Category: Darrell Pasloski Letters

Respite, care and peace of mind

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 5, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Last week was a milestone for Yukon seniors and their families, as your government unveiled its plans for the Whistle Bend continuing care facility.

As we shared the design for this beautiful new care home, I could not have been more proud – of our government and the ministers who shepherded this project to this stage; of our staff and caregivers who have worked so hard to get us here; and of our community, as we all pulled together to overcome criticism and to rally around a project that will benefit all Yukoners for many years to come.

Health care has always been a priority for our government, and a great deal of work has gone into the development of the plans for this facility. Long-term studies were done, as well as a needs-driven analysis of continuing care in Yukon.

We talked to Yukoners, and, as always, we listened to what you were saying. What we heard was a simple and clear reflection of the Yukon that we all love.

You told us that it’s important that all of us can, if needed, be confident we will have a place to get the care we need and a place we can call home.

We heard from many Yukoners, including health-care professionals, about the urgent need for more continuing care beds. And we heard about the need for a facility that would be a comfortable and caring environment for Yukon seniors and others with complex medical needs.

We know there are people waiting for beds, and we know that their number will only grow. As our population ages, more and more Yukoners will be looking for a way to spend their entire lives here, close to their homes and their loved ones, rather than moving south.

This project responds to those needs, and is testament to your government’s commitment to make Yukon the best place to live, work, play and raise a family.

We have increased our support for seniors in other ways as well. With appropriate assistance, many can remain in their homes, have their care needs met and maintain their independence. To that end, our government has steadily and consistently increased the budget for home care to ensure all Yukoners can benefit. In 2002/2003, the annual budget for home care was just over $2 million. In the 2015/2016 budget it is just under $6 million – a significant increase in funding to help elders stay in their own homes longer.

Some have said that we don’t need this new continuing care facility, or that it isn’t worth the investment. Frankly, those people couldn’t be more wrong.

Others have called the 150-bed facility a “warehouse” for seniors, which is an insult to valued members of our community. We are not talking about goods that can be shelved and forgotten; we are talking about elders who deserve our love and respect. This will not be an institution; it will be a home.

Our seniors and their families not only need this facility, they deserve it. This government believes in supporting those who built this territory by giving them a safe and caring place to live.

Not building this facility would amount to turning our backs on our family members at the time in their lives when they need us most. I and my Cabinet colleagues have no intention of taking that approach to health care.

That’s what leadership is about – finding ways to make positive change, rather than just tearing down projects and people for political gain.

The positive impacts of this project will be felt far and wide.

It will provide state-of-the-art care for our seniors, and for others who are in need of full-time residential care. It will also provide much-needed respite to overwhelmed families who lack the resources to provide for the needs of their loved ones.

We’re also putting Yukoners to work. Our local contracting community is getting ready to build one of the most progressive continuing care facilities not just in Yukon, but in Canada.

We’re pleased to be moving forward with a world-class design-build team that’s becoming one of Yukon’s most important health-care construction partners: PCL Constructors Westcoast.

And, when this beautiful care home is completed, there will be more job opportunities for Yukoners. There will be brand new health-care jobs and new advancement opportunities for those already working in the field.

We know that the facility will be a good and valued neighbor in the rapidly growing Whistle Bend subdivision, just as Copper Ridge Place, Macaulay Lodge and McDonald Lodge have become in their neighborhoods.

I eagerly await the day, in 2018, when the first residents move into their new home. We promised respite, quality care and peace of mind to our valued elders. On that day, that is exactly what they will have.

Mining and our economy – planning for the future, taking action now

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, January 29, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Mining has been a cornerstone of Yukon’s economy and part of our culture for more than a century. Though it’s in a downturn now, it’s inevitable that the mining industry will recover and bring new prosperity and economic growth to the territory.

For this reason, it’s important that the Government of Yukon continues its work to promote the territory’s enormous mineral potential and advantages as a place to do business.

Earlier this week, ministers Scott Kent, Stacey Hassard, Wade Istchenko and I were proud to represent Yukon at the annual Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver. Roundup is an important event where geoscientists, prospectors, investors, First Nation partners and other industry representatives meet to share ideas that will help shape the future of mineral exploration and development in Canada.

It was an exciting and event-filled few days for the Yukon delegation, as we made a number of important announcements that will bring economic benefits to all Yukoners, every one of which is part of our long-term plan to make our territory stronger, more prosperous and self-sufficient.

