Skip to content

Yukon Party wonders if health minister’s nearly $13K ‘junket’ to Scotland worth it

Minister hints that baby boxes could be born out of trip
Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee takes questions from reporters on a few topics, including the Scotland trip, in the Yukon government cabinet office on March 25. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

The Official Opposition is questioning the value Yukoners got from a week-long “junket” the health minister and a ministerial advisor quietly took to Scotland last September.

That trip was worth $12,800, according to the minister’s travel expense report, which is available on the Yukon government website alongside other travel expenses.

Patti McLeod, Yukon Party MLA for Watson Lake, asked the minister about her trip overseas in the Yukon Legislative Assembly on March 25. McLeod pressed the minister for taking the trip while rural health centres around the Yukon saw service reductions and rolling closures for days or weeks on end last summer and fall.


Close to half of Yukon’s health centres have temporarily closed despite government’s efforts

Yukon Party slams government’s inability to prevent rural health centre closures

As Yukon minister of health and justice, Tracy-Anne McPhee wore two hats when she travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland, from Sept. 1 to Sept. 7, 2023, for meetings on rural health care and justice issues.

McPhee told the house that the work being done in “rural and remote areas of Scotland dovetail with the kinds of work that we are doing here in the territory.”

McPhee told reporters in the Yukon government cabinet office on March 25 that she and ministerial advisor Michele Shaw stayed in Airbnb for around $590 per person per night. McPhee said she chose that accommodation for its location and for being the lesser dollar value.

According to her expense report, McPhee met with Michael Matheson, cabinet secretary on health and social services files, to discuss “shared experiences and challenges in health care” like keeping health-care workers and delivering health care in rural communities.

“We have to remember that the health and human resources issues in health care are, in fact, worldwide. They can’t always be solved with money or funding,” McPhee said.

In September, McPhee met with Scottish government officials and the Royal College of Surgeons about workforce issues, mental health and wellbeing in rural communities and recruiting, retaining and accessing health services in rural communities.

While there, McPhee heard about “period dignity legislation” per the expense report or “period product legislation,” as she called it.

“It is certainly something that I am interested in,” she told reporters.

McPhee learned about the “baby box project.”

She hinted at Yukoners to expect some important announcements about that service in the territory soon.

An independent report done in 2018 for the Scottish government notes that “baby boxes are universally available for all babies born in Scotland, regardless of socioeconomic status or income. They provide families with essential items such as digital thermometers, clothes, books, a changing mat, blankets, and other items needed in the baby’s first few months of life.”

Limited evidence of the impact of the project exists, per the independent report.

McPhee also discussed destigmatizing naloxone and tourism opportunities between Scotland and the Yukon, including the new Calgary-Edinburgh flight route.

Yukon NDP Leader Kate White disagreed with the minister’s analysis that the Yukon and Scotland share common issues.

“[Scotland is] not as spread out as the Yukon. It doesn’t have similar populations. It doesn’t have similar struggles,” White said.

“That felt a little hollow.”

When asked about the Scotland trip again in the question period on March 26, McPhee commented on a “pattern of behaviour” regarding McLeod.

McPhee acknowledged two times the Watson Lake MLA apparently invited her to meetings in Watson Lake with less than 48 hours of notice.

Given McPhee’s packed schedule, it’s not possible to attend meetings on such short notice, she said.

Two pieces of email correspondence were provided from cabinet communications to the News about the invites.

The first refers to a question (not from McLeod) about a meeting on an extended care facility in Watson Lake in September 2021, which Shaw responded to on the minister’s behalf. Shaw said there’s no such meeting planned.

The second refers to McLeod inviting McPhee or senior staff representing the Justice department to a public meeting on “drug dealers, crime and how this is affecting life for our citizens” from August 2023, to which Shaw declined the invite on behalf of McPhee due to short notice.

Cabinet communications noted meetings between a manager and director and Signpost Seniors on March 28, 2023, and a meeting with Liard First Nation on March 29, 2023.

Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon also had questions for the premier on the health minister’s trip on March 26.

Dixon wanted to know if Premier Ranj Pillai was aware that McPhee had declined to meet with the Association of Yukon Communities (AYC) when he approved the trip and why the premier approved the trip with so many issues at home, for example, the troubled Whitehorse Emergency Shelter file.

Pillai called the line of questioning a “distraction” from what rural Yukoners want: a health authority.

Later that afternoon, the Yukon Party called for a pause on the proposed legislation to set the stage for a new health authority.

In declining AYC president Ted Laking’s invite to an AYC board meeting on Sept. 9, 2023, due to being out of the territory for work, McPhee offered up her officials.

Senior management, including deputy minister Tiffany Boyd, attended the AYC annual general meeting in Watson Lake on May 12, 2023, per cabinet communications.

Cabinet communications emailed a statement to the media on March 26 in response to a press release issued by the Yukon Party on March 25.

Since taking on the role of health minister, McPhee has been to 18 in-person meetings and events across rural Yukon communities, per the email.

The email indicates McPhee virtually met with Watson Lake community officials as recently as Feb. 28.

As for the timing of the Scotland trip, the email notes a trip like this is planned in advance.

The email claims the topic of rural health centre closures and service reductions is being worked on by the Health and Social Services department and “partners.”

Cabinet communications said the Yukon Liberal Party government provides more details and presents travel costs in a more convenient, fuller way than the former Yukon Party government did.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
Read more