Thursday, April 21, 2005 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.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of Earth Day
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day, and it has been said that Earth Day is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. More than six million Canadians join 500 million people, in over 180 countries, in staging events and projects to address local environmental issues. Nearly every school child in Canada takes part in Earth Day activities.
Over the years the national organizers of Earth Day Canada have emphasized programs to help Canadians reduce their impact on the environment, in terms of waste management, energy consumption and chemical use.
†Here in the Yukon we have a large number of accomplishments.
One of the themes of this yearís Earth Day in Canada is ďPollution SolutionĒ, and the theme that has been working very well under this are the three Rs: recycle, reuse and reduce.
The year 2005 marks the 10th anniversary of the Recycling Club, one of the most successful recycling programs ever undertaken by any jurisdiction in North America. The Yukon governmentís recycling program has been in place for 13 years, but it was the creation of the Recycling Club that changed the way thousands of people, and especially families, looked at and embraced recycling as a part of their daily lives. Their support of the recycling program and the Recycling Club provides the cornerstones for community-run recycling centres in virtually every community in the Yukon. Those centres exist from Watson Lake to Old Crow, from Beaver Creek to Ross River, from Carmacks to Mayo, and all points in between. Over 13,000 recycling club membership cards have been handed out over the years.
Most importantly, these programs went on to encourage and convince many families to start and practice the recycling habit. Go to any recycling centre today and you will see that there is more to recycling than just beer and pop cans and bottles. Thereís another aspect to the beverage container recycling program that should not be overlooked. It is totally supported financially by the consumers, and not by tax dollars.
Over the years, there have been over 134 million beverage containers recycled and reused here in the Yukon ó Mr. Speaker, 134 million beverage containers. In return, almost $500,000 in operating grants has been given to Yukon community-run recycling centres. That is money from the consumers who buy the containers, not from taxpayers.
Another program that is becoming a success is the tire recycling program introduced by our government two years ago to find a way to stop using tires from being discarded in ditches and roadsides and taking up a lot of our space in the community-run landfill sites. That program has so far seen 35,000 tires collected and exported out of the territory for processing. It, too, is consumer supported. We still have a way to go to get rid of the tires that are stockpiled here, though, and weíre working on that.
Another way that Environment Yukon promotes reduction of waste products is in sponsoring the annual special waste and household hazardous waste-collection days cleanup. This important program encourages consumers to not dump their waste down the drain and then become a potential hazard to our fish and wildlife and our people.
The latest initiative is called ďe-wasteĒ. It also is proving to be a success. Environment Yukon has been promoting the e-waste initiative to provide alternatives for people who want to get rid of their old, obsolete computers without introducing a new hazard to community landfills.
This also enables those who want to recycle usable equipment to donate to others who are unable to afford the equipment on their own. So this Earth Day, April 22, 2005, we can all learn to do our part to help the environment by practising the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to Earth Day on April 22. Earth Day is a powerful catalyst for change. Since 1970, when the United Nations established Earth Day as a celebration, we use this day to remind ourselves about the fascinating beauty and natural balance of our Earth.
Earth Day is the largest, most celebrated event worldwide, creating awareness about environmental issues. It is recognized with active involvement by over 500 million people in over 180 countries.
Especially heartwarming is to see that nearly every schoolchild in Canada takes part in some kind of Earth Day event. Raising awareness through pointing out environmental concerns is productive. Because awareness is raised, individuals initiate personal action to reduce, recycle and reuse. Because awareness is raised, corporations more seriously look at how they are affecting the environment and put in place measures to counteract pollution. Because awareness is raised, governments pass legislation and regulations to enforce laws to conserve and improve our environment.
Despite nearly universal support for the values involved in environmental issues, there are individuals, corporations and governments that resist environmental awareness and actions. For their own reasons, they stall on taking action. They refuse to act. They even take steps that degrade the earth by supporting economic development that can devastate the land, the water and the air.
Mr. Speaker, the operative words here are ďactive involvementĒ in Earth Day and what it represents to Yukoners. Active involvement means more than a nod and nice words once a year. It means more than simply monitoring pollution or detailing the crisis of global warming and climate change.
We look to our leaders to protect and enhance our air, our water, our forests and our wildlife on this sacred planet. We look to them to demonstrate active involvement in our environment and its biodiversity. Every day of the year is Earth Day. We trust that those who can make the daily decisions about our earth do so with a loving hand.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join my colleagues in the Legislature in tribute to Earth Day. A Kashmiri proverb states: ďWe have not inherited the world from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children.Ē Members will recall that I often refer to our children as our greatest teachers. It was my children who reminded me about Earth Day this week. Our children teach as they are taught, and I would especially like to pay tribute to our green schools here in the Yukon on this Earth Day.
Our green schools, like Jack Hulland, for example, not only teach children about reducing, reusing and recycling, they live it, and they encourage these three Rs to become a habit at home, which I am pleased to say that they have certainly in our home.
Our schools not only practice environmental stewardship, they also ensure there are opportunities for awareness of our Earth. Again, Jack Hulland grade 3s were at Swan Haven on Tuesday. I have been especially fortunate, Mr. Speaker, to observe a pair of swans seeking their breakfast in the Yukon River on my way to work this week, deepening my own personal appreciation for the Earth and our natural environment in Whitehorse and in the Yukon.
The appreciation for the Earth by green schools such as Jack Hulland occurs not only in the spring and on Earth Day. Throughout the year, many classes from a number of Porter Creek schools can be found walking, skiing and biking, respectfully appreciating the Earth and green space in Porter Creek behind Ponderosa and Grove Street, between Rabbitís Foot Canyon, Mountainview Drive, and McIntyre Creek. We can learn from our children in their respectful treatment of the Earth.
We are also reminded on Earth Day and throughout the year to be responsible and to be stewards of the environment and of our earth as we are borrowing it from our children.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Rouble: † Mr. Speaker, I would ask all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming the grade 5 and† 6 students, and one grade 7 student, from Carcross Community School. They are Terry Dyck, Heather Neumann, Violet Gatensby, Nicole Welin, Massey Baker, Kailin Van Woron, and Ms. Fran Nyman, their teacher.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have for tabling a legislative return showing that currently there are nine children in the process of looking for an adoptive family.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills or petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House supports the initiatives being taken by the Government of Yukon to
(1) recognize the importance of its public service employees;
(2) continue to invest in programs and services that ensure the Government of Yukon is an employer of choice with the best public service to serve Yukon people;
(3) recognize the importance of succession planning;
(4) invest in safe and healthy workplaces;
(5) promote public service excellence;
(6) communicate with employees;
(7) continue initiatives that support innovation and creativity within the public service; and
(8) build, through its Investing in Public Service Initiative, on initiatives such as the Yukon Government Leadership Forum and the coaching program by introducing a range of new programs to better meet the needs of its employees while sustaining the ability of the Government of Yukon to provide quality programs and services to Yukon people.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Party government must first complete its energy policy with meaningful public consultation before making any arrangements to proceed with projects related to coal mining or electrical generation from coal in the territory.
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the governmentís energy policy, untweaked, referred to by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on April 20, 2005.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to follow past practice respecting the actions to be taken when there is a release, inadvertent or otherwise, of documents provided to Cabinet ministers by requesting the RCMP to conduct an investigation into the release of the forensic audit and financial review of the Town of the City of Dawson that occurred prior to the Yukon Legislative Assembly ordering its tabling.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to respect the principle of an open, competitive bidding system that is free from political influence, fair to all contractors, and that provides appropriate safeguards to ensure the public gets good value for its tax dollars; and that it demonstrate its commitment to this principle by releasing the tender documents related to the construction of the bridge at Dawson City and by ensuring that tender documents for all future YTG infrastructure projects do not contain any provisions for keeping them secret from the Yukon public.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that its contracting procedures are fair and open, and that they work to the benefit of Yukon workers and businesses, and that it demonstrate its intention to do so by significantly reducing the governmentís reliance on sole-source contracting, particularly with suppliers from outside the Yukon.
Speaker: Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Public/private partnerships
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday I asked the Minister of Highways and Public Works what commitment the Yukon government made to allow tender documents on the Dawson bridge project to be treated as private and confidential. From yesterdayís Blues, word for word, hereís the ministerís answer: ďWeíre following the process thatís outlined in the RFP and RFQ process that has been worked on.Ē
Now perhaps the minister, or an acting minister, or the Minister of Economic Development or the Premier can decode that for us. I believe the Economic Development minister can answer this question, because heís in charge of the public/private partnerships. So the question is: does part of the process involve the Yukon government agreeing to keep details of the tender documents secret from Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In fact, there is a process. The process is being followed and, at the end of the day, there will be a decision made.
Mr. Hardy: That wasnít an answer to a very specific question. Maybe Iím going to have to assume that, in other words, they agree with what I just said.
Apparently this minister thinks itís okay to move from a fair, competitive and open bidding system to a closed, secret system with the government conspiring to keep Yukon people from knowing whatís going on. Thatís exactly how public/private partnerships operate, Mr. Speaker ó secretly, behind closed doors, with the public kept in the dark until the lawyers, bankers and corporation executives have what they want.
There are safeguards for corporation secrets but no safeguards for the public interest. If there are any lingering doubts about the Dawson bridge being a P3, this governmentís own actions are quickly dispelling those doubts. So if the minister wonít make the tender documents public, will he at least explain what provisions in either the request for qualifications or the request for proposals prohibit the government from making the tender documents public? Letís see if he can answer this question.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would remind the member opposite that there is a process, and the process is in place. At the end of the day, the process will dictate which way we will go forward on the bridge. Weíre not committed to a P3 on the bridge in Dawson; weíre just fleshing out the idea.
Mr. Hardy: This is hundreds of thousands of dollars ó to flesh out an idea? What a waste of taxpayersí money.
Now, itís so obvious that this government is playing way outside of its league on this issue. One person I spoke to referred to it as ďswimming with the sharksĒ. Letís look at what weíre dealing with here.
This is not a one-to-one relationship between a government and a builder. P3s almost always involve consortiums of private companies ó contractors, banks, private financiers, brokerage firms, pension plans, and heavy-hitters in the deal-making process. Each of them want a piece of the pie. Each of them has skilled and savvy lawyers to make sure that they get the best deal for their clients. And hereís the little olí Government of Yukon, just wanting to build a little olí bridge, like all the other little olí bridges it has successfully built over the years.
Now, the sharks are lining up for a feeding frenzy. Will the minister, or whichever person wants to stand up, now admit that the government is out of its depth in these shark-infested waters and build this bridge using the traditional procurement process thatís fair, open, and puts public interest ahead of corporate profits?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To remind the member opposite, thatís why weíre going through this process. Weíre going through this process to see if a P3 is a way that we could build a bridge in Dawson. At the end of this process, we will make that decision. There is no commitment to a P3 on the bridge in Dawson, I remind the members and the general public. All weíre doing is our homework.
Question re: Public/private partnerships
†Mr. Hardy: † Iím not allowed to talk about the non-answer there. I would like to follow up with the minister responsible for public/private partnerships. That is the Minister of Economic Development. Letís forget the Dawson bridge for awhile here. Letís build a house instead. Letís build it the P3 way. When the minister goes for a mortgage, he learns a few interesting things. First, the banker wonít say what the interest rates are; second, the banker wonít tell him how long the mortgage term is going to be; third, it wonít tell him where the money is coming from, just that there are several lending institutions involved, and they each want a profit margin thatís a little higher than the conventional mortgage rate; fourth, the banker wonít say who will own the house after the mortgage is paid off. Would the minister sign that mortgage agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To answer the memberís great list of hypothetical questions, weíre not in the business of providing hypothetical answers. When the request for proposal comes in, we will have documents in front of us; we will have that structure, and we will make our decisions at that point in time. This side would much prefer to deal with facts and to deal with facts in the public eye. Dealing hypothetically with possibilities really doesnít accomplish anything.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, letís put it on record here that itís not in the public eye. This is a secret deal. Weíve been asking for the documents. They refuse to expose them to the public. Of course, it would be ridiculous for the minister to go and sign a deal like that. But thatís what the Yukon public is being asked to do with a P3 project, exactly what they are doing. Itís not hypothetical. Now, letís go back to that dream house that the minister wants to build.
The banker sets out a few more conditions on this mortgage. First, the bank gets to design the house and pick the builder and all the subcontractors. The bank decides what materials will be used and what construction standards will apply. Thatís whatís happening. If the minister isnít willing to sign that kind of deal, why should Yukon taxpayers be asked to do just that? Thatís my question for this minister, and itís not hypothetical.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, we are dealing with a request for proposal. Those proposals will come in early May and they will be evaluated at that point in time. If the member opposite chooses to build greenhouses in the sky, then I can understand, perhaps, why he assumes there are sharks in the Yukon River.
Mr. Hardy: Hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we have the Member for Lake Laberge thumping away again, screaming with joy over a comment like that. Youíre wasting taxpayersí money. Now we havenít quite finished with this house because Iím trying to paint a picture that maybe they can understand.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: On a point of order, government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Standing Order 19(g) ó the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives to members on this side.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: There is no point of order. There was nothing false or unavowed mentioned by the leader of the official opposition.
Speaker: Order please. There is no point of order. It was a disagreement among members. You have the floor, leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Now Iím going to try to help the members opposite on this. Weíll go back to the house. Now, the minister has actually signed the mortgage and the house is almost ready for occupancy. Then the minister finds out that the roof is leaking, the septic tank has collapsed and there are cracks in the foundation. When he demands that these things be fixed, the banker points to some fine print that says that the builder isnít responsible, the homeowner is. The minister has a choice: pay for the repairs himself or pay thousands of dollars in lawyersí fees to find out that the contract is legal and binding and thereís nothing the minister can do. Mr. Speaker, thatís a P3. Thatís a P3 that other governments have experienced. Thereís nothing hypothetical about this. There are hundreds of examples.
Will the minister forget this whole notion of a P3 for the Dawson City bridge and tell Partnerships B.C. that this isnít how Yukon people want public infrastructure built and operated in the Yukon? Will he cancel that contract?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I will repeat again for the member opposite that comparing a greenhouse in the sky to a bridge over the Yukon River in Dawson ó things like comparing social democracy to capital democracy come to mind.
We will present the data when it comes in; we will evaluate it; it will be part of a public process and at that point we will make the determination. If the member opposite wants to stand again and ask a third question, I have no problem. He seems very anxious, with hand gestures and everything else right now, to try to continue the debate on his side of the House.
When the information is in, we will deal with the information. Dealing with hypothetical questions does not serve the Yukon people, and it does not serve the business of this House.
Question re: Education department paperwork
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to ask some questions of the Minister of Education, and these questions all have to do with his homework, the paperwork thatís on his desk as the Minister of Education.
