises were made and nothing has happened. Heís bringing it forward in a motion to remind his own colleagues that we made this promise, we believed in this when we said it, it is time to do something concrete now. The words arenít good enough so the motion has come forward, and I applaud him for that. I think thatís very good. I understand that. I understand the frustration at times on some things when theyíre moving too slow, when you feel that it could have been one of those things that could have been brought forward right away, a lot of work could have been done over the last 19 months, and many of these points could have been advanced and we could have been addressing this very serious problem within our society.
Now, from my perspective, my concern is the resources too, and what I really worry about is if we donít put the resources behind the words then thatís all they are ó words. The government of the day has to make that commitment. Itís not good enough.
We stand in here and see motions time and time and time again. A lot of them are motherhood motions; a lot of them are very serious motions. Occasionally some of them are frivolous motions, but I think itís the hope of people who bring motions forward with sincerity that the motions will be treated with respect and that the motions will inspire the government to move forward on the issue of the motion. I am really, really hoping that we will move forward on these new six points, that we will see within a year, within the fall and the supplementary, whatever, we will see some action on these. I hope that next year we do not have to see another motion brought forward to address the five points ó the six now ó to once again remind everybody in the House how serious this is in our society and how we must make that commitment.
There has been a lot said already about FASD. Iím not going down that road. Itís a call for action, not a motion. Itís a call for action. So I am hoping when this is passed that tomorrow the government will be moving on it. Thatís what Iím hoping. Otherwise, the motion has no validity; it has no weight; itís a piece of paper with some words said in the Legislature, and we go home at night and forget what we said. We forget the promises we made. We forget the agreements that we made in this House.
That doesnít help the people. Itís not a mail-out. Itís not a reminder of promises. Itís a commitment. Once we vote on this, itís a commitment, and we on this side of the House ó myself as leader of the official opposition and my colleagues ó will support this and stand behind it and work as best we can to help, but we have to see the action as well.
Iím hoping that in one year weíre not looking at this motion again. Iím hoping that in one year the Member for Southern Lakes will stand up in the House and say, "This is what weíve done, this is what weíve done, this is complete, money is flowing for here, this action is happening, and weíre working with the organizations out there." Thatís what I hope to hear.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start with, Iíd like to put on record that the opposition always appears to be able to put a negative spin on anything positive, and thatís what I just heard. When we hear about the member of the third party bringing in things like the Education Act review to do with FASD, it has nothing to do with FASD. In my opinion, it has more to do with oneís personal decisions and choices to deal with alcohol addiction. The Liquor Act is only regulations and will not address the ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: I recognize itís a dispute between members, but I would not want the Member for McIntyre-Takhini to be under the impression I made reference to the Education Act review. I did not. It was the Liquor Act review I made reference to.
Speaker:Order please. What we have here is a dispute among members.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think itís important to put on record that if I did say Education Act review, I was referring to the Liquor Act review. This whole discussion around the Liquor Act review has ó
The member also talked about the amount of money being put into this issue. One would have to assume that the leader of the third party, having just been the leader of government for several years, never stood up and said one thing about the amount of money they put into it, so one could assume that they put nothing into it. This government is willing to move forward and they do have the political will to come forward and address this issue. This government is not hiding underneath a rock or under any other excuses. This government has come forward with sincere intentions and I encourage everyone to support those intentions.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 43 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the motion as amended?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít have any comments on the motion as amended, but I wanted to speak to the main motion ó
Speaker: As amended.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As amended, okay.
Mr. Speaker, today I will practise traditional practices and speak from the heart on this issue. FASD was created by man, not the Creator. It can be prevented. One must seek understanding of how this whole issue came about. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for the individuals and the victims of FASD. First, I will admit that Iím by no means an expert on this issue.
However, I have had 20 years plus of being directly involved and working with individuals who could possibly have had FASD or FAE. One cannot be in denial that this issue is present throughout the territory and, in the same breath, one cannot put blame on any particular person, program or especially the mothers.
Mr. Speaker, I also brought this issue forward at an education ministers meeting in Halifax, requesting that the rest of the ministers across Canada recognize FASD as a disability. There have been discussions around it and I will continue to raise this issue across Canada because it is, in my opinion, a disability.
My traditional belief is that the Creator chose the woman to be the one to look after the spirit that comes to this earth. The woman provides the shelter, the warmth, the nourishment, the protection and, therefore, they are very sacred people and one must demonstrate the utmost respect to women.
Alcohol is a man-made substance, as I mentioned earlier, and it knows no boundaries. Alcohol addiction knows no race or gender; it affects everyone who gets addicted to it. I feel I can quite safely say that if it was the man carrying the fetus and bringing them into this world, there would be just as many, if not more, FASD victims on this earth today.
Alcohol is a substance that captures oneís whole life, and alcohol will continue to be an active substance in this world as we know it today. There are many things that alcohol accomplishes in this world. Some are bad and some are good. People sell this stuff and it brings money, but things are done with money. Quite frankly, I would like to see a lot more of the money thatís generated by alcohol sales to go directly into this initiative.
I think itís critically important that women are not singled out in this discussion by anyone across the country. It is a very, very difficult addiction to deal with. A lot of people will go through their whole life fighting this addiction.
A lot of people will succeed in being able to control it, and others will pass on into the spirit world because they have never been able to control it.
And in the traditional way, it is a manís responsibility to support the woman. I certainly would encourage and would like to see everyone across the country respect that. If the woman is pregnant, then the man must also act as though he is pregnant, which means that you do not do anything that the woman shouldnít. Abstaining from alcohol consumption must be respected by both the man and the woman during pregnancy.
I believe that women are at a disadvantage because when they are consuming alcohol, itís possible they can lose their child to Health and Social Services. When that happens, the woman automatically has a very serious problem. Number one, she loses connection with the baby she provided nurturing and shelter for, for nine months. Following that, there would be a lot of loneliness and a disconnection. And itís not uncommon ó numerous women have told me that when their child is taken, a part of their life is gone.
Unfortunately, it takes away responsibilities and provides for more time to consume alcohol.
I also believe itís important to talk just a little bit about the history of the Yukon. And when we talk about seeking understanding of this issue, we need to go back to the history of the Yukon Territory. What I say is not to discredit anyone. No one can change history. It is already done, and it is going to stay that way. So it is important to respect that and to seek understanding of it.
