In response to the Mental Wellness Strategy

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to start by expressing my disappointment in the government for their lack of commitment in improving the mental wellness in our territory. It took them over a year to produce a wellness strategy, and yet I can’t seem to point to anything tangible in the actual report. Where are the steps of implementation, for example? Where is the money to fund such a vast effort? These questions remain unanswered.

We have the last jurisdiction in Canada to produce a mental wellness strategy even though the need was identified many years ago. The Yukon Party has had 14 years in government, all the while knowing the lack of mental health support in the territory, and has not made an effort to address it until now.

This report is a far cry from the expectations that we all had in this Legislature over a year ago when I put forth a motion that this government produce a mental health strategy, and every member of this Legislative Assembly unanimously supported it — a far cry indeed. The Yukon Party is treating this initiative as an aside — simply a box to check off before heading into the election. They are showing no true commitment or will to put this into action.

Mental wellness in this territory needs to be addressed now. Our territory depends on it. The quality of life of many of citizens is drastically reduced by the lack of support that they are receiving here in Whitehorse and especially in the communities. The resources are just not here. Also, the coordination of services is just not there. Our medical staff is working overtime, committing their lives to the well-being of our communities, yet many see no improvement. Not only is the support for the public lacking, but also for medical staff as well.

As I read through this strategy, I see a lot of disheartening statistics, for sure. A profound realization of the lack of mental wellness in our territory is ingrained throughout the report. The status of mental well-being in our territory presents many challenges among vast, yet scarcely populated, jurisdictions. In order for this strategy to succeed, we must pull from our many resources, including our finances, to provide adequate support.

All that is allocated in this year’s budget and this strategy is $1 million. That is not enough money to effectively implement change under such a high demand. The Yukon Party is simply making the appearance to be fighting for mental wellness. They clearly do not have a plan to stay in the battle for the long term. As they sit on the sidelines, our communities are suffering. This is a slush fund of $1 million, and it is on an application basis, limiting accessibility significantly. More often than not, those who need the most help do not have the capacity or the support to undertake the challenges of putting together an acceptable proposal — for example, a First Nation under a third-party management. By placing these requirements on applicants, the needs-based approach becomes distorted and non-equitable.

Where did the minister come up with the number of $1 million? Is it sufficient? Please tell us that number is based upon a needs assessment because, otherwise, communities with the best bureaucracies therefore will have the best skills sets for writing proposals and will be receiving the lion’s share of this funding as opposed to the money going to the communities equally or based upon need. The mental wellness and all-round well-being of our citizens needs to be at the forefront of a government’s priorities. This strategy simply nods in the direction, but does not fully address the immediate needs of our territory.