One of the requirements of the Education Act is that the minister shall specify the school calendar on or before March 31. School councils have been meeting and a school calendar has been agreed upon and, as far as I know, itís still sitting on the ministerís desk for a signature. The problem with this is that the school calendar is very important information for families who are planning their summer vacation. They need to know when they have to be back. Parents have to put in leave requests to cover off professional development days and spring break.
As I said, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately this paperwork, to the best of my knowledge and that of school councils, is still sitting on the ministerís desk. Would the minister indicate that he has either signed it off and the information is on its way to schools and school councils or that he will get to it this week and theyíll have the information by Monday?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer to this question is very simple: there is no calendar on my desk.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the school calendar has to be signed off by March 31 and it hasnít been done, so perhaps the minister could check his homework.
I would also like to ask the minister about paperwork on his desk that relates to his responsibility for Yukon College. There has been talk for years that land in Porter Creek South should be transferred to Yukon College as endowment lands. This is just talk, Mr. Speaker; there has never been a formal transfer of the land.
A city councillor, at a recent meeting of residents of Porter Creek regarding the zoning bylaw, indicated that Yukon College had submitted a request to the Government of Yukon for this land. Such a request would come through the Minister of Education to his Cabinet colleagues.
Has the Minister of Education done the paperwork for Cabinet on this land grab, or is the city councillor mistaken?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite brought forth a motion last week here with regard to land surrounding Porter Creek. It just so happens that this government took it upon themselves to try to strengthen that motion so this very question that the member opposite is seeking answers to would have been addressed. However, to the best of my knowledge, the member opposite talked out that motion. So this government is well aware of the issue raised by the member opposite about the lands in question and weíll continue to seek the wishes of the College.
Ms. Duncan: Unfortunately, that didnít answer the question as to whether or not the minister had done that part of his homework.
My last paperwork question for the Minister of Education: we learned last week that the Deputy Minister of Education and the Government of Yukon have parted company. The minister can relax ó I know better than to ask a personnel question on the floor of the House.
Deputy ministers serve at the pleasure of the Premier, and often the Premier will seek the advice of his or her ministers. In the past, it has occurred under a number of governments that a panel has been used to screen and hire these individuals. For example, industry leaders, representatives of First Nation governments and the Public Service Commissioner have served on these sorts of hiring panels.
I have a constructive suggestion to offer the Minister of Education. The side opposite repeatedly asks for them. Will the minister consider, in the hiring process envisioned for the new Deputy Minister of Education, asking for a panel for this hiring to include the chief who chairs the First Nation education committee, the Yukon Teachers Association, and perhaps a representative of school councils? Will he do that element of the homework on his desk? Will he ask the Premier for such a panel in hiring the new Deputy Minister of Education?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As minister, I have no intention at this point in time of interfering in the hiring of a deputy minister.
Question re: †Coal-fired plant
†Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up with the Energy, Mines and Resources minister on his back-to-the-future-with-coal policy. All week he has been asked questions related to the cost overruns from the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, the secret coal plant and his mysterious energy policy. Instead of shedding light on these issues, the minister is clouding the waters. Letís see if we can clarify them today.
Yesterday, the minister said that the Yukon Energy Corporation isnít having discussions with the proponents of the coal-fired energy plant; however, the CEO of Cash Resources said publicly that he has had positive discussions with that corporation, and its officials have asked him to give a technical presentation on the parameters of building a coal-fired facility.
Now that the minister has been briefed by the Member for Klondike, can he tell us who is telling the truth ó the CEO or the minister?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to correct the member opposite. At no point did I commit to Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation that they havenít had a conversation with that component. I myself personally had no conversation about coal-fired generation.
I will fill in the facts for the member opposite. We have an excess of hydro power at the dam today. YDC/YEC probably had discussions with different components in the energy industry, but we donít need power today. Weíve got diesel plants that are shut down. Weíve got excess hydro power. Would it be a financial benefit to the community to put more excess power on the line? I think not, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: † Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong. I invite anybody to check Hansard yesterday. On the final question of the day, the minister certainly did say that Yukon Energy had no contact. We know differently.
Now, another matter that requires clarification is this ministerís response of what the corporation is working on with respect to developing the territoryís energy resources. When asked yesterday about the coal-fired plant, the minister stood up and said we currently have excess hydro on the system, as he just finished saying. However, the CEO of Cash Resources has said publicly that Yukon Energy Corporation officials he met with were looking at the various options for production of additional power to the grid in the Yukon and indicated their interest in generating electricity from coal. Again, who is telling the truth ó the CEO or that minister?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, to calm the member opposite, I do not keep the appointment book for YDC/YEC. I do not know on a daily basis whom they meet with and whom they talk to. That is not my job as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. I did not say that YDC/YEC met with anybody. But I will remind the member opposite that we have excess hydro power in the hydro system that we have in place today. We have diesel plants that arenít running today. Mr. Speaker, we donít need any more power. What the member is talking about is conversation and conversation alone.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously the minister is getting quite strung out about these contradictions, Mr. Speaker.
Another matter that requires clarification is this ministerís response about the Yukon Party governmentís energy policy. This is an important matter because such a policy would be founded on what the Yukon public wants with respect to the development of the territoryís energy resources, not the Yukon Party friends and what they want.
Yesterday the minister said he has an existing energy policy and there was no reason to tweak it; however, in the previous budget debate, the minister said heís working on an energy policy. Furthermore, upon questioning, he committed to public consultation on that policy.
Whoís telling the truth ó this yearís minister or last yearís minister? Who is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Iíd like to remind the member opposite that the Energy Corporation is working under the energy policy put together by that very member. I find it very odd that he would debate the question today. He was the energy commissioner who was head of the commission that made that policy. Weíre working within that policy.
Whoís telling whom what and where and what minister on what day did what?
The member opposite had best get his facts straight. Weíre working under the guidelines that he, as energy commissioner, put together when his party was in power.
Iíd like to see some more questions from the member opposite on that very issue.
Speaker: Order please. Prior to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asking her question, Iíd just like to remind the Member for Kluane that questioning the veracity of another member, is not allowed and Iíd ask the Member for Kluane not to do that. Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, you have the floor.
Question re: Kyoto Protocol
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday the Minister of Environment referred to the Yukon as a cesspool of waste from other areas of the world. This is typical of this government. They have a habit of pointing the finger elsewhere to avoid taking action. When asked what the Yukon is doing to meet its Kyoto responsibilities, he tabled the federal governmentís plan.
Will the minister tell us how long Yukoners will have to wait before any of the agreements that the plan says must be negotiated are implemented?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As the member opposite correctly pointed out, the Kyoto Accord is a federal government initiative and how weíre going to work with the federal government on this initiative has yet to be determined by the federal government. Itís a work in progress. It has been very difficult these days to work with the federal government on a lot of initiatives that we have underway, given the tenuous position that federal Liberal government is currently in.
Mrs. Peter: Clean energy is essential to any plan dealing with climate change. A coal mine in the Yukon will substantially increase our production of greenhouse gases. The only information the public has comes from the private sector. Meanwhile the federal plan this government is hiding behind says that the territory should have initiatives already in place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Will the minister tell us what these initiatives are, how long they have been in place and what the target is?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, because there is a bit of an overlap with Environment and Energy, Mines and Resources, we believe our energy strategy is very important and take it very seriously. I think in answer to the member opposite, the Yukon government energy strategy ó we are in the early stages of developing a comprehensive energy strategy for Yukon. An internal government working group has been struck. This group will be drafting a discussion paper that would be widely distributed for public consultation and input. The purpose of the strategy is to identify priorities for government action and to ensure efficient and coordinated delivery of Yukon government energy programs. Our target is to have this strategy in place by 2006.
Mrs. Peter: The Yukon Party made a promise before they were elected to support energy conservation and manage resources in an environmentally responsible manner. We have seen no indication of this to date. The minister trumpeted the northern strategy as central to their commitment. His own Premier says no money for this strategy has been booked and, with a possibility of a federal election, there is no guarantee there will be any.
What measures is this government taking right now on Earth Day to deal with the threat of global climate change?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In addressing the member opposite, we certainly are concerned about the government in Ottawa, but we certainly arenít running the Yukon government on the basis that that government is going to fail or be successful. So we are moving ahead with our energy strategy program. It is comprehensive. It is going to involve public input and, at the end of the day, hopefully by the year 2006, weíre going to have something in place for all Yukoners to address this issue.
I think the member opposite, to say that we as a government are not doing anything, is wrong, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Dawson City bridge, contractor qualifications
Mr. Cardiff: In March, one of the three groups looking to build the Dawson P3 bridge was disqualified from even making a proposal. This Yukon-based consortium doesnít feel the disqualification is warranted, and theyíve appealed that. In another example of the habitual secrecy of this government, the disqualified bid group had to use the ATIPP process to get information necessary for their appeal. Will the minister tell us how a successful appeal would affect the time frame for building the P3 bridge?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again for the member opposite, this is a pilot project and one that is ongoing as we speak, of course. How anything will affect anything else ó really, again, weíd much rather deal with facts when those proposals are in than deal with speculation.
Mr. Cardiff: A successful appeal is going to have major implications for all bidders. Even if the appeal is denied, thereís the real potential for further legal action, and nothing comes cheap. Does the minister have any idea how the cost of a successful appeal or any future legal action would affect the final price of the P3 bridge?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, this is a pilot project and is developing and ongoing as we speak. The incident that the member opposite refers to was a request for qualification. That is set out in a very strict way to be looked at on a committee basis and in an overall way. There is no political interference in that process. So, again, I have to point out to the member opposite that, as this develops, we will see where it goes. Thatís part of the process.
Mr. Cardiff: I think the pilot project is going down in flames. The Premier said yesterday, ďAll Yukoners have an opportunity to bid on government contracts in todayís Yukon.Ē Yet this group has been denied that opportunity.
In light of the evidence that this group has been disqualified, how can the minister stand by the Premierís statement?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Speaker, we have to put these things in context. The government is following a process. Weíre not going to interfere in that process. It is all based on contract law, policy and regulations. Thereís nothing secret about it. Every proponent who enters into those processes here in the Yukon has avenues to pursue to allow them recourse. Those things will be followed.
The government side wonít interfere in any way in those processes, providing they follow the guidelines and the law. Itís obvious that the members opposite may have a different view, and thatís their opinion and the position they can take, but weíre not going to interfere. Weíll allow processes to evolve to their end and we will make the decisions based on the facts and what we should do in the best interests of the Yukon public.
Question re: Government attitude
Mr. Hardy: Not only have we reached the halfway point in this sitting, weíve also reached the moment for that very popular feature known as ďThis week in reviewĒ. Letís take a look at what weíve experienced in this House during the past four days.
Weíve seen a government refuse to consult Yukon people about reforming our electoral system or improving the way we conduct public business in this Assembly. Weíve seen a government refuse to let Yukon people see the tender documents for a multi-million-dollar bridge project. Weíve seen evidence of this governmentís overwhelming reliance on sole-source contracts to procure goods and services for our people.
Can the Premier explain how this culture of secrecy serves the interests of Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first place, we havenít refused to do anything of the sort, considering the list that the member opposite has just put on the floor. Electoral reform ó we have conducted a process. Itís clear that the electoral system in the Yukon is not broke, and weíre not going to waste time fixing it. Weíre going to focus on legislative renewal, which is required.
Secondly, we have not refused to make any documents public. In fact, weíve clearly stated that on the pilot process for public/private partnerships in the Yukon we will be very public about making the business case once we get to the actual completion of a tendering process so that we know what weíre talking about, so that the public can make informed decisions and draw informed conclusions.
Thirdly, to say that the sole-source list is secret and that weíre not making it public simply does not follow the facts. Itís a public document. Anyone can take the sole-source list off the government Web site. So I would urge the member opposite to at least ask questions that in some way resemble reality.
Mr. Hardy: Now, before the Premier carries on with his tired old speech about how great his government is, and how he has single-handedly driven down the unemployment numbers ó only in Whitehorse, of course, as we know ó and built a bright, rosy Yukon Party future for all of us, let us get back to the subject I would like the Premier to respond to.
This week we saw the government deny all knowledge of private sector interest in building a coal plant to generate electricity, in spite of clear evidence that Yukon Energy Corporation officials have had discussions on that very topic. Weíve seen the government shrug off any responsibility to address the serious issue of climate change or to work with the federal government to meet our Kyoto obligations.
We have seen the government avoid answering direct questions about what it has in store for a new correctional facility. We have been denied on our questions regarding RFPs, RFQs and terms of reference. So, how is the public interest served by the governmentís continued refusal to provide frank and thorough answers on the floor of this House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In the first place, we do provide frank and thorough answers to frank and realistic questions, but we will not speculate. That is not in the public interest. Furthermore, I think itís fair to say that the government has done a great deal in addressing why we were elected to become government of this territory in 2002 ó to address the economy. To say that the government has done nothing in that regard flies in the face of the evidence: a rising population, an increased number of jobs for Yukoners and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Weíve doubled the capital investment in this territory, and we still have money in the bank. What a marked difference on this side of the House ó a capital democratic government compared to the social democracy that the members opposite espouse.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Mr. Rouble: I would ask all members of the Assembly to join me in welcoming a past member of our Assembly and a resident of the beautiful Southern Lakes, Mr. Doug Phillips.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to ask the Legislature to help me please make welcome my nephew, Daryle Charlie.
Speaker: We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, the Department of Health and Social Services.
It is my understanding that there might be an important announcement made at 4:00 this afternoon, and I would request some advice from members if they would wish to take a recess then rather than at 4:30.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Okay, before we begin, would members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Health and Social Services ó continued
On Health Services -ó continued
On Insured Health and Hearing Services ó continued
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left the Department of Health and Social Services and the line item, I had committed to providing the members opposite with information in a number of areas, and these are quite important pieces of information. The first one is if an individual needs assistance in locating a doctor, the number they are asked to call is 667-5209. That can be reached through the Government of Yukonís toll-free number: 1-800-661-0408, local 5209. This is the insured health branch.
What the branch regularly does is to contact clinics and see if theyíre accepting new patients. When the clinics let the branch know theyíre accepting new patients, individuals who have left their names with the branch will be contacted and referred. Some other information to note is that there is a clinic that has recently been established at the Whitehorse General Hospital for pregnant women. We also have on staff a contracted physician for orphan patients with mental health problems. So those are some of the areas that I committed to provide information about to the side opposite and to the general public, and we have done so.
Some of the other areas we committed to providing some details on were the continuing care facilities and what is transpiring around the Yukon. The home community care has been extended into a number of areas in the Yukon. But before we go into that area, let me share with the House the continuing care facilities. They are: Copper Ridge Place, Macaulay Lodge, and McDonald Lodge in Dawson City.