When we talk about the fur traders and when they came to the country, there were a lot of dynamic changes throughout the territory. It was around the 1800s when the mission schools were put into effect ó again, a very detrimental period of history for First Nation people. To start losing your children, whether there was alcohol involved or not, was a choice of the government of the day. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, First Nations were even put in jail for refusing to let their children go.
So, way back then, that started a trend of alcohol abuse. Children being taken: I mentioned this already, and it was a very, very harsh thing. Itís difficult for people to grasp or even accept. It created a lot of loneliness, a lot of emptiness. And a lot of the First Nation history is involved around children. When you have a community with no children, you have a pretty dead community.
The life is gone, again bringing in the opportunity for alcohol abuse and alcohol consumption.
Then, Mr. Speaker, we go to the gold rush. What did that bring to the Yukon Territory? It brought the symbolization of happy-go-lucky partying, all-night/all-day partying, a lot of liberty to do whatever one may wish. Again, the influx of thousands of people into this territory, and what was brought with them? Again, wealth, the discovery of gold. It all changed the dynamics of the Yukon Territory.
Whether it was for the good or for the worse, it still changed the dynamics dramatically, again creating a lot of opportunity for alcohol consumption and abuse.
Then we go on to the building of the Alaska Highway. Again, itís all progress ó something one cannot stop. The building of the Alaska Highway again brought thousands of people to the territory, and I read the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, and there was one line in there that really stood out for me when it said, "Overnight, 10,000 men came to our community with no women of their own". To understand that, one has to really look at every angle of what that statement means.
To me it meant that, again, there was a lot of alcohol brought to this territory. There was a lot of abuse of women. I know from talking to elders who were in this territory before the Alaska Highway ó they told stories of people, First Nation people, enjoying the land and being able to hunt and fish. When the road came, things changed. What came with the American army were rations of alcohol, lots of it. Every soldier was given a daily ration.
So again, this is all important when we talk about the high stats of alcohol consumption in the Yukon. This is all contributing to that high statistic. In my opinion, itís probably one of the major contributing factors ó the history. Because when a place is known for its liberty on alcohol and liquor laws ó and I remember even myself at one time, when one could buy alcohol any time of the day and drink it anywhere on the streets, wherever. So having those relaxed laws like that and to promote the Yukon as a real party place of adventure did contribute a lot to the situation weíre in today with FASD.
The main message I have that I really would like citizens throughout the land to look at is, number one, a woman is sacred.
We must always keep that in mind ó the alcohol was man-made, and the addiction is a part of what man made. According to the most recent statistics released by the Government of Canada, Yukon has the highest consumption rate of alcohol in the country per capita. Accordingly, one would expect a similar high incidence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Although this cannot be confirmed at this time in Yukon, as a medical diagnostic process has not been the past practice, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a lifelong ó yet completely preventable ó set of physical, mental and neural behavioural defects associated with alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
Each individual with FASD is unique, and strategies that work with one may not be effective with the next. A holistic orientation that involves the child, the family, the community and the school has been shown to be the most beneficial approach for all. A lifelong support model is required to prevent a ripple effect from secondary characteristics, which impact the entire community in such areas as health, justice, education, housing, recreation and employment.
The Department of Education has launched two targeted initiatives to support students affected with FASD across the Yukon. These initiatives complement the work of Health and Social Services, which is addressing the early diagnosis of FASD through a pilot project with the Child Development Centre and is developing transition strategies for students entering the public school system.
While efforts are being focused on reducing the incidence of FASD, individuals already affected must be supported so that each is able to reach his or her potential and contribute to the community. The following two initiatives now being implemented by the Department of Education will offer support services to learners from the time they enter the public school system and continue through to supported learning at Yukon College.
Number one, school-based on-site FASD training and support for teachers, developmental studies, preparation for education and vocational opportunities at Yukon College.
The initiatives for Yukon College students are being implemented through a partnership with Yukon College via a contribution agreement. The department feels that these two initiatives will provide a comprehensive approach to dealing with FASD students and at-risk youth. Individuals will benefit from these initiatives and will have increased potential to become self-sufficient in their communities. It is an up-front investment in our citizens and our communities and should ultimately reduce cost to the government.
The on-site FASD training program is modelled on a similar pilot project undertaken successfully at Ross River School during the 2002-03 school year. The evaluation of the pilot project indicated that a sustainable program in multiple schools would require a program coordinator and the development of new teacher tools that would allow specialists and consultants in the department to service more schools currently.
Mr. Speaker, I will close by saying that this government has taken the initial steps to start addressing this very serious issue and, regardless of what the opposition has to say with regard to this government and progress they have accomplished to date, I will say on the floor of this Legislature today that I have been in the Yukon for 40 years plus, and I believe that this government in the last 16 months has accomplished a tremendous amount of progress in this area. I also understand and accept the fact that there probably is and will be more money put into this initiative in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to rise and speak in support of the motion as amended and to just put on record my support for the efforts that have been undertaken to date and the efforts that we await to see to deal with the tragedy of FASD.
I believe that the motion represents a place where we can start addressing one of the most serious issues facing our community here in the Yukon. It faces our community and our society nationally and most certainly it affects us globally as well. I believe that FASD knows no boundaries. Itís something that affects communities and societies, not just here in the Yukon but across the country and, indeed, around the globe.
It also knows no boundaries as far as age goes. As was stated earlier, alcohol has been around for a long time, and weíre just becoming more aware of the impact that consuming alcohol has on unborn children.
Along with that awareness and the problems associated with FASD comes a responsibility for us as legislators, for governments, for educators and for communities to work to support people in dealing with this problem and to support them in their lives so that they can live them out with dignity.
The motion has a lot of good points in it. Iíd be the first one to admit that I donít know all there is to know. I donít know all the problems that exist. I donít, by any stretch of the imagination, have all the solutions obviously either, and I donít know that any of us in this room have all the solutions or know everything there is to know about the problem the motion addresses. But I do think that by our actions here today, in talking about this and supporting it, we can move forward, and we can make a difference in the lives of those people who are most deeply affected by it and in the lives of the families of those people who live every day dealing with it.
There is a lot of need for prevention programs to eliminate alcohol consumption. As a community, as individuals and as a society we need to show our support for women who are pregnant, to encourage them not to consume alcohol and to ensure that those babies are born healthy.
