Category: Darrell Pasloski Letters

Looking back at a busy spring sitting and ahead to an exciting summer

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, May 27, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

As the spring sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly came to a close yesterday, I couldn’t help being proud of my team and of the work we’ve accomplished over the past five years.

The Yukon Party is the only party with a plan for Yukon’s future and the only party that is committed to building Yukon’s economy. That’s what we’ve always done, and that’s what we did once again over the past eight weeks.

Our main priority during this sitting was passing Yukon’s 2016/17 budget. It reflects what we heard from you in our pre-budget tours and community conversations, and invests in initiatives that mean the most to Yukoners.

The budget is about building a brighter future by focusing on high-quality healthcare, a strong education system, investments in infrastructure and growing the economy, all while maintaining the quality of life that Yukoners enjoy.

In healthcare alone, we are investing an additional $1 million to implement our Mental Wellness Strategy, $2 million to operate the new Sarah Steele facility for alcohol and drug treatment, and almost $22 million to complete the expansion of the Whitehorse General Hospital emergency room.

We want all Yukoners to be confident in our focused and responsible approach to fiscal management. To that end, the budget includes a surplus of more than $9 million, and again there are no new taxes on families or businesses.

We also introduced ‘innovative budgeting’ to ensure government is making every tax dollar count. Together with our public service, we’re looking closely at our budget and asking a simple question: can we get more for our money? Our goal this year is to save $2 million, with zero job losses and no reduction in services.

Along with the 2016/17 budget, we also passed other legislation that will improve the lives of Yukoners.

The new Student Financial Assistance Act will increase access to funding for post-secondary education for all students in Yukon, enhancing their potential for academic achievement and career success.

Amendments to the Placer Mining Act and Quartz Mining Act ensured that the double assessment credit program for claimholders could continue for an additional year, in a way that accommodates the interests of First Nations with settled land claim agreements. The program’s intent is to encourage and support more mineral exploration while recognizing our unique modern treaty environment.

We tabled a number of important reports and strategies that will help guide our programming and policy-making in the years ahead: the Yukon Health Status Report 2015 gives us a comprehensive update on the health of Yukoners; our Local Food Strategy for Yukon encourages the production and consumption of fresh, healthy local food; and the Yukon Mental Wellness Strategy sets out an approach to improving the mental health of our citizens.

With a productive session behind us, my colleagues and I are now turning our attention to the busy summer that lies ahead.

I look forward to being the first territorial premier to chair the Council of the Federation, a role that commences with the annual Summer Meeting of Canada’s Premiers here in Whitehorse from July 20 to 22. More than 400 delegates are expected to attend, bringing substantial economic benefits and profile-raising opportunities to the territory.

Yukoners have made countless contributions to our country over the decades, and this event recognizes the long-standing significance of the North within Canada.

Canada’s premiers will also meet here with leaders of National Aboriginal Organizations on July 20. I am excited to be able to share our successful approach to self-government with the rest of Canada’s premiers.

Though there is still much to be done in the months ahead, this sitting was the last in our current mandate. By mid-October at the latest, I will ask Commissioner Phillips to dissolve the 33rd Legislative Assembly, and to issue instructions for the writs of election as specified in the Elections Act.

My colleagues and I look forward to going to the polls. We have demonstrated our ability to deliver on our commitments, during good times and times of economic challenge, without mortgaging Yukoners’ futures. We will work hard to earn the right to continue to serve Yukoners.

Tammie and I and our family are proud to live in this great territory, and I am honoured to have served Yukoners during this mandate. I look forward to another five years of economic and social prosperity under our government.

I wish you all a safe and happy summer.

The Northern Way – A Budget Built for Yukoners

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, April 8, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Yesterday, I was proud to stand up on behalf of our entire caucus and all Yukoners to table our 2016/17 budget.

This budget is shaped by our shared values, Yukon’s economic realities and extensive public engagement. These shared values – what I like to call the Northern Way – will bring a bold prosperous future for Yukon.

Yukoners are resourceful and resilient. They are determined to build a brighter future for their families. And they want government working toward the same goal. This budget is proof that our government shares Yukoners’ values, that we listened to their views and that we built a budget that meets their expectations, with sensible solutions to real problems.

The cornerstone of our common-sense plan is simple – a balanced budget. I’m proud to say we won’t raise taxes, we won’t run a deficit and unlike almost every other jurisdiction in Canada, Yukon will have no net debt.