McDonald Lodge has 11 beds. The direct O&M costs per annum are just shy of $1 million. Itís about $90,000 per bed per year to operate currently. Macaulay Lodge has just under 40 beds. It costs $4.2 million a year to operate. The cost per bed is just over $100,000 per year. Copper Ridge Place has 84, and itís $11.2 million a year. Weíre up at about $130,000 per bed per year to operate. These are some of the costs weíre incurring.
Home care is being provided throughout the Yukon. It has expanded recently into the Tagish area, and it has been enhanced. I do have a breakdown of the number of people receiving home care and the areas where theyíre receiving home care, as I committed to.
That said, the overall issues of health care and health care activities are quite extensive.
We dealt with the activity highlights and were into insured health and hearing services. This area comprises 21.5 FTEs; the total budget is $39.6 million. One of the significant increases in this area is the out-of-territory hospital claims for $1.69 million. It would appear this cost is increasing. In our budget, there is a small decrease in what weíre paying physicians this year, and thatís due to the fact that the retention bonus of $16,000 per physician who qualified was paid out last year. This fiscal cycle, there is no payment of retention bonus for our physicians in the Yukon, but the next fiscal cycle will see a $32,000 payment made to those physicians who qualify for the retention bonus. That is the reason we would appear to have just over a $1.1 million decrease in this area.
We have reinstated a manager for physician claims, and there are also the collective bargaining agreements. There is a $92,000 increase. We expect the overall increase in physician costs for claims on a fee-for-service basis to be just about $250,000 this next fiscal cycle. In increased price and volume for drug programs, weíre looking at $750,000. This is funded through the Northern Health Accord. There have been some small increases in a number of contract costs totalling some $58,000.
Some of the other costs weíre incurring in this line item: the overall management is $616,000; medical claims overall, $16,000,705; hospital claims, $8.8 million; the administration of the benefits program, $354,000; medical travel, $5.265 million; chronic disease, $2.786 million; pharmacare here in the Yukon, $3.185 million; extended health, $1.324 million; childrenís drug, $30,000; and the final item is the hearing services, which has $577,000 budgeted for this fiscal cycle.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: The minister has read extensively from a document. The rules provide for us to request the tabling of a document under such circumstances, so I would request the minister to table that document, please.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the budget document has been tabled. The breakdown that is contained in there has been further elaborated on. There is no point of order.
Chair: It would appear that the member was reading from his speaking notes, which would have been prepared for the minister for this debate.
I believe it would be entirely appropriate for members to have speaking notes prepared for them that they would not want to table. I donít believe that this is a document that would be subject to tabling. Members are not obligated to table their own speaking notes.
Ms. Duncan: Does that conclude your ruling?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is the issue of what is transpiring in this line item, and there are volume and price drivers that are quite significant across the board. That has given rise to the overall increase in a lot of the categories in this area. So I look forward to entertaining questions from the members opposite in this area of the budget.
Ms. Duncan: I have heard the ministerís breakdown and have written quickly and am anxious to re-examine Hansard, so Iím not going to quote precise amounts. The chronic disease and pharmacare programs are covered under this particular line item in the budget, and I have several questions in this regard.
Number one is about the drug formulary. We follow Saskatchewanís, as I understand it, and there has been significant work done in the past by health ministers on common drug formulary. Where is that now? Could the minister outline the process when we come to dealing with new drugs and advances in drug treatments? Weíve had the discussion in the House about drug companies offering an innovative drug, and itís like a boutique program. Then who pays for it becomes a question. We also have situations where individuals have researched, come across different drug therapies and then had to go through a process to ensure they were able to have this covered under the chronic disease program. So there are issues out there with chronic disease and pharmacare programs. Iíd like an update from the minister on what progress weíre making on some of those issues.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The common drug review includes all the provinces and territories, save and except the Province of Quebec, and continues to operate in a manner that is inconsistent. There have been a number of areas that have been tweaked and adjusted, but overall, really, it is working as it was originally envisioned. The speed at which it progresses is determined by the administration side of it, and when a new drug enters into it, there is a panel that determines how or if that new drug is going to enter into the mainstream as being funded by the respective provinces or territories.
That said, we do have a number of orphan drugs, as the member clearly identified and pointed out. They have gone through a test procedure and theyíve been accepted by Health Canada, yet theyíre not in the drug formulary. Last week, there was a federal-provincial-territorial meeting scheduled in Toronto and, on the Thursday, the federal minister responsible for Health cancelled his attendance, as did a number of other individuals, and it ended up being a PT, provincial-territorial, meeting with the Yukon represented by our Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services.
The results are dependent upon Canada and Canadaís position, and Canada was absent from the table at the highest level. So weíre having a difficulty with the federal Health minister at the PT level. Hopefully we can come to some arrangement with the federal Minister of Health and move forward quickly on orphan drugs and their introduction into the drug formulary.
The lead in western Canada on this initiative has been the Hon. Iris Evans, the Minister of Health and Wellness from the Province of Alberta, along with the Hon. Angus MacIsaac from Nova Scotia, the Minister of Health from that jurisdiction.
Itís interesting to note that there are about 50-odd individuals in Canada who are afflicted with this disease. We are all recognizing one Yukon individual currently residing in Alberta as having succumbed to it.
There are a lot of new drugs that have gone through the system and are in place. A lot of other drugs have been withdrawn from the market as of late. That gives rise to the testing and the time that theyíre in testing, and there are questions arising all over as to how well the process is working. Iím not involved in the determination of whether a drug is accepted or not; Iím involved in the process of identifying the necessary funds to meet the obligations of Yukon, and the cost of drugs, chronic, prescription and otherwise ó is rising at a very alarming rate here in Yukon and it continues to do so.
Ms. Duncan: The minister addressed the issue of orphan drugs, but Iím also interested in and was looking for some information from the minister. There are chronic disease drugs and drug therapies about which there has been significant lobbying and they were made available over the break between Christmas and the time the budget was tabled. When there are advances in drug therapies or drugs that treat chronic disease that are accepted in other provinces ó we have this common drug formulary now ó how do we get drugs on the chronic disease program and how do we do it efficiently and effectively and with some degree of speed?
I mean, it has happened that this issue was resolved. I donít want to get into a ton of specifics. I would just like to know for future reference. I mean, for individuals who unfortunately have to have a drug or a drug therapy ó and there are advances made in that treatment under chronic disease ó how do we quickly and efficiently ensure that that therapy, which may already be covered in another province, is allowed on our chronic disease program?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím not aware of the specific details about how the process works. I am aware that we do have a committee in the Yukon that examines these drugs and makes that determination, but Iím not familiar with how it operates. I can get the information for the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Fair enough. If the minister could send it over, I would appreciate it.
In this line item our costs for health care insured services are covered. There are some services that are covered by some provinces and not others. Our Yukon health care insured services are listed, I believe, in our legislation. Does the minister have a regular method for reviewing it?
Iím thinking that some operations will be covered by Yukon and only available in another province. An example might be varicose vein surgery. Itís not covered in Alberta, as I understand it, unless itís deemed medically necessary. And even then, Iím not sure that itís covered.
Listing and delisting of services ó how does the minister deal with that? Is there a regular review process? Is there any kind of examination of what is covered by Yukon health care and what isnít on a regular basis?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The review is continuous. When some new procedure or some new type of operation comes in, there is a constant ongoing review.
Currently, the Yukon covers probably more health care procedures and undertakings than just about any other jurisdiction in Canada. We have some of the best funded programs right here in the Yukon. Thatís not to say that there isnít room for improvement. I take the memberís suggestion at face value. There is a constant review underway to examine if there are ways to improve and enhance what we already have. That is ongoing.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we in the Yukon do have the best health care in this country. It wasnít about suggestions for improvement that I was concerned about; itís ensuring we keep it. We do cover many services that arenít covered by other provinces. Who does the review? Is that done in conjunction with the Yukon Medical Association, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association and the department? Iím just curious about the process, and if the minister wants to send it over in a letter to me, thatís fine.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Once again, Iím not sure of the makeup of the review body and the technical details. I am aware that this review is in place, and it consists of health care providers and the Yukon Medical Association as well as department officials.
Ms. Duncan: The money that we pay to out-of-territory hospitals for procedures is also in this line. There has been some increase, thanks to Air North providing service, I believe, in using Alberta health care services. Of course, we all know it depends on the doctorsí relationships with one another, and our doctors have very good relationships with Vancouver and Alberta. Are we about 50:50 for Outside hospital services and medical services between B.C. and Alberta? Are the prices about the same, or are we seeing an increase in one jurisdiction over another? Whatís this yearís information on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member is absolutely right. The relationship of the doctors here in the Yukon has been primarily with those in Vancouver, and the majority of the referrals are made to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.
That said, there is a capacity issue. In order to have faster access to health care, weíve had to go where there is capacity and building capacity, and that has been the Province of Alberta, in Edmonton and Calgary. So weíre sending more and more into Alberta than we have done in the past. Weíve built more of a working relationship with Alberta, but it has more to do with a capacity issue than with the value of the health care in either region. Availability of beds is important. Thatís the bottom line. In both jurisdictions, there have been significant increases in costs for the services they are providing to Yukon and billing us for.
Ms. Duncan: Are the costs in both jurisdictions about the same, or is one significantly different from the other?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is a difference. I believe initially B.C. was somewhat higher, and it seesaws back and forth depending on their collective agreements and the hospital board that oversees it and how they set their rates and when their new rates come into effect. So it goes back and forth.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a couple of last questions. Medical travel is also covered in this line. Could the minister provide some information with respect to where we are in the current contract with our medevac company? Are we in year 3 of a five-year agreement? Where are we in that particular aspect?
Could the minister also just indicate what the policy is with respect to returning patients to the Yukon? My understanding is that if a patient is medevacíd from somewhere in the Yukon, like Whitehorse, to a hospital in, letís say, Vancouver, and then they are discharged and ready to return ó if they can travel commercial, they do. If there is another medevac going to Vancouver, they can get on that plane. Those are the conditions under which they would return on a medevac flight.
Is that the policy? Is my understanding of the policy correct? Have there been any changes to that policy?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, but weíve examined this area. For example, say we medevac an individual from Yukon to Vancouver, and we have a patient in Calgary or Edmonton who is ready to be discharged but cannot travel on a commercial or scheduled airline. We will divert the medevac plane back through Edmonton to pick that individual up and repatriate them to the Yukon.
So there has been more of an effort on the part of the department to schedule returning individuals to the Yukon. In a lot of cases, the department has looked at maybe waiting, or having somebody wait in the hospital for a day or two after theyíre ready to be discharged, before we repatriate them by medevac, because thereís a high cost associated with having the patient remain in a centre but, at the same time, thereís a high cost of having the medevac aircraft specifically make a trip.
Either way, itís costly, and weíre trying to achieve the most cost-effective way of operating in this area without providing any inconvenience to the patients who have to either be medevacíd or repatriated.
We are achieving some efficiencies when we look at it overall, but then it appears weíre having less need to medevac people. Weíre averaging about a medevac every day or so, but there are occasions when weíre having to utilize the specialty medevac teams from either Alberta or B.C., in the event of, say, a premature birth, where thereís a specialized team that comes up to the Yukon; the mother and the newborn are then medevacíd to the centre. In those cases, when their discharge occurs, thereís a strong likelihood that the mother and the newborn child or children will not be able to travel on commercial airlines. Then itís a case of scheduling the medevac plane to bring them back also.
Ms. Duncan: I have two points for the minister. I just would like the update on the contract with the medevac provider, and he can send that over by letter if he wishes or he can advise me when he stands back on his feet. One of the reasons that I would like to be able to ask the Hospital Corporation some questions would be to find out what their intentions are in future planning for a neonatal intensive care unit. We donít have a NICU here at our hospital, and there have been some neonatal intensive care unit needs. I wonder if, in the future planning of the hospital, that is in the boardís plans. That is one of the reasons why I would like to have them able to answer some questions on the floor for the minister. Could he just advise us, then, with respect to the contract? He missed that in his last answer.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre in year 3 of a three-year contract.
Ms. Duncan: Is it anticipated, then, that that contract is tendered in the spring or fall? Iíve just forgotten when itís usually tendered.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Usually in the summer, and itís a fall closure ó fall of this year.
Ms. Duncan: I didnít note that in the tendering forecast that I reviewed. Perhaps I missed it.
Could I just have a greater explanation about the $577,000 thatís allocated for hearing services in this line item of the budget? How is that money spent?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have 4.5 FTEs in this area. The total wage benefit costs, including regular pay, vacation pay, overtime and casual is $312,298. We have travel in Yukon of about $3,500 and $5,000 outside of Yukon. Contract services, $6,000; repairs and maintenance, $5,000; rental expenses, $1,500; supplies, $1,500; postage and freight, $1,000; advertising, $500; program materials, $5,000; communications, $3,500; non-consumable assets, $2,500. There are other expenses incurred in the building operations, $230,000, for a total of $577,542.
Ms. Duncan: There is a private sector company where one can have oneís hearing tested, and I understand there are other hearing testing services, for example, for children before they enter kindergarten. Hearing of five-year-olds is tested at the health fair. Iím just not clear from the ministerís answer what the relationship is with the private sector company that currently operates. I would take it from the ministerís answer that this is an insured health service, and an individual could go and have their hearing tested ó that this is what the 4.5 FTEs do.
It has been recommended that I have my hearing tested. Maybe I should just go test the system. Perhaps the minister could provide the answer for me. Are these 4.5 FTEs hearing specialists? Are they administering the program and processing these issues? I understand where the money is being spent, but Iím wondering how this program works.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The program is available to the member opposite on a referral basis if thereís a demonstrated need, and Iím sure the department officials will diligently follow through in the examination. These are the health care professionals in the specific areas: technicians who conduct the various tests and procedures, as well as a supervisor and clinical support staff, secretary.
Ms. Duncan: So is the private sector company working here in Whitehorse, Hearing Matters, the contract line item in this department? Do we contract them? As I understand the ministerís answer, we have paid staff and we also ó dare I say it? ó contract out some services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † The private company does a lot of fittings, and if we look at the contract services, weíre looking at basically $6,000 in this area.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions. On page 11-29, the minister said that improved services in Yukon means that there will be fewer people going Outside for treatment. The stats here show an increase of one percent in the number of physician services out of territory and the number of hospital days of care in out-of-territory facilities up 10 percent. Could the minister provide us with an explanation of that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Am I given to understand that weíve cleared all the line items in this department before we get into that area?
Chair: The Chair understands that the statistics presented refer to this line item. If the minister chooses to answer the question, heís encouraged to do so.