One point that sticks in my mind in the motion ó and it was raised with me earlier today ó was establishing a system of early diagnosis before the age of six. I think thatís important so that we can deal with the problems and provide support to the children and to the families to again support them in going forward in living their lives. As well, as I said earlier, FASD knows no boundaries and we need to provide diagnosis and support for people of all ages.
I think this is a good start. We need to recognize there are a lot of people out there who are doing a lot and itís governments, itís educators, itís the teachers, people who work in the classrooms and work to identify a problem and then work with the people to assist them in living a full life. Itís the volunteers who work with people who have FASD.
Itís the organizations that have those volunteers. Some of them are provided funding by government; some of them rely on other sources of funding.
I think we need to recognize the incredible effort that has been put forward, especially by volunteers and non-government organizations that have not only raised the awareness of society but have also made incredible steps forward in helping people live their lives more fully.
One of the other areas that is spoken about in the motion is enhancing supported living arrangements for adults. I believe it was the Minister of Health and Social Services who said this is something the government would want to move forward on but that it was contingent on federal funds. This is one of the areas where it has been brought to my attention that there is most definitely a need for more support for housing for adults living with FASD.
Itís my understanding that the spaces that are available are limited and that you actually have to be referred by the court to be eligible for those units where there is supported housing for adults. It seems almost criminal that you would have to be referred by the court. Basically what is being said is that you have to actually commit an offence and be a criminal, and I donít believe that that should be a criterion for having to be supported in living a full life. If thatís whatís needed, then we should work toward that end.
So I donít want to go on. We support the motion; we thank the government for supporting the amendment to the motion. As I said, it represents a good place to start addressing a serious issue. As the leader of the official opposition said earlier ó Iíll just try and paraphrase ó actions speak louder than words, and what we have done today is we have put words on paper, and weíve stood up, and weíve said a lot, weíve stated our support. So I look forward to seeing how we in the Legislature and how the government goes forward. I look forward to seeing those actions.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to speak to the amended motion.
I think this is a very important statement weíre making today, not only to ourselves, but to the Yukon as a whole. We understand that this is a situation we have not only in Whitehorse, but in all our communities.
There is an interesting statistic out there that in Canada, the Yukon has the highest alcohol consumption rate in the whole country per capita. That says a lot of things to me. With the FASD situation we have in our community, I think our party ó as we ran it in our campaign with our five-step action plan ó recognized the fact that the medical problem is out there and needed to be addressed in a fashion that would be appropriate for our society. I think our government, once we were elected, moved very fast to put together a group in Health to make sure that we address these issues.
This is a very, very hard issue for society and also for government, because the patients weíre dealing with vary individually, so one package doesnít fit all. I mean, we have an issue out there that is a massive medical problem, not so much because of the numbers, but because every individual who is affected is affected at a different level.
When we put this motion forward and we as a government put this proposal forward in the department, at the end of the road, this is work in progress.
This is a growing thing. Like the member opposite said, he doesnít have the answers. I donít have the answers. I think what weíve done in this motion and also with this government is to, first of all, recognize the problem. I think if you go to the communities and talk to the communities like I have done, they recognize the problem. Now, remember that that problem is a society problem. As the Minister of Education commented, it has no barriers. It affects everybody equally. In turn, it affects our whole government. Recently weíve had debates on the justice system. How many people in our justice system are affected by this. Are there 10 percent? Twenty percent? Is there a need to take a look at our justice system to see if we can address these individuals differently from putting them in a prison atmosphere? I think thatís what the Minister of Justice is doing, addressing these issues out there.
Education ó how do we address the problem of this medical problem in a school in Ross River? How do we mix and match a classroom full of children and come out the other end with everybody benefiting from a day in school? We donít know that. We as a government put the money forward. We are going to take baby steps on this. These resources we put toward this are just the start of a bigger iceberg, per se. I think what weíre doing here is commendable as a House, but I think that at the end of the day, hopefully weíre going to monitor it, due progress. The member opposite rolls in the Liquor Act. In a society that has the highest consumption rate of alcohol in the country, that becomes an issue. Now how any individual in this House, when weíre talking about this medical problem, this scourge on our society, would roll in the Liquor Act ó again, politics. This is too big a problem to be a political football. This is too big a thing to hang the Liquor Act on the back of it so that somehow politically somebody can win some points down the trail.
This is a very serious medical problem in our society. This affects our education, our justice and our health. At the end of the day, it affects the bottom line of our government ó any government in power. By recognizing there is a problem and moving forward with it, it addresses the problem of the day and we as a government ó or we as a party when we ran ó went out to the population and said, "This is our platform." We committed to doing the five-star program and working with it.
This amendment adds on that weíre willing to enable voluntary screening of adults who may have undiagnosed FASD. Thatís where our justice system comes in, understanding that we have people out there who donít know ó and we donít know ó that theyíre affected by this disease. By finding out youíre affected by this, I guess it would mean you could get some medical help. In other words, you could get some resources to make your life better. We canít cure this.
As far as education is concerned, we have to educate our population that alcohol and drugs do affect the life of the unborn. When I was growing up, that wasnít common knowledge. People smoked and they drank and they did the things they did in daily life and had babies, and society went on. But the problem we have in our society today is that we know what the problem is; we know what the solution is, but how do we get to the solution?
Remember, every one of these patients is an obligation to our society for life. Thereís no cure at the end of the day. We can make their life better; we can make their life comfortable; we can protect them from society, because these people are victims and they get into situations they donít know theyíre in. We can work toward that but, at the end of the day, we have to take care of the patient, and we have to educate the people who are coming behind us.
So I think by putting these funds together and by addressing the problem, putting these five steps forward, adding this sixth one, which recognizes the fact there are people out there in our community who, of their free will, if they wanted to get tested for it, there is an opportunity to do that. But at the end of the day, this is a huge job for us as a government and also society ó society out there, education and the education out there in our communities. We have to have the resources. The education in our education system has to be resourced so that the schools have the tools to not only deal with the situation of the patient but also educate children to understand that this is a medical thing and this can be prevented.
This is a man-made disease, Mr. Speaker. Itís not genetic. These people can have different levels of medical problems. Some are more capable than others. We understand that. Some of them can get out in the workforce and contribute to society, and they will, with proper training and proper education. Some will never be free enough medically to work in our society.