We are also the only party in Yukon which has stood firmly against any sort of new carbon tax. A carbon tax would force our families and our businesses to pay more and would put our economy and Yukoners at a disadvantage.

We know that economic realities will make this a challenging year. The downturn in the mineral sector continues to impact our revenues. But we can’t simply wait for commodity prices to rebound.

Now more than ever we need to stand up for our resource sector, so that we can continue to benefit from the high paying jobs and economic opportunities this sector creates.

This year we’re offering double assessment credits to mining companies to spur exploration and employment. We will continue to engage with First Nations, modernize regulations, and promote investment.

But even as we stand up for mining, we can support and grow other sectors.

Tourism has always been a key piece of Yukon’s economy.

That’s why we invest more than $20 million in tourism and culture every year. This budget will invest $1.84 million in museums and First Nations cultural centres, and includes a $100,000 increase in annual funding for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association. We are also funding the incredibly successful Yukon Now tourism marketing campaign for another three years at just under $1 million/year, and have asked the federal government to match that.

This year’s budget also includes the largest-ever single-year investment in information technology. Last fall, we committed to increase IT capital spending by $2 million. We’ve done even more. Our IT spending will increase by $3 million, to a total of $9.5 million.

We’re also investing in a new fibre optic connection to the NWT. These and other community-level IT investments will create even more jobs for Yukoners.

Whether mining, tourism, or tech, we’re blessed with a diverse economy and our investments will continue to build on that.

That’s what sets us apart from other parties. While others talk about replacing the resource sector, we’re focused on diversification that strengthens all sectors of our economy.

Of course, education remains the best investment in the economy, because it’s an investment in our future. This year’s budget provides $100 per student for the purchase of school supplies. We’re also increasing our investment in the Yukon Grant and contributing $1.5 million over three years to help Yukon College become Yukon University, so our children can stay close to home and pursue a Yukon-made degree.

Our government has spent about $300 million on capital work in every year of our mandate, and this year will be no different. We’re also increasing our focus on projects at a scale and scope for local companies to benefit.

There is $3 million to build new staff housing in Ross River, almost $5 million in airport upgrades from Burwash to Dawson to Whitehorse, and more than $50 million to improve roads and bridges.

Virtually every community will see job-creating investment when Yukoners need it most.

When the mineral sector starts to rebound, we’ll reduce our role in the economy. Only a party committed to private-sector growth and employment can understand and respond to that cycle.

Our vision and plan is a reflection of what we heard from you in our pre-budget tours and community conversations. Every community we visited had a simple theme – invest in projects that make our lives just a little easier.

From working on the economy, and diversifying it, to improving education delivery, to collaborating with First Nations to drive positive change, your values are reflected in this budget.

We’re the only party that has a made-in-Yukon solution that puts the focus on results, not ideology.

This budget is about building a prosperous future for all Yukoners. I look forward to passing this budget and continuing to invest in Yukoners.

Jobs provided for Yukon workers on major energy efficiency retrofit

Carpenters Union - ScaffoldingAs submitted to local media on Friday, March 18, 2016

As many of you will have noticed, the Government of Yukon’s main administration building on Second Avenue in Whitehorse is looking more like something out of a sci-fi movie these days than the home of offices and Yukon’s Legislative Assembly.

The building has been environmentally-contained (shrink-wrapped) to facilitate a major retrofit, which includes insulation and vapour barrier upgrades, as well as window and door replacements. These improvements will increase the building’s energy efficiency, while reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the expected annual energy savings from these upgrades is $250,000.

Hidden beneath the shrink wrap is an enormous system of scaffolding, which has proven to be the most productive, efficient and safest way to work from heights. Scaffolding is not only replacing aerial man-lifts on job sites, it is also the fastest-growing unionized trade in the construction industry.

While Ketza Construction is the general contractor on this job, the sub-contractor for scaffolding is Industrial Scaffold Services, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, which now has a crew working on this job that is made up entirely of Yukoners.

At the start of the project, two of Industrial Scaffold’s British Columbia workers were sent to begin the scaffold build with a crew of Yukoners. With the required training and work hours under their belts, we now have an all-Yukon crew. The key journeyperson on the job, who had been working on massive jobs in the Lower Mainland, is back home here in Whitehorse running this build.