Mr. McRobb: Weíre waiting for an explanation from the minister. Thereís a one-percent change in numbers of physician services out of territory; however, the number of hospital days of care in out-of-territory facilities is up 10 percent. Iím just looking for an explanation.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: These are the numbers that are projected, based on what we assume will be transpiring in this area. Weíre expecting a three-percent increase in physician services here in the Yukon and a one-percent increase in physician services out of territory. The corresponding number of hospital bed days is reflected in an overall assessment of the projections.
Mr. McRobb: I guess I was hoping for more information.
Weíve talked about the outpatient medical allowance provided by the Yukon government, which is nothing for the first three days. The minister has had a lot of time to consider this matter. Can he give us an estimate of what it would cost if the benefits provided starting on the fourth day, which are only $30 per day, were provided from the start ó for instance, for the first three-day period? Can he give us an idea of what the additional cost would be?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yukon travel for medical treatment assists eligible Yukon residents with the cost of emergency and non-emergency medical necessity transportation. What we are hoping to announce, as soon as we have concluded with the federal government, are the arrangements that will be put in place with the funding we expect to see for medical travel.
I can tell the member opposite in this House that we intend to enhance significantly what currently is in place should the federal Parliament of Canada approve this new money. But we are in the budget debate on this line item, and I am not speculating or forecasting on what we are planning to do. I would very much like to deal with the matter at hand here.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I noticed quite a difference between the ministerís approach now and his approach about 10 minutes ago when he was telling us what next yearís budget would contain. So where is the consistency?
It will be interesting to find out more about what the minister is planning once we do hear an announcement of the federal funding, but Iím not sure which federal funding heís talking about. Is it the federal funds that are currently unallocated within the department, or is he referring to additional federal funding that is on the way?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is a new federal fund that was agreed to by the three northern premiers when they met with the Prime Minister of Canada. That money has not yet flowed. In fact, I believe it has been announced and it may not flow. But as soon as it does flow, if Parliament approves it and it flows, that money will be used in this area to improve the benefits for Yukoners travelling inside the Yukon and outside of the Yukon in this area.
Mr. McRobb: So the minister is referring to money that hasnít been allocated yet. I believe itís the $75 million for three territories over the next five years. Is the department looking at establishing a residence similar to those in Edmonton and Ottawa, for instance the Larga facility for N.W.T. patients? Thatís the question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíve engaged an NGO right here in Whitehorse for those awaiting the arrival of a newborn, and the department in previous budgets has funded the capital costs and assisted in other areas with the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, and two very beautiful apartments have been created by that organization as a residence for moms-to-be awaiting the arrival of a newborn here in Whitehorse. That was undertaken in a previous budget envelope. If the member is asking if weíre going to be building a boarding house similar to what the N.W.T. operates, the answer is no.
Mr. McRobb: What about using a facility such as the one the N.W.T. uses? What consideration has the minister given to that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, in Whitehorse we have partnered with the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre and assisted them with funding to build two very nice apartments on the ground floor of their building. They are available through this organization to mothers awaiting the birth of a newborn. In addition to that, there are suites available at the Whitehorse Hospital. Across the board, weíve managed to partner with an NGO for the provision of these services, so weíve met the demonstrated need that existed in Whitehorse. Thatís not to say that we wonít be examining other options, but thatís what we have done to date. More has transpired in the very short number of years under our watch than did transpire for many years before that.
Mr. McRobb: I would have expected the minister to be giving this matter more serious consideration. We know the cost of medevacs is quite expensive ó usually $20,000, Iím told. Some patients who are medevacíd for treatment require follow-up treatment, and it makes sense to keep them resident at an Outside location, rather than transporting them back and forth. Facilities such as Larga provide affordable accommodation and a welcoming atmosphere for patients that would seem to save a lot of money, especially for those patients who would choose to stay, rather than travel back and forth.
Is the minister saying he wonít even consider an option for patients who fall into that category?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This minister is always open to options that will address the needs of Yukoners. That said, Iíd encourage the member opposite to carefully think through what he is proposing and analyze thoroughly what is transpiring in other jurisdictions. Overall, I think that one will find that the Yukon offers and provides some of the best health care and funds some of the best programs in Canada.
Mr. McRobb: That very well may be, but weíre not going to stay on top very long with an attitude that weíre the best no matter what, and turn a blind eye to ways of improving our system. The example I set out is, I believe, one option we can adopt to improve the system. There are hundreds of other options out there covering the gamut of issues within this department that deserve serious consideration. We just canít stay static in our approach to delivering health care in the territory. We have to remain flexible and stay on top of matters and adjust as better options make themselves available.
We donít see that happening with examples such as this one, and we wonder why.
I want to ask about the total prescription cost on the drug plan, which is over $2.5 million. Can the minister indicate what action heís taking to reduce that expense?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If we extrapolate from what the member opposite was reflecting upon earlier, it would appear that the member opposite would have us building a boarding house perhaps on the shores of Aishihik Lake right next to a coal-fired thermal plant to generate electricity to heat it or to power it with electricity.
Mr. Chair, the Department of Health and Social Services is constantly examining programs. The first initiative that has to be done is to determine funding. Once the funding has been established and determined, we can look at ways to enhance programs and services to Yukoners.
With respect to the drugs, price and volume drivers are the main reasons for the increase.
Mr. McRobb: Itís not difficult to understand. It was this minister who was briefing the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources in Question Period all week while he was being questioned on the coal plant and so on. Itís not difficult to understand that this minister has quite a big influence on the responses from the Energy, Mines and Resources minister in Question Period.
We certainly saw the Energy, Mines and Resources minister perform today after being briefed by this minister, and itís quite understandable.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
†Hon. Mr. Jenkins: At least when I expand my answers itís all tied into the relevancy of the line item under debate in Health and Social Services. The member opposite is wandering off into lands that are totally irrelevant and not related to this debate.
Chair: † Iíd ask members to continue on with the debate on insured health and hearing services.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister tell us what hearing services are available in the Yukon communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For children or for adults?
Mr. McRobb: For both.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The clinic provides services designed to help people of all ages with a variety of hearing disorders through the provision of basic hearing aids and diagnostic hearing evaluations both in-house and at annual hearing clinics in the communities. Diagnostic hearing testing results help family physicians and ear, nose and throat specialists to determine site of lesion for pathologists.
Hearing services is also responsible for screening all children entering kindergarten and tracking hard-of-hearing children through the school system to ensure the best possible acoustic environment for the student.
Other services include counselling for hard-of-hearing clients and their families, instruction in the use and care of hearing aids, in-service for doctors, nurses, teachers, speech-language pathologists, students and parents. Client consultations are provided to parents, the Department of Education, Child Development Centre and the staff of Copper Ridge Place and Macaulay Lodge.
Insured Health and Hearing Services in the amount of $39,655,000 †agreed to
On Yukon Hospital Services
Ms. Duncan: Could we have a financial breakdown from the Minister of Health and Social Services of this line expenditure?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is the contribution to the Yukon Hospital Corporation that is budgeted in 2005-06 to $24,865,000.
Ms. Duncan: One more time, would the minister consider asking the Chair of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and CEO of the hospital to attend before Committee of the Whole so that we may ask them questions about the direction of the Yukon Hospital Corporation and specifically how this transfer of money is being spent? The reason Iím asking is that they are an armís-length corporation. I understand they come before Public Accounts. I understand I serve on Public Accounts.
The purpose of the Public Accounts Committee is not to ask questions about this yearís budget; itís to ask questions in other areas, and whether or not they appear is entirely up to the Public Accounts Committee.
The minister could ó and I believe the chair and the CEO would be more than willing to come and answer questions. Iím just asking politely again if we could have them appear before Committee of the Whole to answer questions ó an opportunity.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Hospital Corporation appears before the Public Accounts Committee on a voluntary basis. They were asked and there are no requirements for them to do so. They have a complete audit done on their operations. Those are the checks and balances on their system.
That said, I believe both the members opposite sit on the Public Accounts Committee. There are more from the opposition ranks on the Public Accounts Committee at times. I know the leader of the third party absented herself from a number of the Public Accounts hearings this last session ó for what reason, I do not know.
I will provide the members opposite with the audited financial statements of the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
Ms. Duncan: I would address all members of the Legislature. We had an extensive debate yesterday about order and decorum, and I believe my remarks also focused on retaliation and trying to stay above the sinking to new lows.
I have asked very politely several times, and the minister will not respond in a manner that addresses the very question Iím asking. The Yukon Hospital Corporation is somewhat at armís length. We are asked to vote on in excess of $25 million that is spent by the Hospital Corporation. It is a perfectly reasonable request that they come before us, as members of the Legislature, because the minister cannot answer and will not answer for all the specific expenditures or about how the Hospital Corporation intends to proceed. That is a function that is decided by the board.
The board decides and the board determines how this money is spent, and there is an independent audit at the Yukon Hospital Corporation. We get all kinds of independent audited financial statements. We also get them from the Yukon Development Corporation and the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, yet both of those boards appear before this Legislature. And we donít vote as much money to them as we are for the Yukon Hospital Corporation. It is a perfectly reasonable request.
I believe the board of the Yukon Hospital Corporation ó the chair and the CEO ó would be more than happy to come here. This isnít the ministerís money; itís taxpayersí money, and we not only have the right but the responsibility to ask questions about it. I find the ministerís attitude absolutely abhorrent in his understanding of the Public Accounts Committee. It baffles me.
The Public Accounts Committee serves the public in a non-partisan manner, discussing past expenditures of the Legislature and past performance. To drag that committee of the whole Legislature into this debate doesnít focus on the ministerís responsibility. Why is the minister being so incredibly stubborn on this issue? There is no reason for it. There is no reason why the Yukon Hospital Corporation couldnít and would not come, except the ministerís refusal to permit it. I find that absolutely beyond belief.
Anything else I would say would be unparliamentary. It truly is more than unfortunate that the minister canít see fit to respond in a positive manner to a straightforward, polite request from this side of the House. So much for consensus, collaboration or working with anybody, because the minister doesnít display it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I only have to think back to a few years ago when in opposition I questioned the then Premier, the now leader of the third party, on the issue of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line as to why that wasnít subject to public scrutiny. Here we have an expenditure that started off as a turnkey at $20 million that is now $36 million and ó
Chair: The Chair would just like to remind members that the matter under discussion in debate right now is the line item Yukon hospital services in the amount of $25,533,000. Who would like to continue debate on this line item?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, just for the record, I would like to support the call for officials to be present for questioning during Committee debate in this department. I listened carefully to what both members had to say, and not all of us in here are on the Public Accounts Committee. Regardless, the Public Accounts Committee has no set times that it meets and there is no guarantee the Yukon Hospital Corporation would even be called, even if it did happen to sit once per year. So clearly the PAC option is not viable, and certainly there is a bigger question in terms of the budget timing, Mr. Chair.
Itís impossible to scrutinize the hospital budget without the officials present, and the minister is unable to speak on their behalf and answer the questions we might have.
Iím not suggesting we stop the proceedings and call in officials now; but I would appreciate if the minister would provide us with an undertaking that, in future budget debates for this department, he would make those officials available to the opposition parties.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I will commit to examining this issue in the context and in the same manner as we call WCB and the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation before the House in the fall of each year.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís not the same thing, Mr. Chair. In the fall of the year, the budget is half-spent. Thatís not the same at all. We need to know the information before we vote on the budget, not six months afterward.
So again I would appeal to the ministerís better judgement. Will he give us an undertaking to make the officials available in future departmental debates?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíve made a commitment and that commitment stands, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Duncan: The commitment to call the Hospital Corporation in the same manner as Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board and the Yukon Development Corporation I truly appreciate. I would respectfully ask that, if theyíre coming in the same manner, that we have them come in the spring session as opposed to the fall simply because ó not only for budget reasons, in that the budget is under debate ó theyíre called in the forum of all the Legislature, with the Speaker in the Chair ó as I recall. However, all of us here should be here with the opportunity to ask some questions. If we have all the corporations in the fall, it makes our fall session rather top heavy.
Given that we debate the budget in the spring, given that the minister has agreed to call them in the same manner as WCB and YDC, could he please consider having them come in the spring session?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: My offer was to examine this area. Thereís no offer as yet. I have to find out whether or not this is feasible, practical, legal, and we will move forward accordingly.
Ms. Duncan: Iíve done that homework for the minister. Iíve got the motion on the floor of the House, and the hospital chair informally has already said they would be willing to come, like an opportunity. Please, would the minister respect the fact that Iíve done the homework on this issue and consider calling them for this spring session?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I sincerely hope that the homework that was done was more thorough and comprehensive than the examination of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line or loans to the City of Dawson.
Yukon Hospital Services in the amount of $25,533,000 agreed to
On Vital Statistics
Vital Statistics in the amount of $70,000 agreed to
On Community Health
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Activity management for this category, this line, is $365,000; health promotion is $606,000; dental health is $1.064 million; environmental health is $748,000; Yukon communicable disease control is $1.106 million; mental health services are $2.137 million. The total for this category is $6.026 million.
Mr. McRobb: We do have some questions on this line item. Letís start with Blood Ties Four Directions. What are the statistics on clients served with HIV and hepatitis C? Can the minister indicate if there is any federal funding involved? Has Blood Ties Four Directions received extra funding to deal with hepatitis C?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Blood Ties Four Directions received a three-percent increase, plus additional money for rent and for insurance, which were the drivers in their overall cost of operation this last cycle. With respect to money for hepatitis C and the statistics kept by Blood Ties Four Directions, we have no access to their statistical base.
With respect to hepatitis C and the expanded funding for those afflicted as a result of the tainted blood issue, the federal government has just made an announcement that they are going to be looking at extending the program into previous categories that didnít exist for those affected with blood-borne diseases. But we havenít heard the details about how the federal government is going to implement it ó whether it will be the same program, but the intake will extend to an earlier period from what the original initiating date was, or otherwise.
The contract for Blood Ties Four Directions in 2005-06 is $167,000. When we came into office, it was just under $150,000.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that information. Now Iíd like to ask about the Yukon Family Services Association. Does the government provide funding for the Outreach van? Can the minister indicate how much funding that is?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The determination as to how the NGO spends their money is determined by that NGO, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, what is the number of clients counselled in Whitehorse by the association?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, by which association? If this is an NGO, we wouldnít have those statistics.