So, in other words, this medical problem will be with us for a long time. So it is very important for us to educate the population. And I think by this motion, by us in the House agreeing to this unanimously, I think this bodes well for us as parliamentarians in this House. As the Government of Yukon Territory, we are all government in that we were elected by our constituents to represent a specific constituency but, at the end of the day, weíre elected to make decisions for the whole group, the whole family unit, which is Yukon, and at the end of the day this has to be carried out of here into society, and society has to see that weíre sincere about this. And I think the Minister of Health and Social Services has realized this, along with Education, along with Justice ó this is bigger than one department.
This is a government thing, and as we move forward, we, as parliamentarians, should question how we are proceeding ó not expecting that we are going to cure this overnight.
One of the members from the opposite side was talking about, "Well, theyíve got two years left in their mandate." Thatís a fact, but the fact is this is not going to be cured in two years. For anybody on this side of the House or on that side of the House to say, "Well, youíve got 24 months, what do you do?"
Well, what we did today was get a unanimous vote out of this House on a very important issue for our community ó for the Yukon family. It is to try to get some semblance of direction on how we as a society, we as a government, perceive the funding and the importance of this disease.
I think weíre on the right track here, Mr. Speaker. I say to you, and to everybody in this House, this is a monstrous task. This is not going to be done overnight. There are not any time limits on this. These patients are going to be with us in our society, probably for 50 years, as the Minister of Education says. How can they work in our society? How can they participate in our society? And, at the end of the day, how can we prevent this man-made disease from rearing its head again?
So, at the end of the day, this is a very good motion. I appreciate the fact that weíre in the House, that we all agree this is a problem. We agree on this side of the House that it needs funding and direction. We have committed not only Health, but Education and Justice. Weíre taking it that next step, and hopefully we can report at the end of the year that we have gone a few steps forward on this. But we arenít going to make giant moves on this because, at the end of the day, we can only move as fast as the medical situation allows.
So, thank you, and I look forward to the vote.
Mr. Hassard: Iím curious as to whatís going on across the floor. I just wanted to have a moment or two to put my thoughts on the record. I will be brief. I just wanted to say that growing up in small-town Yukon, a person sees the effects FASD has on individuals and on the family and on our communities. Over the years the information on the issue has grown and Iím glad to see whatís being done today to get this motion passed.
The other thing I would add is that the Yukon is not alone in this. I recently found an article from Juneau that talked about a fetal alcohol clinic opening in Juneau. With that, I would just say that I look forward to the vote.
Mr. Cathers: I just rise to support the motion as amended and to thank the Member for Mayo-Tatchun for his contribution to this motion. As has been stated by several members in this House, this issue is far too important to be a political football. Itís time that we moved forward on this collaboratively. Itís nice to see that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has put forward what I feel is a constructive amendment to our motion, the motion the Member for Southern Lakes put forward.
The action plan on FASD originally stems from the platform commitment by us as a government on the five-step plan for FASD. There is much work that has been done already but, of course, as long as the problem still exists the work is not complete. Every Yukoner has seen the effects of this horrible scourge on society, this problem that affects far too many people. Weíve had on this side of the House three of our ministers in particular whose departments have been hard at work on this. The Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Education have all put a great deal of work into the individual plans from their departments to work on addressing this problem.
This has an immeasurable impact on lives. Itís very important that we move forward to diagnosis of FASD and move forward to help the individuals who are currently faced with that problem in their lives and have that disability.
The two main objectives that must be worked toward are assisting those people who already have FASD and working to prevent others from being born with this disability. In large part, that requires education. It also requires the support of friends and, in particular, the partner of the woman who is pregnant, during pregnancy, to assist them in resisting the temptation to consume alcohol if it is a problem and a temptation theyíre used to dealing with in their lives. That support of others in their circle of friends and family is very important.
With that, Iíd like to thank members for their contribution to this and urge them all to support this motion as amended.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion, as amended?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 43 agreed to as amended
Unanimous consent re business of the House
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive our Standing Orders in order to call Motion No. 280, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: Youíve heard the request for unanimous consent made by the government House leader.
Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent.
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 280
Speaker:It is moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin
THAT this House encourages the Government of Yukon to work with the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tríondëk Hwëchíin, the Na Cho Nyäk Dun and the Tetlit Gwitchin First Nations, as well as the governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories, to ensure that any celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway recognizes the role played by First Nation people in making this project possible.
Mrs. Peter: I am pleased to speak briefly to this motion. Last month I received correspondence from First Nations and people in the communities wondering about what the Yukon territorial governmentís celebration plans were for the 25th anniversary of the Dempster Highway.
I was disappointed that no one seemed to have heard anything directly from this government, so I offered to write to the Premier, which I did on April 15. My concern was that I had brought this issue forward to the Premier in general debate a couple of weeks ago, and neither the letter nor the comments I made were acknowledged. I was told it was the responsibility of the Minister of Community Services. However, my concern mostly lies with the planning of these celebrations and how these celebrations were going to reflect the historical context as fully and as accurately as possible, because the construction of the Dempster Highway would not have been possible without the guidance and the support of First Nation people and the traditional knowledge they generously shared.
Another is that any public celebration of the Dempster Highway should recognize ó I want to emphasize "recognize" ó the vital role played by the people of the four First Nations whose traditional territories are involved, and especially the elders. Those four First Nations are listed in the motion.
So, when I hadnít heard from the Premier, I decided to table this motion that weíre considering today. I thank the members opposite for allowing this motion to come forward. I believe that the motion speaks for itself, and I encourage all members of this House to give it their wholehearted support.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, I want to state for the record that the government side applauds the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and the official opposition for bringing forward the motion. I can assure the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that the letter she had sent to me in mid-April certainly will be responded to. Itís unfortunate that it hasnít taken place before now.
However, I think, and the government side believes, that this is a very constructive measure and productive approach to this issue. The government side will fully support the motion as tabled by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and will also commit to immediately move to develop a process that will engage the First Nations that had so much to do with the Dempster Highway ó its construction and its history ó and also the GNWT and the federal government.
So, we unanimously support the motion and commit to move quickly on designing and developing a process that will ensure that the related First Nations are involved, in a meaningful way, in the celebration for the Dempster Highway.
Speaker: The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, if she now speaks, will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Ms. Duncan: I would just like to state for the record that I appreciate very much the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin bringing this motion forward and appreciate that she has raised an issue and put forward an idea that is worthy of support of all members of the Legislature and of action by the government.
Thank you very much, and I thank the member for bringing it forward.