Yukon has a long and rich history of mining, and an even longer and richer history of First Nations culture, stewardship, and traditional economies. Working with First Nations is key to Yukon’s mineral development and essential to our long-term prosperity.

To that end, an announcement I’m very proud of is the signing of several government-to-government agreements with the Kaska Nation, which comprises the Ross River Dena Council, the Liard First Nation and the Kaska Dena Council.

Over the past four years, I have learned a lot as a leader, and as a government we have learned a lot as well. As a result of that, we are seeing in the last year a new engagement and a new cooperation with First Nations.

These agreements are a major milestone toward reconciliation and a cooperative relationship between the Yukon government and the Kaska. Partnerships between our governments are needed to position Southeast Yukon as an important region for investment, exploration and development when mineral prices make their rebound. This cooperation marks the beginning of substantive negotiations toward further agreements related to lands and resources.

While at Roundup, we also announced that the Government of Yukon and the self-governing Yukon First Nations have developed a government-to-government protocol that will improve the clarity and management of mining activity in the territory.

The protocol is a way for governments to work together to build a strong mining regime that protects the environment, provides economic benefits to all Yukoners, and respects First Nation rights and interests.

Over the past week we also announced several other major contributions that will help Yukon’s mining industry thrive in the years ahead.

Economic Development Minister Stacey Hassard announced that the Yukon government will provide the Yukon Mining Alliance with almost $1 million over the next three years to attract international investment in Yukon’s mining sector. The YMA’s strategic marketing initiatives promote Yukon’s potential as a leading jurisdiction in Canada and internationally.

Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Scott Kent also made announcements about how we are supporting the hard rock and placer mining industries.

The Yukon government will provide $150,000 this year to the Yukon Chamber of Mines towards the implementation of a three-year, communications planning project, talking to Yukoners about the important benefits that Yukon mining brings to all our lives.

We will again be issuing double assessment credits for claimholders, and are continuing our funding commitment of $1.4 million for the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program.

We will be working this summer to improve mining roads across the territory. We committed to ensuring that seasonally maintained roads in the Klondike goldfields region are open for use as early in the spring as possible.

We have also submitted an application to the federal government for funding towards the Northern Resource Gateway Project. This project would improve road access into two of Yukon’s richest resource areas – the Dawson Range and the Nahanni Range.

Our government’s proactive approach to resolving issues and our continued support for industry are part of our long-term plan to generate sustainable economic opportunities.

I look forward to continuing to work closely with First Nations, industry and all of you to advance our shared goals of prosperity and economic development for Yukon.

Investing in science and knowledge – a new Science Strategy for Yukon

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, January 22, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Supporting Yukon’s science, technology and research sectors is more important than ever before. Rapid changes to the North’s climate are affecting our environment, and the global economic downturn is challenging the way we do business and conduct our lives.

In the years ahead, we expect to see increased demand for land, housing, transportation and communications infrastructure, education and training. We will also see increased pressures on health care, social services and our environment.

That is why the Government of Yukon developed a made-in-Yukon Science Strategy, a guiding document that outlines our vision for developing and managing scientific knowledge in the territory. By increasing our scientific knowledge, we’ll be in a better position to tackle the unique challenges we face here in the North.

Our vision is to support strategic investments in the active pursuit of scientific knowledge. This will help us achieve our four priorities: a better quality of life, protection for the environment, a stronger economy and good governance.

Research, education and innovation are key to growing our northern knowledge sector, and are essential to continued economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness. This is why your government continues to make significant investments to encourage technical advancement and provide educational opportunities.

Since 2011, we have committed $10.78 million in support to the Yukon Research Centre. This funding supports important research and innovation programs focused on climate change, cold climate innovation, environmental science, society and culture, and technology innovation.

These funds also support the Cold Climate Innovation Centre, which builds on new research by creating commercial solutions that address cold climate issues affecting northerners.

Both institutions encourage and support Yukon’s creative thinkers and inventors, just the kind of people and companies whose ideas will help diversify our economy, create jobs and provide economic opportunities for all Yukoners.

The Yukon government has also committed more than $11 million over five years to the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining, which provides Yukoners with the training they need to develop successful careers in the territory’s mining and other industries.

The centre also administers the Mobile Trades Training Trailer, which provides pre-apprenticeship training to high school and adult students in communities across Yukon.