Mr. McRobb: This is part of the questions about the Yukon Family Services Association.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Could the member be specific as to what area, what involvement? There are a lot of clients that are dealt with, but I would ask the member to be specific.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, on page 11-33, in the second from last paragraph, it indicates the association provides ďa range of counselling services and educational activities through its main office in Whitehorse, satellite offices in Dawson City and Watson Lake, and itinerant services to selected communities.Ē What I would like him to do is indicate the level of clients who are served in each community. I donít know if he has this information at hand. If he does, he can just pass it along, but we would like the information.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yukon Family Services Association is a non-government organization. Itís funded in part through the Department of Health and Social Services. Their database of statistics is their database of statistics. Where thereís relevant reporting, that is reported but, other than that, the member opposite will next be asking me to call the NGOs before Committee of the Whole to debate their funding. I can see that coming next, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Thereís no need to drop the bar of decorum in this Assembly, especially at a sensitive time when weíre under scrutiny. The minister should keep that in mind.
Iím not requesting NGOs to be called in here; Iím merely asking for the minister to be helpful in responding to the questions.
Iím somewhat surprised the Yukon government doesnít have statistics on clientele who are served by Yukon Family Services Association. Just to confirm that point, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister: does the government receive that information or does it not?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yukon Family Services Association provides an annual report to the Department of Health and Social Services. Iíll be happy to send over a copy of that report to the members opposite. I believe I tabled it in the last session and I would encourage them to look into their records so we donít have to duplicate initiatives.
The member knows full well that we do not have all the details of the NGOs and their operations as to what programs, initiatives and what they provide, how they provide it or the statistics on the services they provide ó the member knows full well. I donít know why weíre wandering off into this land.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís not true. I donít know full well; thatís why I asked the question. Now I want to ask the minister about the environmental health branch. I believe the number he recited ó rather quickly I might add ó and that I was able to write down was $748,000. Could the minister give us a more detailed breakdown on that number?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The majority of this line item in environmental health is FTEs, wages and benefits. Basically, $590,000 is wages and benefits. The balance is various programs, pool car charges, employee travel in the Yukon, employee travel out of the Yukon, repairs and maintenance, postage and freight, testing of samples, program material for the labs, communications, training and a small amount for a printing contract, $4,500. The fleet vehicle agency assigns vehicles, and the pool vehicle charges are some $32,000. Employee travel in Yukon is some $15,000. Employee travel out of the Yukon ó $10,000. Contract for contaminants ó some $40,000. Program material for the lab ó $33,000. Other program material ó $8,000. Communication ó $7,500. Printing contract ó $4,500. There was some training of just around $1,000. There was $2,000 for advertising. That adds up to the $747,729.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to thank the minister for that further breakdown. About a year ago, I asked him if he was considering developing any programming to assist business owners who needed to upgrade their water and septic systems to conform to environmental health guidelines. Is the minister able to provide us with any information, particularly with respect to any progress he has made along that line?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This department sets the guidelines for potable water and the standards for discharge and the design and construction of waste discharge. Itís a monitoring and compliance group; itís not an area that develops and implements programs and provides funding for programs to implement in the private sector.
The department will assist in overseeing designs that are brought to it by the private sector, or engineered on behalf of proponents by the private sector, and offer an opinion as to how successful it would be, but the issue the member opposite is referring to of septic fields and waste discharge into the soils from a commercial establishment ó all these areas have to be covered by the proponent.
In a lot of cases, the issue is that, over time, there has been a deterioration of a number of these septic fields and the soil has either become saturated or the initial design for the septic system was of a certain size and the facility had expanded and more capacity is needed. In those cases, the total responsibility is vested with the owner of the establishment.
That said, there are initiatives that other departments in the Yukon government have for well-drilling programs, and they were developed last session. Theyíre now implemented.
The Department of Environment works hand in hand with those owners who are having difficulty to see them develop the best possible ways. The department has assisted some owners in obtaining additional lands to build a septic field or extend a new septic field into a new area. At the same time, we have assisted in pointing out some of the new technology and some of the existing technology that may be utilized for treatment of potable waters.
This is all the working of the department, but this environmental part of the Department of Health and Social Services ó its main responsibility is monitoring, compliance and inspections, and inspections of all the outlets that process any food for human consumption or any beverage for human consumption. It was devolved from the federal government a number of years ago. It appears to be working quite well, and it hopefully will continue to do so because we want to ensure that all the commercial establishments in the Yukon have water that is potable and safe to drink, and we do not want to have any sort of conditions occur here similar to what happened in Walkerton, Ontario, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, we didnít hear anything new there. The minister didnít provide us with any information on any programs that are being developed by this department or any other department. We donít see anything on the front burner, nothing on the back burner. Can the minister tell us if he has anything cooking on this issue at all? Is he trying to lobby any of his colleagues at all to develop some programs to handle this particular area of commercial water and sewer systems in the territory? What does he have cooking on it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I outlined what the responsibilities of this department are and what it does, and Iíve provided the members opposite with a complete breakdown of what costs are incurred in this line item. It is an ongoing type of department. Its primary role is monitoring and compliance. But it is also there and will assist anyone developing a new system for either waste water discharge or for water treatment on both a small commercial and larger commercial basis, save and except some of the larger industries where a full engineering review and an engineering design must be developed.
The department has a stellar record of working with Yukoners to address their needs, and this department has been faced with a number of major issues with highway lodges and commercial establishments that serve the public. They are in areas where they are much needed, and their service to the public is duly recognized and much appreciated. That said, the department has to ensure that the water that is provided for human consumption is potable and safe to drink.
Mr. McRobb: Again, the minister was unable to provide any information on any programs that are being developed to meet this need within the territory.
I want to ask him about dental health. On page 11-35, it indicates thereís a 650-percent increase in daycare and home care visits. Can the minister explain why that increase is so large?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I said earlier, we announced that we were expanding our services and we have expanded our services in a number of areas. There have been programs in place for quite some time.
Mr. McRobb: All right, thereís a note at the bottom of that page that indicates ďdue to staff shortages, public education presentations have been curtailedĒ. Can the minister indicate what education is done and when it would be restored?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The only thing I can suggest is the prenatal visits. The federal government had a program in a lot of the communities and also the department ó and I see the note at the bottom on daycare, home care, dental visits, and pre- or post-natal visits, that ďdue to staff shortages, public education presentations have been curtailed and are done only on days when school is closedĒ. I havenít an explanation for that. I will take it at face value, but I know the dental health program is the responsibility of the Yukon childrenís dental program, and that provides diagnostic, preventable and restorative dental procedures for children from preschool up to and including grade 8 in Whitehorse and Dawson City, where there are resident dentists, and up to grade 12 in all other communities.
This program in the schools, to the best of my knowledge, is working very, very well, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Letís move on, Mr. Chair. I notice on page 11-38 there is an estimated reduction of 30 percent in tests for tuberculosis. Does that mean the TB situation in the rural community is no longer a threat? What exactly does that mean?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That would be a reasonable way to explain it. There have been the occasional reported cases of suspected TB. Isolation takes place, and there is usually testing of those whom that individual may have been in contact with. The demands in this area are significantly reduced.
Mr. McRobb: Staying in this unit, what are the ministerís plans in the event of an avian flu outbreak?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Actually, that is a very good question. Mr. Chair, the chief medical officer for the Yukon has put in place a whole plan as to how weíre going to operate and what is going to happen. The member only has to refer back to the last time there was an outbreak of a similar nature, and the initiatives that were taken at the Whitehorse General Hospital. There was a registration desk when you first entered for whatever procedure. Unless you came in on a stretcher, you were scrutinized; you filled out a form; you were issued an appropriate admission pass that would allow you to enter. Across the Yukon, in all our health care facilities, signs were posted and the procedures were followed similar to what was in place in Whitehorse, but not to the same degree, given the number of individuals who would enter a regional health care facility.
Let us acknowledge that Dr. Bryce Larke, our chief medical officer responsible for this area, has put a program in place. When itís actuated, it works, and it works very well. We have to recognize that we only have one acute-care centre in the Yukon, and that is here in Whitehorse, so we have to guard and protect it as well as we possibly can. Those steps have been taken in the past and, should there be a recurrence, those steps would be implemented immediately, and hopefully we could contain anything that may happen.
Mr. Cardiff: I have a couple of questions for the minister with regard to environmental health. On the governmentís Web site under Yukon public drinking water it says, ďRevised public drinking water systems regulation, April 2004Ē, and ďRevised bulk delivery drinking water regulations, April 2004Ē.
In the budget, in the statistics on page 11-36, item (2), it says, ďAs a result of increased attention to drinking water quality, a significant increase in the number of water samples submitted for testing is expected. Further increases are anticipated under a new ĎDrinking Water RegulationíĒ.
So my question is, according to what Iím reading in the budget, whatís posted on the government Web site arenít the new drinking water regulations, and Iím wondering when we can expect them. Is there a draft available we could look at?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are drinking water regulations for the large commercial systems that will be out very quickly. This includes all municipal water systems. This includes the bottlers of potable water. We are working in-house on the final arrangements on the regulations for what is termed ďpublic/private water systemsĒ that can be determined as a highway lodge with residential facilities attached to it. So it is both private and commercial at the same time.
Much of rural Yukon also has pickup points for trucked water that will enter into that same category. It may be a municipal government that has a well and a filling station for those that pick up their water because they have a holding tank at their residence. So this is another area. Itís work in progress.
The second phase is coming into the forefront more and more, and the final phase is the private residential owners, like a home with a private well, where there is no charge for the testing. Weíre encouraging more and more people to do more and more tests on a regular basis. There is a charge for containers, but the actual tests that are undertaken by the department ó basically, to see if the water is potable. The complete chemical analysis cannot be done in the Yukon. We have to ship out for that purpose, and that is going to be required for the larger systems on a regular basis and for the smaller commercial private systems, or public/private systems, on a less frequent basis, but there will still be a requirement there for a complete chemical analysis of the potable water as well as continued monitoring for fecal coliform counts.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, my understanding is that there are two on the Web site now and there are going to be possibly three different sets of drinking water regulations? So could he confirm that and tell us when they might be available? And the free testing that is available ó he said that the complete chemical analysis canít be done here. Is it possible for private residents, people who have a well on their property, to bring the sample of water to environmental health services and have it sent out and have that chemical analysis done through environmental health services?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Environmental health services can provide individuals with the name of the labs where they can send the sample. The issue is the container that has to be utilized. In some cases they require a specialized container that is supplied by that lab. In other cases a sterile container that is available here in the Yukon can be utilized. But the department can provide the property owner or the owner of the well with information as to where these labs are for the complete chemical analysis of the sample.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, the minister answered the question about the chemical analysis. He didnít answer the question about how many separate regulations there are about drinking water, potable water, and when we might expect to see the final versions of them. So I would ask if he can do that in his next answer when he stands up.
I guess the other question, leading out of the chemical analysis and the department being able to provide where the lab is and ensure that they have the right container, is: does the department cover the cost of those chemical analyses, or is that borne by the individual?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, those costs are borne by the property owner or the owner of the water system. As I said earlier, Mr. Chair, there are three sets of regulations. One is for public drinking water and water bottlers. The public water systems are those operated by the City of Whitehorse, the municipal governments, First Nation governments, the trucked water systems and water bottlers here, the bottlers of potable water here in the Yukon. The second level is what is termed private/public. Those are ó I can give you an example ó highway lodges that have a commercial component to them as well as the owners living in the facility or adjacent to the facility and using the same potable water source as they do in the establishment.
Because this water and these establishments are available to the public, they have to meet the same water supply standards as the City of Whitehorse or every other municipality in the Yukon. The responsibility for testing in these two areas is the responsibility of the owners. Monitoring private water systems, which would be the case of a country residential owner who has his own well or tank where water is delivered, is the responsibility of the property owner. The department will assist and test the water for fecal coliform count, but the cost for the full chemical analysis is borne by the property owner. The department will assist in providing the name of the labs where this test can be undertaken and completed.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for the information. I have corresponded with him on this issue a couple of times. The constituents Iím making representations on behalf of still have concerns.
The Department of Environment is aware of problems with wells that are in the other category of being basically public/private wells. Iím just wondering if the department feels any onus to inform the public. The issues have been dealt with, but there are other wells in the area, adjacent to those establishments or those facilities.
It has to do with chemical analysis. Itís not like itís the septic tank. It has to do with the chemical analysis of the minerals and chemicals that are in the aquifer due to where the wells are located. So does environmental health services have any responsibility to notify the public or residents in the general area that this problem is there? I understand that the department canít afford to do the chemical analysis on every country residential well in the Yukon, but is there at least some sort of an onus or responsibility to report these incidents so that country residential owners with wells on their property can make an informed decision about whether or not they should have their well tested?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The environmental aspect of the Department of Health and Social Services ó itís not a case of them not having enough money to do all the testing. Their responsibility and jurisdiction is to ensure that public drinking water is safe. The fact that an individual chooses to drill a well on their property and use water from that, or take a pail of water out of the river or lake and use that water ó the department is not involved in your life to that extent.
If you bring in a water sample from those sources, we can tell you if it is safe or unsafe, within certain parameters, for drinking. Basically, to determine if it has bacteria in the water is the main reason the department examines the water. But the full chemical analysis of that water sample is the responsibility of the owner.
What the member is asking me to do is put out a blanket policy to enforce this and do constant testing. I donít think the member would want to go there and I donít think Yukoners would want the department to go there, given that some people choose to draw their water out of lakes, some out of a river, some dig a well, some have it delivered, and some have piped water into their dwellings. In all cases where there is a commercial source, the department has a responsibility to ensure that the potable water supply meets the Canadian drinking water standards ó if itís a commercial source.
From there, the department is a monitoring and compliance agency. Thatís their role. Itís a line department that monitors, oversees and provides assistance and advice to those designing a septic field or a well, but weíre not going to do the actual design ó the department will review a design. Weíre not going to do the actual testing, save and except for bacteria ó that is the proponentís responsibility. So I hope that clarifies the role of the department in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: I understand what the minister is saying ó like, I get the picture ó but what he also said was that itís the departmentís role to monitor, so theyíre monitoring commercial water operations, whether theyíre in highway lodges or itís somebody selling water, or itís a municipality that has a well where people pick their water up. What Iím saying is that theyíre doing that job. These wells have been tested and the employees or the staff at environmental health services have pointed out that thereís a problem there.
What Iím saying is that environmental health services is aware of it, so is there any responsibility for them to let residents in the area know that there was a problem with the chemical analysis in adjacent wells? Itís a public safety issue; itís notifying the general public that maybe they should have their wells tested. If the minister doesnít think that should happen, I suppose that is what he will get up and say.
I have one other question for the minister. He still hasnít told me when he expects the three sets of regulations to be completed. As well, in a piece of correspondence from March, he told me that a new public information brochure on the testing of well water is in production and should be available in the spring. Weíre one month into spring ó I know there are another couple of months left to go ó so when in the spring will it be done? Spring is three months long. When does he think that brochure will be available?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: In the spring.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister be a little more specific?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This spring.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would just like to follow up on a couple of questions with respect to water that the Member for Mount Lorne has brought into the debate under this line item.
