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Yukon social services minister reviewing NGO's funding proposal

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said her department is reviewing a proposal from the Yukon Women's Transition Home Society after their meeting Wednesday morning, which followed some tension between the two parties. 

Two sides met Wednesday amid ongoing funding spat

Yukon Women's Transition Home Society executive director Barb McInerney, back row second from right, with fellow NGO protesters after sitting in the Yukon legislature gallery on Thursday to hear debate about their funding. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost said her department is reviewing a proposal from the Yukon Women's Transition Home Society after their meeting Wednesday morning, which followed some tension between the two parties. 

Speaking to reporters Wednesday afternoon, Frost said the meeting went well and the two sides were able to clear the air; she did not go into details about what was in the proposal. 

"We clearly had some misunderstandings in terms of what their understanding was and what I had before me. And I think we've cleared that," she said.

Last Thursday, some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) staged a demonstration outside the Yukon legislature to demand more funding, saying their funding has been frozen since 2017-18. NGOs have also complained that their funding will now be renewed annually, rather than every three years — making it difficult for them to plan ahead.

Comments from Frost in the legislature this week may have added to the tension and confusion, after she said there was no funding freeze and a three-year agreement was offered to the Yukon Women's Transition Home Society two years ago.

Ahead of the meeting, executive director Barb McInerney of the Yukon's Women's Transition Home Society said she hoped it would provide clarity to the heated issue of funding agreements for NGOs.

"Hopefully we can get through this with just some clear, honest communication because it seems our history of events is completely different and it must be frustrating for everyone and very confusing," said McInerney before Wednesday morning's meeting.

McInerney is waiting to comment on Wednesday's meeting with Frost until she sees if the government delivers on promises it made in the meeting.

'No new money'

The Department of Health and Social Services sent a letter last May to NGOs that receive their funding from the department. The letter informed the the NGOs that their funding will stay at 2017-18 levels during the comprehensive health and social services review, which started last fall.

McInerney said it makes sense to review programs, but "all we've heard is, 'Until we get this evaluation done, there is no new money.'"

Before the meeting, McInerney said she hoped to learn more about the 2019-20 transfer payment agreement in Wednesday's meeting.

McInerney said she has received a verbal agreement from the deputy minister for the coming fiscal year's transfer payment and cost of living increase, but she has not received the amount or the terms in writing yet.

Staff reductions 'not safe'

She said she hopes the society will receive an additional $500,000 to the proposed $1.5 million, plus $26,000 to account for the increase in the cost of living, or it will be in "crisis funding" for 2019-20.

When asked after question period on Tuesday when the Yukon Women's Transition Home Society could expect to see the written transfer payment agreement, Frost said that was a departmental question.

The Yukon Women's Transition Home Society operates Betty's Haven, a 10-unit second-stage housing complex, and provides the staffing for Kaushee's Place, the women's emergency shelter.

McInerney said besides shelter, the society provides support and food to women and their children fleeing violence, as well as violence prevention programs.

She said much of the spending is on staffing and building maintenance at Betty's Haven.

To save some costs, McInerney said she has already had to reduce staffing to one or two people a shift to cover both Betty's Haven and Kaushee's Place, but she said that's not safe.

With files from Nancy Thomson

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