Speaker: If the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin now speaks she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to thank all members for their support and look forward to a very exciting celebration of the Dempster Highway.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Motion No. 280 agreed to
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 276
Clerk:Motion No. 276, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to continue the Yukon film incentive program, which has attracted a number of film productions, and to continue working with industry to enhance the Yukonís competitiveness.
Mr. Hassard: The applause has already started from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Noting the time, I will try not to go on at great length.
Incepted in November of 1998, the Yukon film incentive program was designed to encourage sustainable growth in the Yukon film production and production services sector, resulting in a stronger infrastructure of skills and services that may, in turn, help to attract and encourage film, television and commercial production in the Yukon.
The film incentive program was used to attract fully financed productions to choose Yukon as a location for filming.
The program consists of three components: the Yukon film location incentive, Yukon film training initiative, and Yukon filmmakers fund.
To speak briefly to each of those, the Yukon film location incentive has three parts to it. The first one is the travel rebate. Documentary and commercial productions are eligible for a maximum of $10,000 or 10 percent of all Yukon expenditures, whichever is the lesser. Television program, television movie and feature film productions are eligible for a maximum of $15,000 or 15 percent of Yukon expenditures not assisted under any other portion of the film incentive program. The second part of that is the labour rebate. Television, movie of the week, and feature films are eligible for a rebate of up to 35 percent of wages paid for eligible Yukon labour, provided certain criteria are met. The third of that is the training program. As with the labour rebate, the production is eligible for a rebate of up to 35 percent of wages paid to individuals providing on-set training techniques to eligible Yukon residents.
The second aspect of the incentive is the Yukon film training initiative, and up to $3,000 per person-year is available for training for a technical position on a typical commercial production.
The third aspect is the Yukon filmmakers fund. The purpose of this program is to deliver funding to Yukon film and video professionals to assist them in developing viable careers and businesses making films and videos for broadcast for commercial release.
Now, what does that mean to the average Yukoner? Well, between November of 1999 and November of 2003, the Yukon film incentive program supported 24 productions.
These productions spent approximately $5.5 million. The total Yukon government contribution through rebates to these productions was approximately $650,000 over four years. That said, the average ratio of total production dollars spent versus the cost of the rebate program is 8:1.
Now, the impact of the film industry was very evident in the last month. The much publicized The Great White film caused quite a stir by Yukon standards by having big-name movie stars here in Whitehorse, and that alone is great, but perhaps more importantly to the people of the Yukon was the economic impact of having those people here. It was very evident and I saw first-hand how busy some of the rental businesses were here in Whitehorse. Any day of the week you could see several Norcan pickup trucks hauling people and equipment back and forth to filming locations. A fellow I know personally at MacPherson Rentals was extremely busy with rentals of snowmobiles, trailers, lights and generators, among other things. These are local businesses benefiting and theyíre employing local people.
As well, many people from out of town had to stay at our hotels and enjoyed meals at many of our fine local restaurants, so itís very obvious that this is a program that I believe is valuable to Yukoners. With that, I would open the floor to any comments and I look forward to unanimous support for this motion.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there is a lot to say about the Yukon film incentive program and Iím very glad the member brought it forward to be debated. He did give us a very short synopsis of the history of it. He did leave out some facts, but Iím quite happy to fill them in.
In 1998, the government in power was the New Democratic Party and the initiative of this film incentive program, which came from the people of this territory, was realized through an NDP government. And it wasnít an easy thing because we faced opposition in the Legislature. You know, weíve been hearing lately from the Member for Klondike saying that weíre going to vote against this budget or we voted against the supplementary, but itís kind of odd that he would be making those kind of claims about us when we have a backbencher of the Yukon Party government standing up and talking about the film incentive program in a very positive light and bringing forward a motion to encourage the work of it to continue to enhance the Yukonís competitiveness, only to look in the records and realize that this very Member for Klondike voted against it. He was opposed to this.
Now, Iím not sure if thereís some sort of raging debate over there with respect to the film incentive program, and maybe the member who introduced it had to take this minister on. If he did, I take my hat off to him. Itís not an easy task. But he obviously stood up to him and said, "No, this is a good program. The NDP brought in an excellent program. This has stimulated the economy, this has benefited the film industry and I stand behind it." I can imagine him saying that in caucus.
Now, on the other side, I can imagine the Member for Klondike, who voted against this, saying, "Donít do it. I wonít let you bring this motion forward. I totally disagree with this. I voted against it, and I still stand by my vote in 1998." That must have been one heck of a caucus meeting. I would have loved to have been there and listened to it. But in the end, we know who won.
The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin came out the champion. Iím glad he did and Iím glad he has brought this forward because I, for one, also support it and my colleagues also support it.
It was created to help attract films and commercials, to help them meet the cost of using the Yukon as a location. The people who brought it forward to the NDP in 1998 were very persuasive about what was needed, and Iíll get to that in a few minutes and what we feel still needs to be developed and brought forward if weíre going to move forward on this.
The program was expanded to include incentives for using local crews, and that has been mentioned by the mover of the motion. As has already been mentioned, the movie last month shot up here, The Big White, did employ a lot of people and businesses, but we have seen that since 1998. Feature films have been up here. The Big White isnít the only one; there have been other ones, and they have had a very positive impact on employment for youth ó we have seen youth actors ó and employment for people in many of the aspects needed to put a film together, as well as the many commercials that have been shot up here.
During the late 1990s, the Film Commission, which was very involved in the promotions and was extremely busy, really went out to promote the Yukon as a location for productions. I think one of the slogans at that time that had a tremendous impact up here, and one that people Outside have also been able to identify with, is "First snow, last snow". I take my hat off to the Yukon Film Commission, the commissioner and the people who worked there. That was a very good slogan.
Because what it spoke to was something that many films are looking for, and that is the first snowfall of the year ó if you want to get your film up and running, come to the Yukon. Youíre still trying to do a shot such as The Big White, youíre still trying to find a location ó well, down south, the snow is gone. The Yukon is the place to come. That slogan ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: "Think snow" ó those hats that were around all over the place. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever saw that hat, "Think snow" ó the member for the third party just mentioned the hats that were around that said "Think snow" on them, very catchy ó it was a person named Snow wearing it very proudly and he wore it everywhere he went. He thought that was pretty cool ó another way of publicizing it.