The government does a certain amount of testing. I listened to the debate quite carefully in terms of commercial services. I would like the Minister of Health and Social Services to wear both his ministerial hats for a moment. He also has the campgrounds as his responsibility, the majority of which are by a lake or a stream. I have spent a fair amount of time in those campgrounds. I donít know about the Minister of Environment, but I have been asked many times by visitors if the water is safe to drink. Sometimes we see a notice that says ďboil for five minutesĒ and sometimes we do not. Itís not a commercial situation, but itís publicly accessible. Who has responsibility for that water and those notices?
Is it the Minister of Health and Social Services or the Minister of Environment? Being as it is one and the same and weíre discussing environmental health, could the minister answer that question for me?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd be happy to, Mr. Chair. The Department of Environment operates the campgrounds. There is a series of campgrounds across the Yukon Territory. The environment agency does the monitoring in the Department of Health and Social Services. The bacteria count in the water is done annually. If there is a problem, they are posted as being unsafe for human consumption ó no, thatís not the sign thatís posted. Some of the times they close the wells if there is a real serious problem after a chemical analysis. That has happened in one campground. There is constant monitoring, and if there is any suspicion of contamination there is a sign posted of ďboil water for five minutes before using itĒ. This is not potable water; it is a boil-water advisory. That is how the two departments work back and forth. But the samples are pulled on a regular basis on the wells by the Department of Environment for full chemical analysis and paid for out of the parks branch budget.
That is where the issue of one campground with a high concentration of arsenic was determined, and the well was subsequently covered and made inoperative. That has actually happened and that was the procedure that was followed. The Department of Environment took the steps necessary to do the testing to make the determination and then, as they are required to do because the campgrounds are basically a public water supply ó you could call it a private/public in some respects, but it is accessible by the general public. So there is an onus of responsibility on the operator, which in this case is the Department of Environment park branch to make sure that that water is safe and, if it is not safe, to post that accordingly or to close down access to that water source. That is done on a continuing basis and will continue to be done. The issue of testing overall remains, other than testing for bacteria, the complete chemical analysis and breakdown. That is the requirement being placed on the system operator by the Department of Health and Social Services, the environmental people, for continuing monitoring and testing.
Ms. Duncan: When the minister started out his answer, I heard ďannuallyĒ but then when he elaborated I heard him say that this is done regularly for campgrounds, and he says ďannuallyĒ. The important point is that itís done.
The other thing that struck me during this debate is that the Government of Yukon is spending a certain amount of money in parks; weíre spending it in environmental health. Water is fundamental to life and water testing is becoming an emerging area that is more and more critical. The minister has outlined where private individuals have to spend a certain amount of money and weíre referring people outside the territory for testing.
The government has undertaken a program where they are encouraging or assisting people with rural well drilling and, of course, the demand for water testing is going to increase. Does the minister ó and just a brief ďYes, thatís a possibility and Iíll send it onĒ is fine. Given the expenditures of public money and private money in this area, does the minister think that there is an opportunity, or might be an opportunity, for the private sector to have some form of a water testing/sampling lab located here in the Yukon? Is that something the Department of Economic Development could work with the private sector on?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím sure thatís a good opportunity, but currently for water testing ó if I refer the member opposite to page 11-36 ó the 2003-04 actuals for water testing here in the Yukon were 2,516. The forecast for 2004-05 was 3,600 tests and the estimate for 2005-06, this fiscal, is 4,600. So weíve had an increase of basically a thousand tests every year under our watch. That shows that thereís an ongoing and continuing monitoring program like never before.
Ms. Duncan: Right, Mr. Chair. There is an increased testing. There is an increased awareness by all of us, and there are initiatives by the government in other areas, in terms of increasing local wells, et cetera. I see the opportunity for a private sector service is there, given this information thatís presented. I would encourage the government to work with the local community in that regard.
In these statistics pages, there isnít a listing of what the average cost for a water test is. Does the minister have that information off the top of his head? If not, perhaps the department could just send it over to me.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are no charges for the water tests that are performed by the department. There is a charge for the water tests that are performed by independent labs outside the government envelope, but I donít know what the private sector is charging in that area.
††††††† The member opposite has recognized a unique opportunity for a lab here in the Yukon. It might be a wonderful opportunity for a new career choice for the leader of the third party after the Liberal Party elections for party leader that are taking place this June.
Chair: Before the debate continues, the Chair was enjoying a relatively peaceful afternoon, free of insults and a high level of decorum being shown by all members. I would just encourage all members to try to maintain that level.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the suggestion that we keep the cross-checking to the corners of the hockey arena and not this floor.
The Mental Health Act and mental health services are under here, and the Mental Health Act is the ministerís responsibility. There is one room at the hospital for mental health, as I understand it. Does the minister anticipate, given that this is the mental health line, there being greater facilities available for mental health patients in the Yukon in this budget line?
Given itís a reduction, I suspect not, but if the minister could just confirm what the mental health facilities are and whatís anticipated in this budget line.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated in this House previously, the Yukon Hospital Corporation is looking at an expanded role in medical detox and mental health, and that will be provided in the Thomson Centre as soon as the Hospital Corporation can put everything in place.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to discussing that particular initiative with the Hospital Corporation when theyíre able to appear before the Legislature.
The Uniform Law Conference has come up with legislation that is acceptable throughout Canada, or which has been accepted by the House of Commons, provincial and territorial ministers of justice, as I understand it, with respect to a blood samples act. That is an initiative I would encourage the minister to discuss with Blood Ties Four Directions. Their funding is contained in this line.
Has the minister had an opportunity to examine the blood samples legislation that has been looked at by the Uniform Law Conference or to discuss this with Blood Ties Four Directions? For the benefit of members who arenít aware, the blood samples act will enable the requirement for testing of good Samaritans, police officers and ambulance workers, should someone run the risk or believe they may somehow have come in contact with an individual who is infected with HIV or hepatitis.
Thatís a particular initiative that Alberta and Nova Scotia have passed legislation on. The Uniform Law Conference had concerns raised about the legislation in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Ontario. The Uniform Law Conference looked at the legislation, met those concerns, have an act ó as I understand it ó that could be adapted to the Yukon. Is the minister looking at this issue and giving it any consideration and/or meeting with Blood Ties Four Directions about it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the member opposite sent me some correspondence on this matter, but, prior to that, I was aware of the initiative. Also, the actual legislation in the jurisdictions ó I canít recall which ones they were, but I did have a look at them ó is something under consideration. We are waiting for some other information to flow before we would consider bringing forward legislation in this area. The size of the jurisdiction, being what it is, caused us to look at other ways of implementing that, in conjunction with other types of tests. I havenít examined this area for quite a number of months. Itís not fresh on my mind, but it was an issue I asked a number of questions on, but there didnít appear to be enough in place in other jurisdictions to warrant us moving forward, given the size of our population. Thatís not to say that we wonít in the future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the minister would look again at the information. I donít believe that the size of the jurisdiction has anything to do with this particular initiative. It isnít about the size of the jurisdiction. The issue is a sense of comfort and security for those who are engaged in the field of protection of life. Itís particularly relevant to good Samaritans, RCMP officers, police forces and ambulance workers.
In the Yukon we have adopted the attitude and impression, as has most of Canada, that we would far rather get a sample from someone voluntarily. The issue Iím going after is that if an RCMP officer or another of those individuals I mentioned comes into contact, in the process of doing their job, with a person whom they believe may or may not be infected, we voluntarily ask the person, but there is no legal requirement for the person who has been arrested or charged to give a blood sample.
There is an effective treatment that an individual can take if they have suspicion, but that is also quite onerous and quite difficult for the individual. So the suggestion is that if we could require the sample, that would be the way to go. Now, of course, this issue of requiring a sample raises a lot of concerns with organizations that deal with and represent those who are infected with HIV, organizations like Blood Ties Four Directions ó the concern being invasion of privacy and so on. Those concerns were dealt with after some of the jurisdictions had passed legislation by the Uniform Law Conference. So the minister has said they have considered it but weíre awaiting more information. My question is: are they awaiting more information? Is this on the active file or is this not in the pile for this term of the Yukon Party government? My specific question is: is it somewhere on the radar screen?
Mr. Chair, you had suggested that we have a break some time ago. Our customary break is at 4:30. The minister had asked for a break. I would suggest that perhaps we could begin our 4:30 break at this juncture, if that is acceptable to members.
Chair: Do members wish a 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue with Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and the Department of Health and Social Services, Vote 15. We are on the community health line. Is there any further debate?
Ms. Duncan: Was the minister going to indicate where the blood samples act was, if it was off the radar screen totally or was he going to say that it was still under consideration?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís not off the radar screen; itís an issue that is under consideration.
Community Health in the amount of $6,026,000 agreed to
On Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This breaks down into the operation of the nursing stations in the communities for $12,248,000. Wages, benefits, costs, O&M costs, and emergency medical services amount to $3,859,000, for a total of $16,107,000.
Mr. McRobb: I do have a few questions in this area. First of all, is there any plan to place the community nursing stations under the direction of the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Not to my knowledge, unless the member opposite is aware of something he has been thinking about personally.
Mr. McRobb: Are there specific criteria for qualifications for nurse practitioners in the Yukon? Are there any regulations to that effect?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís not an area thatís specifically regulated. There are criteria. The last time I checked, there were three fully qualified accredited nurse practitioners here in the Yukon. They are in a very highly qualified area of nurse practitioners. There are a lot of other nurses who, Iím sure, meet the qualification threshold but have not written or subscribed to the applicable course or examinations.
Mr. McRobb: Whatís the ministerís recruitment strategy for nurse practitioners?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the same as it is for all the other health care professionals that we require. We are very fortunate to have been able to attract a very broad cross-section of health care professionals in all categories. That recruitment is ongoing and continuing. A lot of the initiative and effort that our government put into this process was to ensure that there is a very adequate wage and benefit package, which we have negotiated with the respective bargaining units and with the Yukon Medical Association in the case of doctors. In addition to that, Mr. Chair, we have living and working conditions in rural Yukon that are probably second to none in the north. Along with that, we have developed a rotational system for those who become burdened with their continuing demands in some of the rural areas. So there is a rotational system for the nurses to move in and out of communities.
We also are very fortunate that when the peak demand occurs, which is the summer months here in the Yukon in a number of our nursing stations, that there are a number of health care professionals who have chosen to work seasonally and spend a certain time of the year in other areas of the world and Canada and then at the same time return to practise here in the Yukon during our busy summer season.
Mr. McRobb: Protection from violence is an issue for the nurses, especially the community nurses. What security measures does the minister have in place, and what does he envision for the future?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is a very good working relationship in place with the nurses in the rural nursing stations and with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is under contract to Yukon. Usually, when there is a recognized difficulty that may arise or give rise to a situation, their assistance is called upon.
That said, weíve had occasion right here in Whitehorse with ambulance attendants and in the emergency ward, with there being abusive remarks, and itís not something the department or the Yukon Hospital Corporation tolerates. There is a procedure in place on how to deal with it, and in rural Yukon it means calling upon the RCMP, and in Whitehorse there is security as well as the RCMP.
Mr. McRobb: What about in communities where RCMP do not exist?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I havenít had anyone suggest that this area has not been covered and that RCMP cannot be called upon.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister about the Whitehorse Health Centre proposal. Can he give us an update on his response to the proposal from the Yukon Registered Nurses Association to have a collaborative clinic in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This has been examined. There has been a recent opening at the Whitehorse General Hospital of a new clinic for those who are pregnant. The Yukon Hospital Corporation has expanded services in a number of areas.
Mr. McRobb: Is that it, Mr. Chair? What about a separate facility?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have facilities that are vacant currently. We do not have a capacity problem. We have a problem recruiting health care professionals in all categories. If what the member opposite is suggesting is to bring the nurse practitioners and nurses from rural Yukon into Whitehorse, I am sorry, Mr. Chair, I canít agree with the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, likewise, Iím sure, Mr. Chair. Iím not suggesting that, at all.
Obviously the minister isnít taking this proposal seriously enough. What does the Whitehorse Health Centre provide in terms of assistance for the school health program and eye examinations? Can the minister give us some information on that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of functions provided to the Yukon population out of the Whitehorse Health Centre. Probably the most significant is the immunization program.
Mr. McRobb: I didnít hear anything about eye examinations in that response.
How does the clinic collaborate with the healthy families program?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Whitehorse Health Centre also provides prenatal programming.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís not much of an answer but, in the interests of moving on, I want to ask about ambulance services. Whatís the timeline for the transfer of emergency medical services to the Yukon Hospital Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is under consideration.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide us with an organization chart for the Whitehorse General Hospital after the transfer? What would it look like?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Currently the Yukon Hospital Corporation Board and the Whitehorse Hospital officials have examined how there can become a more hand-in-glove arrangement between the two emergency services: the acute-care facility and the ambulance service.
Mr. McRobb: To what extent is the minister involving the union in this transfer of EMS to the Yukon Hospital Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Fully, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Has the claim of abuse of auxiliary on-call positions been resolved, and how does hiring auxiliary on-call staff serve the public?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: † Our goal is to provide the highest consistent level of service possible here in the Yukon. We will continue to do so. The issue the member raises is a Public Service Commission issue. Iíd encourage the member opposite to ask that question of the Public Service Commissioner.
Mr. McRobb: Will the minister guarantee all benefits currently held by ambulance staff and guarantee theyíll continue after the transfer to the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This minister wants to enhance and improve the service delivery component, and that would certainly be a component of it ó enhancing and improving service delivery here in the Yukon as well as the working conditions, facilities and, with the purchase of two new type III ambulances this fiscal cycle, Iím sure weíll be in place with a level of staffing that is well equipped, well trained and well able to meet the demands.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate where the two ambulances are destined? What is the liability of the government if it needs to use untrained volunteers as ambulance workers in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The two new ambulances are destined for Whitehorse.
The level of training in the communities was an area our government addressed in the last fiscal cycle. I know the member was off on a different line of questioning when we addressed this issue in the previous budget debate, but the issue of the training of our capable volunteers in rural Yukon and equipping them and clothing them was one our government certainly addressed.
There were two new ambulances purchased in the last cycle. They were four-wheel-drive ambulances. They ended up being used in two Yukon communities where there was a demand. One was a demand we committed to meeting ó in Ross River. In addition to that, there has been a purchase of clothing, which has gone out to the volunteer ambulance attendants.
Honorariums have been increased significantly for the rural volunteers under our watch. At the same time, a full-time trainer has been engaged. That individual travels throughout the Yukon on a regular basis, training our rural volunteers.
So, with the issue of an untrained volunteer coming to assist when something happens, there is the Good Samaritan Act that protects anyone who stops and assists someone in danger or in a life-threatening situation. That act has been in place and is long-standing.
