Mahsi, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, today I am very pleased to present the report on the elimination of the Alcohol and Drug Board of Management, prepared by the Standing Committee on Agencies, Boards and Commissions.
Alcohol and drug abuse is one of the most serious social problems facing northerners today. As a result, the funding of alcohol and drug programs has always been a sensitive and important issue in the debates of the Legislative Assembly.
Early in the term of the 12th Assembly, the Standing Committee on Agencies, Boards and Commissions selected the Alcohol and Drug Board of Management as one of the government agencies to be reviewed by the committee.
The standing committee considered this matter in meetings in Yellowknife from April 25 to 29, 1994. The Minister of Social Services, the Honourable Rebecca Mike, was unable to appear before the committee. She was represented by her deputy minister, Mr. Ken Lovely, who appeared before the committee on April 26th. The standing committee wishes to acknowledge the input of the deputy minister and thank him for his appearance at the public hearings.
Over the past few years, concerns related to Alcohol and Drug Board of Management were raised regularly by Members in the House. Members were concerned that the board was not carrying out its duties and that the government as not giving the board the support necessary to do so.
The government finally eliminated the board at the end of the 1992-93 fiscal year. As a result, there is no formal mechanism available for the Department of Social Services to receive input and recommendations concerning alcohol and drug policies.
The standing committee is disappointed the government eliminated this board without having consulted the Assembly, either as a whole or through this committee. Recent government initiatives to eliminate boards -- most recently, the Denendeh Conservation Board and the Highway Transport Board -- included consultation with this committee. The elimination of the Alcohol and Drug Board of Management should not have taken place without similar consultation.
Committee Members acknowledge that the board's primary purpose, to make recommendations on the distribution of grants and contributions to alcohol and drug programs, has been taken over by the department. While that responsibility may now be elsewhere, the responsibility to provide input to the Minister and the department is one that must still be met.
Further, there was some concern that the department was too interested in numbers and statistics from the alcohol and drug workers and not in the other issues and concerns often raised by the workers. Alcohol and drug counsellors in the communities are the front-line workers in this battle and their input is critical in the development of effective policies to reduce the damage of alcohol and drug use by northerners.
As for the grants and contributions, the standing committee feels that there must be some means of monitoring the effectiveness of those grants. How effective are they in different communities? Are there some programs or communities that are more effective or efficient than others? What can be learned from those effective programs? Committee Members appreciate the department's assurances that program will be better monitored.
The department told the committee that an alcohol and drug strategy would be developed this year by the combined departments of Health and Social Services. The standing committee sees the establishment of mechanisms for input by front-line workers and for monitoring of the effectiveness of grants as an essential part of any alcohol and drug strategy.
The Standing Committee on Agencies, Boards and Commissions recommends that the Department of Health and Social Services complete a comprehensive alcohol and drug strategy and provide it to the committee by December 31, 1994. Further, that the strategy include mechanisms for monitoring the effectiveness of grants and contributions to alcohol and drug societies, and for gathering input from alcohol and drug workers to the department.
Finally, the standing committee agrees with the department that alcohol and drug problems are not so much a cause as they are an effect. The government has limited resources and these resources must be directed so as to have the greatest possible impact on all health and social services issues facing northerners. Directing attention at the causes of alcohol and drug abuse is an admirable goal, and we encourage the government to continue their efforts to fight the roots of the problems facing northerners through a greater emphasis on community mental health. Mahsi cho.