Some of these tradespeople learned their trade in Alberta or British Columbia through trades centres established by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, while others are just starting out. Thanks to the combined efforts of Industrial Scaffold Services, the Yukon Carpenters Union Local 2499, and in some cases the Canada-Yukon Job Grant (administered by the Department of Education), practical on-the-job training and in-class training is available in Yukon and is putting Yukoners to work.

A journeyperson certificate in scaffolding requires a four-year apprenticeship, including three periods of three weeks of technical and written training, as well as 1300 hours of on-the-job work for each level, or 5200 hours total.

Tuition for union members is paid by the union. This is made possible thanks to an education fund agreed upon by the union and unionized employers. This pooled fund creates education and training opportunities for all union members. If additional help is needed for specific courses or programming, the union has in the past made good use of the Canada-Yukon Job Grant.

For Industrial Scaffold Services, local hire is a no-brainer. Their project manager has stressed the importance of working with locals and ensuring those workers have training opportunities available to them. The company is impressed with Yukoners’ skills, work ethic and willingness to learn.

Both Ketza Construction and another sub-contractor, Energy North Construction, are Yukon businesses. This project is a great example of local and non-local contractors working together to provide jobs for Yukoners.

Darrell Pasloski
Premier
Government of Yukon

Jeff Sloychuk
Representative
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Local 2499

Let’s review our economic record

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, March 11, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

The Yukon Party has always put jobs and the economy at the front of its agenda – something the opposition has often criticized.

So in reading the recent editorial by the NDP, we find it more than a little ironic. Even so, at least the opposition has finally figured out that jobs and the economy matter to Yukoners.

It’s certainly better than their usual fear-mongering and misinformation on things like caring for our seniors, another field that this government has an enviable list of achievements and accomplishments.

But as the NDP mentioned, there is an economic record that can be reviewed. So, let’s review that record.

Our government has worked relentlessly to defend and advance our resource sector. And we do so because we respect and admire the men and women who work in the industry. We care about their families and we want to see them succeed.

We support these Yukon families because we have always understood that mining is about more than mines – it’s about all the other businesses that benefit and the families they support. It’s about the retail sector, our restaurants and service sector, mine servicing companies and more.

That’s why we funded the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program for the past several years and we contributed money to the Yukon Mining Alliance to promote Yukon as a world-class mining jurisdiction. In addition, the world-renowned Yukon Geological Survey continues to map Yukon’s mineralization potential and we are planning resource access roads in our key mining regions.

While mining remains the cornerstone of our economy, it is far from the only important driver. Our territory is blessed with remarkable entrepreneurs from all different backgrounds and in many fields.

Whether its tourism – which has benefited from multiple years of government investment in marketing – or the technology and software sector– which has blossomed during our government’s term and will see a $2 million increase to the government IT procurement envelope, the Yukon Party has demonstrated that diversification doesn’t need to come at the expense of the resource sector.

It’s worth discussing our approach to diversification, because it is one of those areas that Yukoners can see a clear difference from the Yukon Party versus the approaches put forward by either opposition party. While the other parties talk about diversification as a way to replace resource sector jobs, we view diversification as a way to complement all of our existing sectors and create new opportunities for Yukoners and their families.

Yukoners shouldn’t be asked to choose between the resource sector and the tourism and IT sectors. The Yukon Party believes that a prosperous economy includes multiple sectors and we don’t believe in pitting one against the other.

As for procurement, our record is once again a useful place to look for facts, because as usual, the NDP have cherry-picked to misrepresent government practice to Yukoners.

The reality is that from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2015, the average value of contracts awarded in Yukon was $281 million annually and, on average, $208 million worth of contracts went to Yukon companies. And of the contracts awarded to larger, outside companies, the vast majority of the jobs created went to local subcontractors.

Total contracts is another useful measure. So how does the Yukon Party record stack up on that account? Well over that same time frame, Yukon government awarded an average of 4,336 contracts each year. On average, 3,614 of those contracts went to local companies.

It may not be something the opposition wants Yukoners to know, but the reality is that the Yukon government, under the Yukon Party leadership, is committed to ensuring our contracting community benefits from capital investments.

Which gets us to the next part of our record – year over year massive investments in capital projects. Our government understands that during downturns in the resource sector, it requires capital investment to spur job creation and growth.

Our government has also recognized that there are challenges with procurement. That’s why we struck a committee of local and national experts to listen to the contracting community and make recommendations on how to address issues.