However, this was a very good slogan, and itís not often that you get one that catches, that people Outside identify with, so that people, when they try to think of shooting a film, think, "Well, we need snow. Where can we go with guaranteed snow? Where can we go at this time of year where there is going to be snow, whether itís in the fall or in the spring?" And that is what caught peopleís attention. I believe that kind of work and that kind of forward-thinking and innovative thinking is what has drawn some films up here.
Now, a lot of people during the late 1990s benefited greatly from income from film work, and it continued to grow. A number of the training programs were provided. Many Yukon people got hands-on experience. Iíll list some of them: production assistants, makeup people, lighting, sound assistants, drivers ó the list goes on and on and on, including actors. We have a tremendous group of actors up here. We have many budding actors up here. People may dream of being actors. Every time a movie is shot, it stimulates that. If they are able to work with actors from Outside, it always is exciting. Often there is a sharing of experiences and, in many cases, actors up here who havenít had opportunity to have much exposure, opportunity to act in a film or a commercial or whatever, get that experience, which gives them the opportunity to be able to expand.
So that has been good. But there are a lot of young people and older people who have said, "You know, I wouldnít have minded trying my hand at acting," and theyíre going out to the auditions, and theyíre getting the opportunity, and thatís wonderful for them.
Now a lively and committed industrial group, known as the Northern Film and Video Industry Association, was developed during this period, and the work they did was very good, and it continues to be a strong voice for Yukon people in the film and video industry, whether theyíre working on their own film projects, which many of them do, or they work with Outside production companies that are doing location shooting here.
When we were in government we provided initial funding for the electrics package that industry had told us was needed to help reduce transportation costs, and I believe that has had a very positive effect. Later the Yukon government provided a grip package through a lease-purchase agreement with the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. That has continued to stimulate opportunities up here. Like the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin has said, we recognize the enormous amount of talent that exists in the Yukon. There is a tremendous amount of potential that will be developed up here and hopefully will continue to be developed.
What are the advantages of a film industry up here? If we canít see the advantages, why would we be doing it? First, it brings a lot of money into the economy and generates a lot of money for the suppliers, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, hairdressers ó we often hear that the hairdressers get a fair amount of work ó and other activities.
Films are often considered to be an environmentally friendly industry. They have a very low impact upon the environment. In most cases, I believe thatís true. It allows Yukoners to tell their stories to the world. Now that can happen in many ways. Weíre seeing films that are being written and produced up here that are travelling around the world and being shown, and theyíre generating a tremendous amount of excitement.
I was just talking to a friend of mine who came to visit me at my house the other day. Her film has now travelled to something like 30 countries. You know, I honestly believe that it hasnít even been shown in the Yukon yet. I say "her film", but I should really say "her story", because it is about her telling her story, her life. Iím looking forward to the opportunity to see it, because I havenít seen it either. I know there has been tremendous reception to it, and it will be welcomed back to the Yukon, because it is her story, and it connects to what the Yukon is.
The other thing it has also done for us is that it helped put Yukon on the map. The Tourism minister talks a lot about brands, marketing, initiatives and spending money. Thatís very legitimate; we have to do it; however, there is nothing like a film made in the Yukon that is shown around the world to bring attention to what this place is about ó especially if you have these magnificent scenery shots. People say, "Iíd love to see that."
Iíll give you an example of this, and itís not particularly to the Yukon but the potential of it. The Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand. I think it should have been shot in the Yukon, but thatís my own personal bias maybe. But The Lord of the Rings was shot in New Zealand.
Now, the tourist industry in New Zealand is fairly healthy, but after they shot The Lord of the Rings and the three segments of it and put out the first one with the spectacular scenery in, tourism in New Zealand skyrocketed. Then they put out the second one and the third one. It has just been a massive benefit to New Zealand and it has created a tremendous number of other films being shot there.
What was it based on? Iím not going to get into the story of The Lord of the Rings. What was the decision around that that people would come? Why would people now want to shoot films there? They saw a few things: the magnificent scenery of New Zealand. Many people had never seen it before, or nothing like that anyway. All of a sudden, people thought theyíd love to go and see that and experience that.
They also recognized there was the talent in New Zealand to put on a production of this magnitude. There was the equipment, the skills, the support, and what that brought in was more films. Now New Zealandís industry is really growing. I shouldnít say "growing"; it is firmly established as a place to shoot films. One film did that.
Now, that was a massive film; thereís no question about it. But thatís all it took. Ours may have been step by step, where we have commercials, we have medium-size films and that, but each one adds to the picture, and the people in this territory have continued to try to build on that momentum.
There was a fair amount of momentum in the late 1990s, but it did slow down after 2001. Some of it could be pointed toward some indecision and lack of direction on the part of the governments of that period. Frankly, itís often said in the film industry that you canít have that stop, you canít have that slowing down, because theyíll go somewhere else, theyíll be attracted somewhere else, and itís very hard to get them back again.
So in many ways we lost many opportunities. Iíve heard of those figures, of 11, 12 commercials and films that were wanting to be shot here and had to be turned away. I think that was in one of the papers a year or two ago. You canít estimate how many jobs we lost there and how many hundreds of thousands of dollarsí worth of economic benefits went elsewhere because of a failure to keep that momentum going once we had started it.
I can give you an example. It has been well over a year since the Minister of Tourism said that getting a new film commissioner in place was a top priority. Thatís over a year now. Now, instead of seeing the film commissioner ó Iíve asked the Tourism minister in this House about the film commissioner and if she supported a stand-alone and where the commissioner was. In questions last year and asking these, I realized from the answers I was getting back that there seemed to have been a shuffle, so not only havenít we seen that the film commissioner hasnít been put in place, nor is it a top priority though it was said it was, the Film Commission was moved to a department that didnít even exist at that time. Then, when it did exist, it had a dollar budget.
So going back to what I said, you have momentum, youíre building on it, things are moving along and then they start to stall out because the government doesnít have the will or the desire to move it forward, doesnít recognize the importance of this and the benefits of it, and then you have another government that comes in and they donít even know where to put the Film Commission. They donít even know if they should have a film commissioner. Unfortunately, thatís not good for this segment of our economy.
So it was moved to a department with a $1 budget. The department had no deputy minister, no objectives and certainly no experience in this industry of fast-paced, highly competitive world of making film deals ó nothing. So we have this long period where this is where itís sitting.