As the mining industry recovers, our aim is to fill all new jobs with Yukon workers. Our funding will enable the centre to increase the diversity of courses offered, and to better provide the labour market with the skilled workers it needs.

One of the Yukon government’s goals is to make our territory a hub for the information and technology (IT) sector. To that end, we recently announced a $2 million annual funding increase to our IT capital budget – the money we use to procure local IT products and services.

This is a win-win for government and local industry. It will expand the opportunities for local businesses to bid on projects, and help them grow and create new jobs in the IT sector.

The Science Strategy will help the local science community access additional funding from other governments, agencies and universities to conduct new research projects. This will ensure that Yukon’s researchers and innovators have access to the facilities and financial support they need to succeed, and to share their successes with the global scientific community.

I would like to thank our Interdepartmental Science Committee and Yukon’s science advisor Dr. Aynslie Ogden for their work on the strategy. The committee’s next steps include developing a companion research strategy, cataloguing current research projects in Yukon, and working with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to develop a pan-territorial approach to science.

The Government of Yukon will continue to support the active pursuit of scientific knowledge, and will apply that knowledge to sound, evidence-based decision making. Our ultimate goal is to ensure we address challenges and opportunities with smart innovative approaches and create advantages for Yukoners in the years ahead.

Looking ahead to 2016

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Thursday, December 31, 2015
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

As Yukoners reflect on the year that was, I want to take a moment to share some of the exciting initiatives that I hope we will all be talking about a year from now when we look back on 2016.

Since taking office in 2011 your government has been working towards this year. The past four years have been about making the plan we set out in our platform a reality – and I am happy to report that we have succeeded.

In the year ahead some major initiatives will take shape, including investments in health care, an expansion of IT infrastructure and making Yukon a world leader in responsible development.

At the top of our agenda is preparing the 2016/17 budget, which we’ll table when the Yukon Legislative Assembly sits again in the spring.

Through our Community Conversations initiative, I have been meeting with small business owners, entrepreneurs, volunteers, high school students, non-governmental organizations and others. These conversations provided me with some great insight into how Yukon can become an even better place.

We are also setting out on a territory-wide budget tour so that a number of ministers and I can visit Yukon communities to meet with local governments and the public, to hear about your budget priorities.

This valuable input will inform our decisions and spending priorities for the years ahead, because this budget isn’t just about the next 12 months. It’s about the future we all want to see for our families and our own businesses.

The recent announcement by the federal government that it is cutting $23 million from our transfer next year – and more than $100 million over the next five years – certainly creates challenges, but Yukoners can rest assured that they have the right government in place to make the responsible decisions and invest appropriately in Yukon’s future.

I can promise every Yukoner that this government will fight for the funding we need to deliver the services you deserve.

Despite current challenges, Yukoners have good reason to be optimistic about the future. We are blessed with a resilient economy with good growth prospects, ample natural resources, low unemployment rates and a strong, well-trained workforce. The entire world is facing challenges, and Yukon is no different. But this government has a plan to ensure we come out of the downturn stronger than ever.

In the year ahead, your government will continue to focus on growing and diversifying the economy and investing in infrastructure for the benefit of all Yukoners. This will include continued emphasis on the mining sector, the main pillar of our economy, as well as strengthening other industries such as the knowledge sector and tourism.

This government believes that Yukoners have the will and the desire to diversify this economy and find new exciting paths for success. However, we also need to protect existing jobs to ensure that any new economic advancement leads to growth. We aren’t looking to stay static and to simply replace lost jobs with new jobs.

That isn’t the Yukon way. We want to grow, improve and prosper and become a jurisdiction that plays a role on the national stage. By diversifying AND keeping a strong resource sector, I believe in Yukoners’ capacity to make that hope a reality.

That’s why we are balancing our focus on mining with investments in our telecommunications infrastructure, including the new fibre optic line along the Dempster Highway. We are also increasing the annual expenditure on information technology and services by $2 million next year, ensuring our home-grown companies have the opportunity to develop and compete nationally.

We will continue to engage with First Nations and other stakeholders on a mineral development strategy to help build a successful and sustainable mineral industry that adheres to high environmental standards.

And we will also bring forward our Mine Licensing Improvement Initiative, which is designed to reduce overlap and improve coordination and effectiveness of authorizations for major mining projects.