But I would also caution anyone from voting for a party that wants to begin inserting political decision making into contracting. Our government firmly believes that Yukon contractors are among the best in the country and that they can win the vast majority of government contracts. And as the facts set out above show, they do win most contracts.

As for Faro, the opposition is again misrepresenting contracting practices to Yukoners. No matter how much anyone wants the Yukon government to restrict that contract to Yukon firms, we cannot. The project is funded through federal money and the contract was awarded through a fair and competitive process. What this government did do was ensure that the successful bidder would utilize local labour and capacity opportunities, including the local First Nation.

Any political party that promises to limit that contract to local firms either doesn’t understand procurement or is misrepresenting what can be done.

So, before Yukoners start buying into fear-mongering disguised as policy, I would ask that they go back to our record. Look at what our government has achieved and how well the Yukon has weathered the recent economic downturn.

And when looking at the opposition parties, spend some time assessing what they have said and what positions they have taken. Because what they say in opposition tells you how they will govern.

Yukon interests accommodated in climate change agreement

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, March 4, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

This week’s First Ministers’ meeting in Vancouver resulted in a declaration from all leaders that is a big win for all Northerners and Canadians. As Premier, I was successful in enshrining special recognition for Yukoners and the entire North in the Vancouver Declaration that was signed at the conclusion of the meeting. The Declaration acknowledges that northern and remote communities face unique circumstances when it comes to addressing climate change.

Northern interests have been accommodated in the agreement, and the provinces and territories agreed to work with the federal government to explore a number of solutions including looking at regionally appropriate carbon pricing mechanisms. Canada also agreed to conduct an assessment of how carbon pricing would affect our economies.

My government will not impose a punitive carbon tax on Yukoners. There are opportunities for us to continue to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions without implementing a carbon tax that would take money out of Yukoners’ pockets and slow our economic growth.

The Government of Yukon supports measures and initiatives to address climate change by reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s important to recognize that this is a large and diverse country, and there is no single solution that works for every jurisdiction.

By necessity, we still rely quite heavily on fossil fuels. A nation-wide carbon tax – which is really a consumption tax, essentially another form of GST – would significantly raise costs for Yukoners and would have a negative effect on our economy.

Nationally, Yukon is ahead of the curve when it comes to generation of electricity – 95 per cent of our power comes from renewable sources. Most of our greenhouse gas emissions come from heating fuel and the transportation sector.

My goal is to establish partnerships between Yukon and the federal government to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. New federal funding to make residential and commercial buildings more energy-efficient would reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels for heating. Renovating and re-insulating existing buildings would also create construction jobs and stimulate our economy.

The federal government could also partner with Yukon and with First Nations in the creation of more hydroelectric power. Heating more of our homes and commercial buildings with renewable electricity would mean a dramatic reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions.

At the meeting of Canada’s premiers and the prime minister last November, Mr. Trudeau noted that Canada is a large and diverse country and our approach needs to be diverse as well. That is exactly what we agreed on in Vancouver this week. Implementing a base price and an escalating price on carbon may be the solution for some parts of Canada, but it’s not the solution for the North.

Though Yukon emits only a small fraction of Canada’s greenhouse gasses, we all know that people of the North are living and experiencing climate change right now. Our winters are getting warmer, and we’re having to invest money to repair buildings, bridges and highways that are being damaged by melting permafrost. Indigenous peoples across the North are noticing profound effects on our natural ecosystems.

That’s why Yukon is focusing on adaptation as well as mitigation. We’ve made major investments in the Yukon Cold Climate Research Centre, where climate change adaptation is a major focus.

In Yukon’s case, one of our best opportunities to reduce our emissions is to create more hydroelectric energy. Yukon is blessed with great hydro potential, and by using that potential in a responsible way we can greatly reduce our dependency on carbon fuels. Extending our grid to smaller communities would allow more Yukoners to benefit from renewable energy; connecting our grid to other jurisdictions would allow us to sell surplus power.

Here in Yukon we’ve begun replacing our old diesel generators with cleaner-burning natural gas engines. This is a great way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from Northern communities that are not connected to the power grid.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling climate change that will work for this country. But one thing that the Vancouver meetings showed is that we have 13 premiers and a prime minister who are committed to making Canada the best country in the world and improving the lives of all Canadians. Gathering together regularly to have frank and open discussions is the best way to find a path forward that works for all of us.