And now, here we are all these months later, and the question I have to ask is, do we have a film commissioner yet? Do we have a film commissioner? It was a top priority, but over a year later Iím standing here asking if there is a film commissioner. If there is, could they please tell us who it is? Iím assuming that there isnít, or else itís the best kept secret in the Yukon, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Now, itís fine ó I opened the paper the other day, and I saw a shot of the Premier with Robin Williams and some members of his staff and other people in the picture having a photo opportunity, and thatís fine. And itís fine that members on that side congratulate themselves for that Hollywood movie coming to town; however, itís my understanding that the reason the movie was here ó going back to an earlier statement about snow ó was that there was a lack of snow in Manitoba, and they were looking around for a place to find snow. Thank goodness, I think, because of work in the late 1990s, somebody said that the Yukon has snow. Think snow. Think snow, first and last. My understanding is that that had a big part of why they came here. It wasnít necessarily that it was well-marketed, because Iíve just described the scenario that weíre living under. Where is the film commissioner? Do we have a stand-alone film commission? These are top priorities. Now itís in a department that is still in some ways trying to find its groove. It is a brand new department, so thatís understandable, but should it be there at this present time? Maybe it could have stayed with Tourism and Culture. Iím not saying it should stay there, but maybe it could have stayed while this transition happened.
Maybe we could have had a film commission up and support going toward that. We could have had a film commissioner. That promotion, that dealing that needs to happen in the film industry could have been ongoing over the last year, and we could have seen two, three or four films.
Now, on a positive note, itís really good to hear the Premier and his colleagues recognize the role of cultural industries in the Yukon economy. Itís very good to hear that they want to continue to support the Yukon film incentive program. Thatís all positive. There is no question about that. Frankly, without a strong, flexible, competitive incentive program, there is absolutely no way the Yukon could realistically compete for Outside productions against other Canadian jurisdictions. The competition out there is fierce.
Iíll give you an example. Alberta made changes to their programming. At one point not too many years ago, it had a very strong film support program, and a lot of films were being shot there. It was very powerful, very active and the envy of a lot of areas. They have pulled back from those programs, and there has been a corresponding drop in the amount of activity happening in Alberta. Many of the film companies have looked elsewhere to other jurisdictions that are offering incentives such as what we have here ó the Yukon film incentive program ó and especially if they know there is some skill there. I think we have proven, over the years, that Yukon people are very adaptable, very skilful and very accommodating. Those are essentials in the industry.
So itís Albertaís loss, because they didnít support their programs, and to a small degree it has been our gain; however, itís not enough just to continue the Yukon film incentive program as it is. I think there is the realization that a lot more work needs to be done.
There has to be a lot more flexibility in the program itself, often because of huge changes that happen so fast in the industry. There are a lot of changes happening in how we communicate, changes in the equipment and the technology. In some ways, thatís a benefit for us: it makes us a lot more mobile to shoot films; the equipment is a lot better; you donít need huge studios; everything doesnít have to come to a studio with props and everything. Now you can go out and shoot films, you can travel to other areas a lot better.
Of course, the more equipment we have here, the cheaper it will be for any films being considered to be shot end up here. We need flexibility and we need to be able to move quickly to accommodate what is needed.
If the program is going to help Yukon filmmakers in a practical way, there has to be a realistic support to attract co-production partners. I am sure some people have heard about this. Unless our filmmakers can demonstrate support at home, they wonít attract other investors with deep pockets and they wonít have much success finding markets for their creative product.
If you canít afford to do the initial development work, you wonít get the broadcast commitments from a TV network. If you canít secure the broadcast commitment, you arenít going to get the production funding you need. Itís like step after step after step. We have to address those concerns.
If we seriously believe thereís great opportunity in this area, then we have to be willing to step up to the plate and make the changes necessary for us to be able to respond to the needs in the industry and attract more.
Now a government has to listen to the industry and keep up to speed with an industry that can change direction on a dime. Weíve heard this argument before. Weíve heard the reason for a Yukon film commission, why it should be a standalone, why we need a commissioner involved who knows the industry, who has the connections to market this, to promote the Yukon in a positive light, promote all the aspects of doing a film up here, or a commercial, to promote the actors, to promote the equipment we have, the workers who help put the films together, promote the scenery, the towns ó many of our towns have very unique features that may be attractive for certain types of shots ó promote some of our really crappy roads so that they can demonstrate how great their four-wheel drives are ó and we do have them.
It doesnít take much to go off one of the old mining roads that are long abandoned and theyíre in rough shape, but do you know what? Theyíre a great market tool for these people and companies that manufacture these trucks and cars and SUVs that are four-wheel drive and can go anywhere. And theyíre looking for shots like that.
I think it was a month or two ago ó I honestly donít know if it was a commercial shot or if it was just one of these rally drives where they go from point to point, but there were four or six four-wheel drive Porsches in town. Yes, you see them all over the place. I thought somebody had hit a jackpot and bought one for every one of their kids, but I was obviously wrong because when I looked closer they had stickers on them and they were from another country.
So it was quite fascinating to see that, but I have seen commercials shot for vehicles where theyíll drive up the Dempster Highway ó and we all know the Dempster Highway is quite a road. It has a reputation of being a great road, a beautiful road, but it also has a reputation of being tough on tires and, at times, based upon the climate, the storms that roll in, to be a road that does challenge the drivers and challenge the vehicles. There is an attraction to that. People want to feel like theyíre roughing it, or venturing out and touching wilderness. Thatís a selling point, thereís no question about that, and we have to take advantage of what we have.
Some other areas that are having an effect upon the film industry ó and Iíve it mentioned just briefly ó are the changes in technology. For some time now there has been a growing appetite for film and video product to meet the needs of what they call the 500-channel universe.
On a personal level, Iím not going to offer a judgement about some of the product, because that might be a matter of debate for another time. The growing number of specialty channels needing programs to fill up their air time has created first-time markets for many creative Canadians, including some from the Yukon.
Now all that could change. It could be undergoing a radical change very soon. With expanded broadband capacity, Mr. Speaker, and major advances in digital technology, the way programming is distributed may be profoundly altered. Anybody who watches television or follows it in the slightest way recognizes how fast technology is changing.
Itís so fast that youíre scared to go and buy any kind of new product out on the market, knowing that within a few months you might find out youíre obsolete already and theyíre changing the system on you. Next thing you know, you end up with a bank of equipment when all you really wanted to do was to watch a movie.