At the same time, Mr. Chair, we hope that the training we are providing and that has been well-received by the volunteers will continue. We certainly are not aware of any situation where our volunteers are not trained. They are currently at various levels of training and the honorariums they receive from the government for being involved in their volunteer role is commensurate with the level of training that they have received and completed.
Ms. Duncan: The questions I have in this area relate to communication and support for the community nursing and emergency medical services. The minister mentioned the close working relationship between the RCMP and the nurses in our communities. The RCMP officers have the support offered through Whitehorse in that after-hours when their telephone rings, it goes to Whitehorse. After-hours for the nurses ó and their phones ring at all hours of the day and night ó they have to answer it themselves; itís not patched through Whitehorse.
Successive governments have worked very hard at trying to work with our nurses on how we can keep them in the communities. Community life can be very difficult. Communities are very small. In the past there have been initiatives to make their homes a better place to live and to deal with some of the issues that the nurses have aside from their working conditions. One of the issues is that theyíre on call for 24 hours a day, unlike the RCMP, where the calls are forwarded to Whitehorse after a certain period of time ó the telephone calls.
Is this an item that the minister or his officials have discussed with our community nurses ó these communication issues? Are we looking at that idea?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís a question that Iíve asked and itís a question that Iíve received some feedback on. The issue is †not that the nurses in the various communities are being paid to be on call, because that is not the area; itís the demand on their time.
They are basically 24/7, and there is a burnout factor. That is why we have gone to the rotational type of situation ó because of the burnout. There is no justification for increasing the staff complement. The demands on the nursing stations in the smaller communities are just not there 24/7. But when there is a demand on them, you have to be there. They have to be able to respond and respond very quickly.
In the smaller centres, that is a problem. In the larger centres, it is less of a problem, given that there are also doctors on call ó if we want to use Watson Lake and Dawson City, for example. But it still requires someone to be on call and someone to answer the call. There is call forwarding to a specific phone number or portable phone that will patch them through at all times.
So there is always someone there to answer the phone, save and except if theyíre involved in an emergency. Itís an area weíre cognizant of. In the larger centres, it appears to have been addressed. In the smaller centres, itís going to remain a little bit more of an onerous burden. But then we have to look at the frequency of the calls. They are considerably less. Then again, the majority of them usually occur on a Friday or Saturday night, and we know what thatís usually related to. Itís usually related to an incident arising out of substance abuse of one sort or another.
So, yes, we have a problem in this area. Yes, weíve improved it for the staff. Yes, weíre constantly looking at ways to improve it further. There is not a simple solution. To have somebody at the end of the telephone is of critical importance and to have someone to attend. But across the Yukon, we have some of the best people in place who do respond immediately when there is a medical emergency.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I do understand that, and Iím quite cognizant of the situation, and I do understand we do have some of the best health care professionals anywhere. There is a system that works for the RCMP, who also deal with life-and-death situations, so I wanted to know if the minister was having a look at that for our nurses as well in the rural communities.
The replacement of the MDMRS system with MoCS, the mobile communications project, also envisions the current proposal, as I understand it in briefing from officials, that includes a look at territory-wide 9-1-1 service. That has a major impact on this line item of the ministerís budget. It has been discussed. I suspect there are no increases yet ó the system isnít in place ó but the system has to be in place by June 2007, as I understand it. So they are working toward that. Is there any planning money for territory-wide 9-1-1 involved in this line item? And perhaps the minister could just tell us what the departmentís involvement is with the Department of Highways and Public Works in planning for territory-wide 9-1-1.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Weíre not the lead department on this initiative. We are just involved in it. Itís a planning process that weíre involved in and contributing to and moving forward on.
Ms. Duncan: I would take it from the ministerís answer that there is no money yet, but there will be at some point.
There has been discussion in the past of centralized emergency medical services in Whitehorse, a discussion of that. Where is that currently? Is it part of the territory-wide 9-1-1 discussions? Is there any work being done in this particular area?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, Health and Social Services is not the lead agency or department on this initiative. Weíre part of the planning process; weíre involved in it; we donít have anything budgeted for the maintenance side of it, given that the new system is not in place. Itís budgeted in our communications envelope to pay for the existing system.
Ms. Duncan: So weíll pay for the existing 9-1-1 service. The department is involved in discussions, but thereís no money.
Community Nursing and Emergency Medical Services in the amount of $16,107,000 agreed to
Total Health Services in the amount of $89,301,000 agreed to
On Regional Services
On Program Management
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Regional services, program management, consists of 24.6 FTEs; the total labour cost is $1.986 million ó thatís all gross. Thereís also support cost, travel, rent, programs, material, communications, et cetera, supporting the 24.6 FTEs, which is $290,000.
Program Management in the amount of $2,276,000 agreed to
On Family and Childrenís Services
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The main component of this, Mr. Chair, is to provide for the costs for children in care in the various regions. That amounts to $627,000. In addition to that, there are family support services for $138,000, totalling $765,000.
Family and Childrenís Services in the amount of $765,000 agreed to
On Social Services
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister give us an example?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The major component here is social assistance at $940,000. In addition to that, thereís community support for $43,000, for a total of $983,000.
Mr. McRobb: Is there any increase to social assistance payments in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If there are, they are volume increases.
Mr. McRobb: So there are no monetary increases. Are there any planned by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister elaborate? Can he tell us what they are and how and when it would be done?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is an increase in the social assistance envelope of, I think, an additional $1,500 a year, or $125 a month social assistance payments to those classified as handicapped.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned a $40,000 payment to communities for community services? What is that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís community support. Itís a $43,000 contribution to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake.†
Mr. McRobb: I did want to ask the minister about that allocation. Can he elaborate for us what exactly the Yukon government gets for that $43,000?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Itís a contribution agreement to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake for $40,000. The member opposite might want to view this contract on the Web.
Mr. McRobb: Are there any other seniors groups in the territory that receive assistance of this type?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have a number of groups and NGOs, as I indicated earlier, that are funded through various envelopes in the Department of Health and Social Services, but this is one thatís directly funded from this line item in the department, and itís a $40,000 contribution to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake.
Mr. McRobb: Okay, I want to ask the minister about fairness. What about seniors groups in other communities? Are they receiving anything, and what do they have to do to receive funds like this?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of senior organizations that receive funding from one envelope or another, as I pointed out to the members opposite, and this is some of the demonstrated needs that weíve moved forward on and it has been funded.
Now, if the member wants to look up on the contract registry and see the multitude of funding that is provided by the Department of Health and Social Services to NGOs across the board, please do so. Iíd encourage members opposite to take the time necessary to review this area because weíre very pleased with the initiatives in a multitude of areas where NGOs have taken responsibility and have done a very excellent job of delivering services to Yukoners.
Iíve been able to attend a number of meetings with a number of NGOs, where they have clearly identified their success as being their people and their peopleís ability to deliver the service. At the same time, they recognize that this Yukon Party government has resourced the demonstrated need in these areas, and we have increased the resources based on demonstrated need.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, Iíve noticed a pattern that the minister tends to give us a political ad when he is short on substance for the answers. I want to follow up a little bit more on this, because I checked the contract registry and there is virtually nothing on it for this fiscal year. So that leads nowhere, Mr. Chair. If we check last yearís, how can we be assured those numbers even relate to whatís in the budget for this year? I want to ask the minister if he can provide us with a breakdown of what this government provides in this regard for each and every seniors group in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That information has been provided to the member opposite. Mostly, these contracts are multi-year contracts, and this is just continuing. It is being funded out of this line item, but the member is taking exception to that. It is just something that was recognized as being important to fund out of this line item. So that said, Mr. Chair, I would encourage the member to view the Web site, view the multi-year funding agreements with the NGOs that the Government of Yukon has and examine them in detail.
Mr. McRobb: Iím taking exception to nothing, other than the ministerís lack of a response. I would like him to either tell me when he provided the information requested and, if he canít answer that ó because I donít recall ever seeing it ó can he provide it for us afresh?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I indicated previously, the Signpost Seniors has been the recipient of government funding, in their role as a very responsible NGO, on a continuing basis. The member might want to go back to when the NDP was in power and funding flowed to the Signpost Seniors under the NDP governmentís watch. It also flowed under the Liberal Partyís watch, and it continues to flow, although at an improved and enhanced level for all NGOs, under our watch.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is wasting the time of the House again. Iím asking him for a breakdown of what this government provides to every seniors group in the territory. Weíre not getting a response out of the minister. I wonder why that is.
Will the minister now provide us with a breakdown of what this government provides to each and every seniors group in the territory? There is a question of fairness here, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is always a question of fairness, Mr. Chair, and the fairness is that this government has tabled the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon ó the largest budget ó and we are prepared to debate the budget. The member opposite is looking for an area that appears to strike him as being unfair or unreasonable. The member opposite has a real difficulty getting his head around the fact that our government has taken existing programs. Where there is a demonstrated need, our government has enhanced and improved the funding based on that demonstrated need.
I can suggest to the member opposite and point out that there are 784 million reasons why this budget is a benefit to Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if anyone canít get their head around something, itís the minister. He has buried it in the sand. Heís not listening to the questions.
Once again, will he provide a breakdown of what this government grants to each and every seniors group in the territory? Will he do that for us?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, weíre on record as having done so. My head in the sand is probably not nearly as inept a position to be in as one thatís in a manhole. We have here before us a $784 million budget to debate.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we havenít received the information requested. Can the minister either provide a legislative return or can he orate for the record? We need the information. Itís a valid question, and we donít need another political advertisement-type speech from the minister.
Can he give us the breakdown for each seniors group that was granted funds by this Yukon government in this fiscal year thatís part of this budget weíre currently scrutinizing? What is the minister trying to hide?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This minister is not trying to hide behind anything. I could point out to the Chair that we are in Health and Social Services. Weíre in the regional services branch, and the program objectives are to provide and coordinate services that strengthen the social well-being of individuals, families and communities in rural Yukon.
Under the social services line ó weíre in that line item right now ó weíre at $983,000, and I pointed out clearly the breakdown of that line item and clearly indicated that $40,000 of that line item is a contribution agreement to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake so that they can continue with the good work that they have been doing, and were doing under the NDP governmentís watch, under the Liberal governmentís watch, and under our governmentís watch. Now, the only thing thatís changed is that under the Yukon Party watch, we have improved and enhanced the funding. There has been a small increase for virtually all the NGOs of three percent this fiscal cycle and, in addition to that, there are quite a number of NGOs for which, where thereís a demonstrated need that was clearly identified, our government has agreed and has provided more in their budget envelope and resourced them to a greater extent than they had in the last fiscal cycle.
The member opposite wants to get off into all this other never-never land where heís envisioning thereís I donít know what out there.
Let us stick to the substance of the line item that we have before us, which I believe is my responsibility. I have clearly outlined for the member opposite the breakdown of this line item at $983,000.
Mr. McRobb: What weíve just heard is a speech by a minister who is sinking fast. He canít justify this line item. He goes off and talks about other matters and then tries to challenge the legitimacy of the question. This question is valid. Iíll guarantee this question is valid. Itís a serious matter. There are seniors groups in other parts of the territory who get nothing from this government, but the one in the Premierís riding seems to get special treatment.
We need to know what the policy of this government is. Iíve asked the minister about four or five times now if he can give us a breakdown of what is granted to each and every seniors group in the territory. Iím particularly interested to hear what the seniors groups in the other communities are getting, yet all the minister does is stand up and stonewall and point the finger.
Some minister this is. Some government this is, Mr. Chair. This is not a government.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Order.† Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Chair. That was clearly in contravention of Standing Order 19(i). It was very insulting toward the Minister of Health and Social Services. The comment ďsome minister this isĒ is clearly a contravention of that Standing Order, and I would ask you to direct the Member for Kluane to retract that.
Chair: There is no point of order. The debate will please continue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. This government can dish it out, but they canít take it, and thatís just another example of how sensitive they are, but they should apply their sensitivity toward being fair to the other seniors groups in the territory. So Iím going to ask the minister one more time, and if he says no, Iíll go down to the access to information office and apply there. This is the government that only earlier today said we will table anything requested of us. Well, what a joke that is. This is not a government that does what it says. Itís hiding. Itís not open, and itís not accountable, Mr. Chair. I think a lot of Yukoners are waiting for the next opportunity to cast their ballots. So will the minister give us a breakdown of what has been requested, especially for seniors groups in other communities?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I bring the member opposite back to regional services, the social services line item, and the program objective being to provide and coordinate services that strengthen the social well-being of individuals, families and communities in rural Yukon. Now, that line item contains $983,000 worth of expenditures. $40,000 of that is a contribution agreement to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake.
The breakdown of the balance of the monies in that category are as follows: there is a regional social worker, $87,000; there is a secretary, $46,000; there is another regional social worker, $90,000; there is a social worker at $78,000 and another regional social worker at $89,000; a part-time secretary at $33,000; a regional social worker at $83,000; another part-time secretary at $31,000; a part-time social worker at $40,000; a manager at $104,000; a regional social worker at $88,000; two regional child welfare social workers, both at $88,000; there is another regional social worker at $89,000; a part-time secretary at $33,000 and a part-time receptionist at $33,000; there is another regional social worker at $79,000 and a social service worker at $73,000; there is a part-time social services worker at $40,000; a full-time secretary/office worker at $64,000; another regional social worker at $85,000; a social services worker at $75,000; a social services worker at $73,000; a regional social worker at $85,000; a part-time secretary at $32,000; a regional social worker at $90,000; another social services worker at $64,000; and another regional social worker at $79,000.
When we add it all together, it all adds up to this line item of $983,000, and that is contained within the regional services, social services envelope, line item $983,000.
Mr. McRobb: I would suggest that what we have just been exposed to equates to a gross evasion of responsibility and accountability by the minister.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: That certainly is a point of order. The member opposite imputed false or unavowed motives to another member, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g).
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, I stand by what I said. There was nothing false or unavowed about it.
Chair: The Chair has enjoyed this afternoon. Comments have been germane to the debate. They have generally remained on topic. There has been a good flow and exchange of information back and forth. The Chair would encourage that type of behaviour and practice.
We need not personalize or make specific comments about specific members in this Assembly in order to conduct the business of the House.
The matter currently before us is the line item social services. I would ask members to focus their attention on that budget item and to discuss it without making personal references.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Chair. Let the record show that the minister failed to answer the question even though he was asked several times to do so. What he did the last time he was on his feet was stand up and read a bunch of numbers that were not pertinent to the issue, relevant to the debate or related in any way to the question.
So my earlier comment stands. The minister has proven it, and itís indicative of the entire government side over there, because they are simply not accountable, nor do they want to be accountable, nor do they have any compulsion to be accountable.