With these improvements, we can build a resource sector that all Yukoners can be proud of.

The Yukon Now tourism marketing campaign will enter a new phase with the airing of new commercials and that will help grow the other mainstay of our economy – tourism. We hope to make an announcement soon about the future of Yukon Now, so keep an eye out for that.

And, of course, we will continue to work with First Nations and other stakeholders to move forward with our Next Generation Hydro energy initiative, which will provide Yukoners with a legacy of reliable and affordable renewable energy.

On the health care front, we look forward to breaking ground on the continuing care facility in Whistle Bend, which will bring much-needed benefits to patients and their families.

Beyond the budget and direct investments, our government will be participating in a number of national initiatives that will promote Yukoners’ values and ensure our territory is heard at the national table.

I will attend a meeting of Canada’s first ministers to discuss and develop a national climate change plan. I am committed to protecting Yukoners’ interests on this issue and to telling Yukon’s story to help all Canadians understand the challenges we face as northerners.

The Yukon government is working with Yukon First Nations to respond to the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and is partnering with local First Nation leaders to organize a Regional Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in February.

Next July I will become the first territorial premier to chair the Council of the Federation, which comprises all premiers and is a face-to-face forum that allows us to work collaboratively and show leadership on issues that matter to all Canadians. I believe taking on this role will help promote our remarkable home, and your government will work to ensure this meeting and chairmanship will provide benefits for local businesses.

I am certain that 2016 will be an exciting year for all Yukoners. On this last day of 2015, I would like to wish you a very happy New Year and thank you for the honour of serving as your Premier. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your families and friends and that you are looking forward, as I am, to a healthy and prosperous new year.

A busy fall sitting comes to its close

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, December 18, 2015
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

The fall sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly came to a close on Tuesday. As Premier, I am proud of the work accomplished throughout this sitting and over the past four years.

If you compare the Yukon Party’s election platform in 2011 to our work in government, you will see that we do what we say we’re going to do. We’ve either met our commitments or are working to complete them now. And we have fulfilled those commitments while spending Yukoners’ tax dollars carefully and wisely.

One of our main priorities during this sitting was debating and passing our supplementary budget. The Yukon Party government’s strong fiscal management helps us manage our economy, both through good times and through times of economic uncertainty. We have demonstrated our ability to deliver on our commitments without mortgaging Yukoners’ futures.

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 during this sitting. We have focused on short-term needs by tabling record capital budgets to provide economic opportunities for Yukon companies and workers. We have also focused on long-term goals, including our vision of a Yukon that is a net contributor to Canada’s economy, with abundant renewable energy, excellent education and training programs, a diversified economy, and strong regulatory and assessment regimes that will bring opportunities and prosperity.

This sitting was a productive and successful one. Six new or amended acts were passed, all of which make Yukon’s laws more current, effective, and responsive to the needs of Yukoners.

The new Land Titles Act, for example, reflects our government’s commitment to modernize the land titles system and legislative frameworks that support Yukon’s economic development. The new act includes provisions that allow for registration of First Nations Settlement Land with the Yukon Land Titles Office while safeguarding Aboriginal title, which we believe is a first for Canada. This is something all Yukoners can be proud of.

Another important piece of legislation was the Act to Amend the Municipal Act, which brings to a close several years of hard work and extensive consultation with stakeholders. It addresses recommendations set out in the Municipal Act Review Findings Report (2014) and will support healthy, sustainable Yukon communities and provide a stronger foundation for local governance.

Last month, I was privileged to chair a meeting of Canada’s Premiers, just prior to representing Yukoners at the first meeting between premiers and the prime minister in nearly seven years. This was a significant day for me as Yukon’s leader and an important day in Canadian politics. I was pleased to speak on behalf of premiers after the First Ministers’ Meeting, as well as sharing Yukon’s priorities for the years ahead.

Earlier this month, I led a Yukon delegation to the COP21 climate change meeting in Paris. We were the only Canadian delegation to include Opposition leaders, and we were also joined by the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations and a Yukon youth delegate. Prior to departing, we released our Climate Change Action Plan Progress Report to Yukoners, which shows that the majority of the 33 government actions are either completed or ongoing.

In closing, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël and happy New Year. May 2016 bring all of us peace, prosperity and happiness, as we continue to work together to make Yukon the best place to live, work, play and raise a family.