Thatís on the consumer side. The broadband capacity and digital technology and how thatís changing is having a profound effect on the movie industry. Instead of cable companies and satellite signal providers, the mass distribution system, from what I understand, will be the Internet. Thatís going to really alter things from years and years of what weíve had to quite a substantial shift.
There are concerns about that, without a doubt. It goes without saying that the Internet is not regulated. Many people are facing profound questions about the usage of the Internet, the availability of materials that may not be suitable, the accessibility, whether itís pornography or violence or marketing, drugs ó the list is endless of what is now on an unregulated supplier. There are legitimate debates that are happening and theyíre very challenging about what to do.
This could pose a serious threat to the film and video producers. What I mean by that is, with whom do you negotiate and how do you enforce copyright and royalty payments? Of course, thatís another debate on ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, I fail to see the relationship between the 500-channel universe broadband and the matter before us in this debate this afternoon. Other members of this Assembly wish to speak to this important motion. There are important points that need to be made about this. I would just encourage the member to either speak to the motion or allow others to speak to it.
Speaker: On the point of order, the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: There is no point of order, and this motion, like all motions that people havenít had an opportunity to address, can be brought forward again and the debate continued. To restrict one person, when they have unlimited time, like the mover ó we donít restrict the mover, whether they talked for five minutes or five hours. We donít do that.
Speaker:There is no point of order. Iíd ask the leader of the official opposition to carry on, please.
Mr. Hardy: This is a huge topic ó absolutely huge topic. And to think that there are massive changes that are going to happen. We have to be ready for them. This is what we are talking about. When we talk about enhancing the Yukonís competitiveness, without a doubt we have to be with it, with the changes that are happening, or ahead of it almost or anticipating where itís going, so that we can capture as much of that market as we possibly can. We cannot be behind it and hope that things are going to work out. That happened a few years ago, and as far as I can see itís still happening. Thereís some sluggishness happening on the government side in addressing some of the necessary changes with respect to enhancing film opportunities up here.
The motion has been brought forward, and the points being made are to encourage and be aware that itís not just that a movie comes into town and, because there are so many hundreds of thousands of dollars in the film incentive program, therefore everything is fine. Itís: how many movies have we lost over the last year because we werenít there and didnít have a film commissioner in place, working on behalf of the industry? We donít have a film commission set up, a structure set up that is flexible enough to turn on a dime to deal with the changes within the industry, to deal with immediate needs by some film producer.
We donít have somebody who has that flexibility. Now, we have people in the department who are working and theyíre doing the best they can, but we need flexibility. Thatís my firm belief here, and I donít see it and Iím concerned about the impression that because a movie shows up here everything is fine. The Big White was in Skagway and did do some shots in Whitehorse, but predominantly it was in the United States. Now, it was close to us, there were some benefits from it, all very fine and good. But I look at The Big White and think why only The Big White? Why so very few? Why do we not have more? The opportunities are there. There are many, many films that want to be produced, that are looking for sites, looking for what we have here.
We need a commission and a commissioner in place who can go out and do that work for us. Then we may be able to say itís not just The Big White being shot here, and then months and months go by and then all of a sudden something else comes along and we all get excited again, but we have one, two, three, four, five shots happening. We have commercials. We have small films being made locally. There are supports there for our home-grown talent. We have the mid-size support there. We have the partnering that is so necessary, the co-production partners, that would enhance the local people of the territory. We have the ability to bring the films in, employ more people, buy more equipment, pay good wages, maybe open up opportunities for blossoming actors, all those benefits.
But in order for that to happen, we all have to be pulling together. This government has to be committed to this, and itís not just a few hundred thousand dollars and say, "Thatís good enough." The structure itself must also be modelled in such a manner that itís able to take advantage of opportunities. So now we have it over in Economic Development, and as I said, there are still some outstanding questions that Iím asking to prove that something really is happening.
And one of them, of course ó a big concern of mine ó is the film commissioner ó top priority. I heard it in here. Where is it? Where is that person and what are the plans? What are the discussions that have been going on with the industry?
Now, I believe that the mover of the motion from Pelly-Nisutlin ó I could stand corrected, but I believe two people from that region were part of The Big White in some aspect? If thatís the case, thatís wonderful. Iíll look very close; Iíll go and watch the movie just to see what local people are in it, because itís always exciting when you see somebodyís face that you know and say, "All right, that was really good," even if itís just a part where thereís no speaking. But, of course, when theyíre speaking thatís always beneficial. Iím not too familiar with the film industry, but how they pay: if you have a speaking role, you get paid substantially more than just a body role or ó I donít know what they actually call it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Extras? Okay, extras. I know one of the members of my office ó my understanding now is he was the legs from the waist down in one shot with Woody Harrelson in The Big White.
He was paid hours on end to wait for his one opportunity to get a shot of him, waist down, as he walked across some snow or some scene. Then he said there was another shot where he had to wear a blonde wig, I think it was, and stand way in the distance, but that took hours and hours, but you get paid while youíre waiting. That was exciting. He thought it was really fascinating and quite an experience. I think what heís saying is reflective of what a lot of people experienced.
Another member of our office has acted in movies ó the one up in Dawson City, I think it was last winter. He was definitely in that one. I think he even had a speaking role and got paid very well. So there are a lot of benefits there, and they are benefits we sometimes ignore or donít recognize because theyíre not of the traditional nature.
However, itís a growing industry and itís one thatís having a tremendous impact. I have raised some concerns about where weíre at and I would be remiss to raise concerns without bringing in an amendment.
Mr. Hardy: I move
THAT Motion No. 276 be amended by replacing the word "continue", where it first appears, with the words "expand and strengthen"; and adding after the word "competitiveness" the following: "and provide a supportive climate for Yukon filmmakers to achieve their creative, cultural and economic goals."
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There doesnít appear to be a quorum present.
Speaker:Order please. 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: 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.
It has been moved by the Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT Motion No. 276 be amended by replacing the word "continue", where it first appears, with the words "expand and strengthen"; and adding after the word "competitiveness" the following: "and provide a supportive climate for Yukon filmmakers to achieve their creative, cultural and economic goals."
Leader of the official opposition, youíve got about 10 seconds.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to thank everybody in the House for the unanimous consent on this change. Actually, to me, the amendment just strengthens and expands the motion that was brought forward. Like the amendment that was brought forward in the previous motion, itís done in good faith. Itís my hope that by expanding the language and identifying what weíve tried to achieve with this, that the motion is very ó
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 276 and proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.