Chair: Order please. The member has obviously crossed the line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Order please. The member is now making very broad, general statements and casting aspersions upon the character of all members in the government caucus.
Again, the issue is the Department of Health and Social Services and that budget item. The line is social services, and the budget amount is $983,000. Would members like to discuss that further?
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to ask a question about this. The minister has indicated there is $40,000 or $43,000 for the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake. The Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake is a very well-established group, and so is the Golden Age Society here in Whitehorse. There are other seniors organizations in the territory. Iím not familiar with all of them, but I know those two exist, for example.
Now, it makes sense that the funding for the Signpost Seniors is in regional services; it makes sense that itís in this line item. The Golden Age Society in Whitehorse would be in another line item. The minister said Health and Social Services funds a number of seniors organizations and non-government organizations.
There are new and emerging seniors organizations throughout the territory as weíre all ageing in place, so to speak. Iím certainly aware of one such group in the community of Haines Junction. Logically, they would be funded in a line item like this, as the Signpost Seniors are under regional services, social services; they are not. The minister hasnít indicated that they are funded; theyíre a new organization.
How do they go about applying to be funded as a line item under this line?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite is just requesting a funding for general operations, that is one funding stream. If the member opposite is requesting funding for a project-specific item, there are various programs that program funding can be sought through. There is also project-specific funding through the community development fund that, under our government, we have improved and enhanced to a much greater degree than the Liberals who curtailed the fund, stripped it of its compliance and politicized it. We have removed that whole part from the equation.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
†Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: † On a point of order, Mr. Chair, considering that you have made a number of rulings this afternoon, I would have expected the minister to have been more sensitive about casting aspersions, contrary to Standing Order 19(g).
Chair: The Chair concurs, and I would ask the member not to call into question the motives or the rationale behind previous decisions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a go-forward basis, the Government of Yukon, under our watch, has identified the community development fund as a very useful undertaking. We have restored the community development fund. This is one very good source of funding that those organizations that qualify for certain program initiatives can apply to. That said, Mr. Chair, there are various classes of applications or thresholds for the applications. These are ongoing, and there are intakes on a regular basis by the Government of Yukon for this very worthwhile program.
That is just one example. Members opposite can encourage the established and newly established NGOs to apply for funding through various programs. In addition to that, from time to time, the federal government does provide Yukon with some boutique funding in specific areas, and that is put out for the general public at our earliest convenience, of course always subject to federal legislative approval before it comes to fruition.
The Yukon is in a very unique position, in that the Premier of the Yukon, the Premier of the Northwest Territories and the Premier of Nunavut have made representation to the Government of Canada and have enhanced, in a number of ways, the funding flowing to our respective jurisdictions for health care. That money has been approved by Parliament, and that is all contained in this budget.
Mr. Chair, I can give you 784 million reasons here why and how Yukoners will benefit from this budget. We have looked at NGOs, and where they have shown a demonstrated need, that need has been duly recognized in the Department of Health and Social Services, and weíve been able to increase funding to that NGO.
The member opposite speaks of a new NGO that has just come to fruition in the community of Haines Junction. To date, we have not received any applications that I am aware of from this newly formed group or society. Iíd encourage them, with the help of their MLA, the MLA for Kluane, to ó
Chair: Order please. Mr. Jenkins, you have the floor. I would ask all members to please respect the person who is speaking and to keep the extraneous chatter to a lower level, please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would encourage the Member for Kluane to analyze the various categories and funding initiatives that this Yukon Party government has put in place and has enhanced. I would encourage him to work with his constituents to see what he can do to assist them. If they wish, they can contact the department directly if theyíre uncomfortable with dealing with their MLA. Otherwise we would be happy to work with his constituents.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has gone on at great length, but he didnít fully answer the question. Itís not an issue of the individuals feeling comfortable talking to their MLA about approaching the government, or of the community development fund or various funding for non-government organizations. The minister has outlined in regional services, under social services, that there is ongoing funding for one seniors organization.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin isnít here, so perhaps we could all just welcome a former member of the Legislature, Mr. Dave Keenan, who has dropped in to see us.
Nice to see you again. Weíre having one of those lovely debates like we did on larvicide ó 12 days on one line item in the budget.
The issue is that there is ongoing funding for Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake for $40,000 or $43,000. I have heard two figures from the minister. There is ongoing funding and there is no application necessary. Itís an ongoing funding arrangement.
All the Member for Kluane is asking ó and all Iím asking, because there are a number of individuals who are friends of mine who are in the riding and have started another seniors organization.
What I was asking the minister to do was to stand on his feet and say, of course we would welcome interest from this organization on the same level as we have done with the Signpost Seniors or would do for people if there was a group such as this in Dawson City or for the Yukon Order of Pioneers, for that matter, and other organizations if they wanted to apply. The community development fund is not application-driven. We all know about that but the minister is providing ongoing funding for one organization. Will he provide it to the others if they ask? Thatís the only question thatís being asked this afternoon.
It should not and it must not be about those who know, pick up the phone and call the minister. Itís about everyone being aware that this funding is there and that other organizations will be treated on the same level, not be told, ďYou go apply under that funding; these guys get ongoing fundingĒ.
Will the minister put all the seniors groups in the territory ó some of them are just beginning ó on the same level playing field as the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake, whom I believe absolutely should have the funding? Thatís not an issue here. The issue is: is everybody being treated the same way?
Mr. McRobb: What the House just heard from the leader of the third party was an excellent question, and I concur completely. Letís face it, this arrangement the Yukon Party has with the Signpost Seniors is a real sweet deal. The organization doesnít have to fill out any applications, it doesnít have to compete with other applications from the same community, as it would have to if it applied under the community development fund.
Mr. Chair, it doesnít have to go through all the hoops and hurdles. It is an automatic line item. The cheque is sent in the mail every year on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Chair, weíre not disputing the need for the Signpost Seniors. What weíre questioning here is the fairness to all the other seniors groups apparently not getting the same arrangement. There is a gross unfairness to that, and the minister has been unable to satisfy our questions on this. So I guess it will just have to go down in the books as another example of how this Yukon Party government canít answer the good questions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I donít think there is anyone in this world who can satisfy the member oppositeís questions, Mr. Chair. But that said, this line item contains an amount for funding an initiative of the Signpost Seniors. It is a contractual arrangement. It is ongoing funding. I would suspect itís a three-year contribution, and weíre probably in the third year of this contribution agreement. I can assure the member opposite that he can look this up on the Web site.
Now, that is just part of what I am hearing, Mr. Chair ó to treat everybody the same. Well, there are various initiatives and various programs that have various criteria, and various organizations and groups apply, after due consideration of the task at hand, to the various initiatives and programs that the Government of Yukon has in place and subsequently receive funds. That is ongoing.
I would like to point out for the member opposite that one of the very good initiatives that our government restored ó and I donít know why the member opposite is so critical of it because it was commenced under an NDP government ó was the community development fund initiative. The CDF funding was subsequently restored by our government after being stripped by a previous Liberal government ó it was restored and is being utilized. The intake is on a regular basis. The guidelines for the intake are published. Theyíre out there. Itís public information. If thereís anyone who wants an application form or wants more information on CDF, just contact any one of us in the Yukon Party and weíd be happy to see that they get that application. They can follow through with whatever requests that they have. I can assure all that that request will be given the appropriate scrutiny. If thereís a demonstrated need and it fits the program criteria, we would be happy to move forward and see that money put into the hands of Yukoners and do the job and good work that our government is becoming more and more recognized for on a continuing basis.
There are 784 million reasons in here as to how we are enhancing and improving the lives of Yukoners. If you look at this line item, social services, it is $983,000, and the majority of that funding in this line item is wages and benefits for our social workers in rural Yukon. Contained therein is a $40,000/ $43,000 contribution to the Signpost Seniors ó $40,000 to $43,000. Iím sorry, I donít have the exact number right in front of me. Itís either a $40,000 or $43,000 contribution to the Signpost Seniors. Please forgive me for $3,000. I have a lot of numbers that are rotating and that I have a grasp on, but overall what I have a grasp on is this funding is continuing to flow for this initiative and it will continue as long as the Signpost Seniors meet the criteria and continue with the program.
That said, Mr. Chair, there are other lines in the Department of Health and Social Services that fund other NGOs and other initiatives, specifically the Signpost Seniors, as well as many, many other NGOs. As I said earlier, under our watch, this is the first time that virtually all the NGOs received a minimum of a three-percent increase, save and except those NGOs that have shown a demonstrated need. Kausheeís Place received over a $100,000 increase this year because of a demonstrated need by that very worthwhile, capable NGO.
Now, at the same time, there are other NGOs like the Child Development Centre that have moved forward on other very good initiatives, such as our FASD diagnostic team, and that has been funded to a much higher level than ever before by this Yukon Party government.
So there are $784 millioní worth of reasons in here why we are moving forward in lockstep with the majority of Yukoners in developing the Yukon, restoring investor confidence, and creating employment for Yukoners.
There is opportunity, there is optimism, there is something happening once again. Itís not a U-Haul economy, with everybody going south. We need very capable people in very many areas.
Social Services in the amount of $983,000 agreed to
On Youth Justice
Youth Justice in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
Total Regional Services in the amount of $4,037,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on Health and Social Services recoveries and revenue?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I had asked the Health minister to provide us with a list of the outstanding accounts that weíre still waiting for from the federal government. I note that in the recoveries there is a significant increase in recoveries from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, for example, under McDonald Lodge. We have billed them, or anticipate billing them, in this recovery line item and of course we anticipate getting the money. Ottawa has been a little slow with money for health and social services over the years of all governments of all political stripes.
Does the minister have a list of those billings that are outstanding right now?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I do. As of April 5, DIAND has paid an additional $5.9 million toward a significant portion of the child welfare invoices. They also have paid $732,000 toward home care and social assistance invoices. New invoices have been issued totalling $4.3 million and DIANDís current outstanding balance is $25,710,335.55. That is of April 5. It has been reduced from the fall legislative session, when I last reported on it. At that time, DIANDís amount of money due to Yukon on behalf of First Nation clients ó as I reported to the House ó was $28,040,672 outstanding.
We have made some progress ó $3 million ó but we still have a long way to go. Perhaps if we see our way clear, we can get the federal Liberal government to convene an inquiry up here if we donít get it in the next little while. This is a very worthwhile initiative that is ongoing back east and may have repercussions out west. There may be an issue in this area that we need someone to look at.
The only part of the receivables due has been cross-referenced by the Auditor Generalís Office and confirmed that it is due, subject to audit confirmation.
Chair: Are there any further questions regarding recoveries and revenue?
Are there any questions regarding transfer payments?
Ms. Duncan: † There are the childcare subsidies, and the childcare payments are in the transfer payments. There has been significant discussion between the government and those involved in childcare in the territory ó significant discussion and some disagreement. What is the current status of discussions around the accountability statements that the minister demanded from the organizations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím very uncomfortable with the way the member opposite has expressed this ó ďaccountability statementsĒ. Accountability is part of the contribution agreements that the government has to have, because this money is subject to an audit and it must clearly demonstrate in the contribution agreement how the money was spent. Our government is very proud ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, we can get into how the previous administration spent money on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and the Energy Solutions Centre, how they funnelled millions of dollars into my community of Dawson for that, but we wonít go there. That happened under the Liberal watch, so we wonít go there.
But letís go on and focus on the issue at hand here. Under our watch, Mr. Chair, the issue of childcare in the Yukon was a very important and recognized initiative, and our government convened a working group of the childcare and the day home operators and put together a four-year plan. Currently where we stand is we have an initiative underway where we have the second best funded childcare system in Canada, after the Province of Quebec.
We put about $5.5 million a year into childcare here in the Yukon and that is a significant amount of money, given that we have about 1,300 set-up spaces. So when you look at the overall envelope, we are working with the childcare community and we are developing a contribution agreement that meets the accountability requirements in our Financial Administration Act and at the same time allows flexibility in the childcare community to deliver in the very capable manner that theyíre delivering childcare to the youth in the Yukon. We know weíve got a successful undertaking and we know weíve done a magnificent job in this area, and weíre only going to move forward to further enhance it when and if the federal government money flows to us under this other envelope that the Hon. Ken Dryden has recognized and has committed to ó $5 billion over five years. But thatís not contained within this budget; that is contained in a future budget that may flow this fiscal year but may not. We do not know at this juncture.
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy, Planning and Administration
On Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities
Integrated Health and Social Services Facilities in the amount of $30,000 agreed to
On Office Furniture and Operational Equipment
Office Furniture and Operational Equipment in the amount of $211,000 agreed to
On Systems Development
Ms. Duncan: †There is an increase in the amount of money being spent on systems development for Health and Social Services. What new system is being put in place?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Actually, there are quite a number of initiatives underway, from basic upgrading of our workstations in the IT ó I believe the last purchase order I signed for programming alone was about a quarter of a million dollars, a significant expenditure for workstation software. Across the board, weíre looking at upgrading IT and new programming. Itís work in progress; itís work underway.
I know the member is cognizant of the IT world, and I know there has been a lot of ó I guess not enough attention was paid to the Department of Health and Social Services in the IT sector for quite a period of time, and we were lagging. Weíve done our level best as a government to catch up as best we can. We are moving forward in this area. Significant money is budgeted in the IT section, but itís going to take another couple of years before we are into the modern world totally.
Some of our programs probably predate some of us in the Legislature ó not myself, of course.
Ms. Duncan: Yes. Itís not the ministerís birthday yet, so weíll hold off on those good wishes.
The Government of Yukon has previously ó previous governments have embarked upon a number of systems ó land information system, financial management information system, and PeopleSoft. Is this expenditure just bringing workstations up to date, or are we putting some kind of new system, such as the land information system and the financial management information system in place in the Department of Health and Social Services to track initiatives within that department?
These are significant expenditures by the departments. They often involve a great deal of government money and the money doesnít always stay in the Yukon. LIMS, the land information management system, was purchased from outside the territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair, in view of the time, I move that you report progress.
Chair: Before we report progress or put forward the motion to report progress, the Chair would like to apologize. I failed to clear the total operation and maintenance for Vote 15. Is there any debate on the total operation and maintenance for Vote 15 of $170,346,000?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Yes, Mr. Chair, I do have to recognize that this is probably the largest budget for Health and Social Services ever in the history of the Yukon. It is very significant in itself.
I encourage all members to look at the good work that is going to be contained within this budget envelope, and I encourage them to support this budget when it comes before the House and vote for it.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the total operation and maintenance for Vote 15?
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Department of Health and Social Services in the amount of $170,346,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress on Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we report progress on Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 21, 2005:
Adoption: number of Yukon children available for† (Jenkins)
Oral, Hansard, p. 4101