Yellowknife Frame Lake
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, the section I'm presenting from our report is entitled "Bringing it all Together." It focuses on social issues.
Madam Speaker, this government is perceived as a government focused on economic development. While committee Members recognize the critical importance of economic development for the Northwest Territories, there's a fear that this focus may be diverting attention away from pressing social issues. There is a fear that basic social programs may be eroded. Committee Members feel that the time has come to focus on the pressing social problems facing our government today. A shift in philosophy is also required. The future of the territories lies in its people. Therefore, what is required is investing in people -- a focus on the social issues. Further, the committee feels that in order to support this shift in philosophy, a shift in resource allocation must follow.
Committee Members, during the September review, identified three areas where the government could focus for the next year. These three areas are consistent with emerging priorities and with the recommendations of the various standing and special committees of the Legislative Assembly.
Early Intervention - Children With Special Needs
More than half of the residents of the Northwest Territories are under 18 years of age. It is with these people that our future rests. It is imperative, therefore, that the needs of this group be identified and addressed.
The Special Committee on Health and Social Services identified a very serious gap in responsibility for services for youth. The committee's final report describes the situation in the following excerpt:
"We were told about one complete gap in authority, in that no department has the responsibility for providing services to special needs children, especially preschoolers. In 1985, a report was prepared, suggesting clarification of departmental roles and financial obligations and recommending early intervention with children with special needs. This recommendation rose, in part, out of the evaluation of a successful early intervention pilot project conducted in Pond Inlet. Despite this project's success, the government took no action to allocate the responsibility and funds for such programs.
Six years later, a tri-ministerial committee -- Education, Health, and Social Services -- was formed to review the issue. The committee made further recommendations but still no action was taken. No one department has the legislative mandate for such services so no funds were allocated, despite the continued acceptance that early intervention was crucial to helping these children." (Page 39).
Based on this assessment of the problem, Madam Speaker, the Special Committee on Health and Social Services made the following recommendation:
"Interdepartmental agreements must be put in place quickly to ensure that early intervention services are available right away. Due to the urgency of this matter, a report must be provided to the Legislative Assembly during the 1994 winter session." (Page 44).
Madam Speaker, the Standing Committee on Finance supports this recommendation and believes that it should be one of the three major initiatives undertaken by this government in the next year. Committee Members expect to see specific budget plans to support this initiative in the 1995-96 operations and maintenance budget.
School-Based Youth Service Model
"Partners For Youth"
During its review of the 1994-95 main estimates, the committee identified a model for a school-based youth service program. the model, called "Partners for Youth," was based on a pilot project being implemented in Edmonton. With this model, which was initially developed in San Diego, a social services team is put together in the school. In the Edmonton example, at one of the schools the team includes a nurse, a police constable, a social worker, a probation officer and a therapist. The goal of the project is to ensure that "at risk and potentially at risk" students and their families will have school-based access to a wide range of community services. Further, committee Members noted that the program is designed to require little extra funding. Instead, existing resources are reassigned. Based on this information, the committee made the following recommendation:
"That the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, in cooperation with the Departments of Social Services, Justice and Health, examine the "Partners for Youth" model and implement pilot projects, based on that model, in one school in each region for the 1994-95 school year."
Madam Speaker, none of the departments responded to this recommendation for the 1994-95 school year. Instead, the standing committee received the following status report on September 13, 1994:
"A memorandum of agreement has been signed by the Ministers of three departments as the first step. The collaborative concept is already in place in many schools across the NWT, and is being promoted actively. This concept is not currently known by the title, "Partners for Youth." It is acknowledged as the most effective way to provide coordinated support to children and youth."
When the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment appeared before the committee during the September, 1994 review, this issue was discussed. Committee Members, once again, outlined the many benefits of this model and strongly urged the department to "get on with it." Committee Members noted that no action had been taken to implement pilot projects in the schools for the 1994-95 school year.
In response to this reluctance, and because of the potential benefits for our youth and their families, committee Members decided to follow up on the recommendation themselves. The committee has invited the coordinator of the Edmonton project to make a presentation on the model to the committee, other interested MLAs and Ministers. The meeting is scheduled to take place in late October, 1994.
The Standing Committee on Finance supports the efforts of the Department of Justice in preparing the declaration on family violence on behalf of the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories and in developing and tabling a strategy for dealing with violence. However, the committee was very disappointed to find, during its review of the 1994-95 main estimates, that few, if any, new resources had been allocated in any department, to help ensure that the goals set out in this declaration become a reality. If resources are not dedicated to this important statement of principle, it raises expectations without much chance of achieving objectives.
As a result of these concerns, the committee recommended that the Department of Social Services, in consultation with social agencies and special interest groups, develop a range of program options and training plans for family violence prevention services, child sexual abuse programs and family counselling.
The government response to this recommendation, received on September 13, 1994, is as follows:
"The Department of Health and Social Services has begun work on a community wellness strategy. The strategy will develop a range of options for responding to family violence and sexual abuse issues, in the context of individual, family and community healing and development. Community involvement in service delivery, training, prevention and awareness will be emphasized.
The development of the strategy is directed by a working group of representatives of approximately 35 non-government and community organizations. The Departments of Justice and Education, Culture and Employment are closely involved and other departments are being consulted.
A comprehensive progress report will be tabled in the Legislative Assembly this fall."
The standing committee would like to see this initiative fast- tracked. Members would like to see very rapid progress in moving from strategy to implementation. Committee Members expect to see specific budget plans to support this initiative in the 1995-96 operations and maintenance budget.
Madam Speaker, there are many urgent problems that could be addressed by undertaking these three initiatives. These problems deserve prompt and proactive solutions. Therefore, the Standing Committee on Finance will make the following recommendation to the Government of the Northwest Territories:
The Standing Committee on Finance recommends that the Government of the Northwest Territories assess its spending priorities and current initiatives and, based on that assessment, develop a plan to deal with early intervention services for special needs children; a school-based youth services program and family violence. The goal of the plan is to focus on long-term investments in the people of the Northwest Territories. The committee further recommends that the plan be initiated and implemented during the final year of the government's term.
Madam Speaker, I would now like to request that the chairman of the committee be allowed to conclude the report.