Category: Editorials

Celebrating students and graduates across the territory

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 10, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

As the Minister of Education, and on behalf of my Yukon Party Caucus colleagues, I want to first take the opportunity to congratulate all our graduating students across the territory. Whether you are moving from elementary to secondary school, earning your high school diploma, or completing a program at Yukon College or elsewhere, we applaud you for all you have accomplished over the course of the school year.

These past few weeks, my colleagues and I have been honoured to attend your graduation events across the territory and to congratulate you in person. We have met many exceptional students who will certainly go on to do great things.

In particular, I want to recognize the students and graduating class of F.H. Collins Secondary, who underwent a huge transition this year. Your ability to make the move to a brand new building in the middle of a school year and take it in your stride is remarkable.

I also want to recognize all First Nations graduates who have worked to be proud representatives of your heritage and values throughout your school careers. The Premier and his wife attended this year’s First Nations graduation ceremony, and were very impressed with all the students as well as the inclusion of First Nations culture in the ceremony as well.

F.H. Collins Opening

Education Minister Doug Graham at the official opening of the new F.H. Collins Secondary School, greeting his old friend and former F.H. student Joe Jack and congratulating him on his recent post-secondary degree.

Some of this year’s high school graduates will depart to obtain a degree outside Yukon, while others will take advantage of the many post-secondary programs offered by Yukon College. Wherever graduates go, the Department of Education provides support to enhance their potential for academic success.

For those remaining in the territory, exciting things are happening at Yukon College.

Our government has committed $1.5 million over three years to help the college work toward becoming Yukon’s first university.

In addition, we have dedicated $1.25 million for further development of the Yukon College campus, including work to repair the building envelope, upgrade lighting and enhance accessibility. Planning for further changes is also underway.

The coming academic year brings improvements to the Student Financial Assistance Act, particularly in regard to eligibility requirements and distribution of the Yukon Grant. While I encourage all students and their families to visit the Student Financial Assistance site and read all the changes, I have included a few highlights below.

Under the new Act, there will no longer be restrictions on receiving the Yukon Grant if you are also funded by the Government of Canada or your First Nation, and the grant will now be calculated on a weekly basis, allowing a maximum of 170 weeks of funding. Likewise, if you receive the Student Training Allowance for upgrading, you may now receive 68 weeks of additional funding without using any of the 170 weeks allocated toward the Yukon Grant.

These changes were brought forward and passed in the Yukon Legislative Assembly to address concerns from students, educators, First Nation governments and a number of other stakeholders. They will ensure that funding for all Yukon students enrolled in post-secondary education is distributed in an equitable, yet fiscally-responsible way.

While our government has been working diligently to improve support for post-secondary students, we are also always working hard for our elementary and high school students here at home.

This year’s budget offers $520,000 to Yukon school councils to cover a portion of the expenses for essential school supplies, to reduce the financial burden on families who face many costs at the start of a school year.

Once the essential supplies have been provided, school councils will work with their schools and spend any remaining dollars based on the unique needs of their school communities. For example, the money could cover school fees or costs associated with extra-curricular activities such as sports teams or school clubs.

Our government’s commitment to students is based on the knowledge that they will become the future leaders of this territory and this country.

My message to students is that we want to provide the best possible environment for your academic success, and continue to work together with you, your educators and your families to ensure that you are getting all that you can out of your education. My colleagues and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you excel through your innovation, intelligence and creativity, and we wish you the best in your future endeavours.

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.

More money for campgrounds means more fun for Yukoners

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 20, 2016
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

Like many Yukoners, one of the reasons I love living in this territory is our incredible wilderness. Camping, fishing and other outdoor activities are some of the things that make our quality of life in Yukon so amazing.

That’s why the Yukon Party’s 2011 platform document, Moving Forward Together, included a commitment to upgrade Yukon campgrounds to improve accessibility, identify sites for new campgrounds and expand the capacity of existing sites.

In the five years since we were elected, we have been doing just that.

Over the past two years alone, we have invested more than $1.5 million to expand camping opportunities and improve our campground facilities. These improvements include significant work to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

Before we began this work, the Department of Environment’s planning and operations staff visited our campgrounds with a disability expert to identify ways we could improve accessibility.

My departmental staff were also provided with an orientation to the concept of “universal design” – the idea that a space, building or product can be designed in a way that makes it accessible to anyone, regardless of their age or abilities. I am pleased to say that the Department of Environment is now using these principles to guide the design, construction and ongoing maintenance of all Yukon campgrounds.

As a first step, the department is working to develop at least one accessible campsite in each of the territory’s major campgrounds.

Conrad Campground

Representatives of Yukon government and Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN) were amongst those at yesterday’s official opening ceremony for the new Conrad Campground, south of Carcross on Tagish Lake. Seen here (L to R) are Minister Elaine Taylor; Minister Wade Istchenko; CTFN elders Annie Austin, Ida Calmegane and Art Johns; Yukon Parks disability consultant Rick Goodfellow; CTFN Khà Shâde Héni Dan Cresswell and Minister Currie Dixon.

Other improvements so far include the installation of barrier-free outhouses at 32 of our 52 campgrounds and recreational sites, and the development of fully accessible campsites at the Wolf Creek, Marsh Lake and Twin Lakes campgrounds.

I am proud of the work the Government of Yukon is doing to improve camping opportunities for people with disabilities. The work will continue to be a priority for us in the years ahead.

I am also proud to say that today is a big day for outdoor enthusiasts, as the first new campground built in Yukon in 28 years opens its gates to Yukoners and visitors – the Conrad Campground, located about 13 kilometres south of Carcross on the shores of Tagish Lake.

Together with Ministers Elaine Taylor and Currie Dixon and Carcross Tagish First Nation (CTFN) Khà Shâde Héni Dan Cresswell, I was pleased to take part in an official unveiling ceremony yesterday for this beautiful new campground.

The 35-site campground doesn’t just boast great facilities and incredible views. It also includes two specially designated campsites that feature accessible parking, picnic tables and fire pits.

Its outhouses and kitchen shelter are also barrier-free, and there is an accessible spotting scope for wildlife viewing. The planned playground will also include an accessible play structure.

The Conrad Campground was built by the Government of Yukon and the Carcross Tagish Development Corporation.

As Carcross/Tagish First Nation Khà Shâde Héni Danny Cresswell recently noted, the shared approach our two governments took in developing this project is a real example of how governments can work together effectively to bring benefits to all Yukoners.

In addition, last fall, our government built 22 new campsites at existing campgrounds. Together with the 35 new sites at Conrad, this represents a 19 per cent increase in the number of campsites within 200 kilometres of Whitehorse.

This summer and fall we will continue our work, adding new infill campsites and making upgrades to outhouses, fire pits, docks, signage and kiosks at campgrounds across the territory. This includes $100,000 for infill at the very popular campground at Tombstone Territorial Park.

And as many of you know, we also committed funding this year to offer extended-season service at 10 campgrounds, which opened on May 13 and will close on September 30, weather permitting. The remaining territorial campgrounds are opening today.

I’d also like to remind Yukoners that eServices are available for fishers and campers – resident annual campground permits and angling licenses can be purchased online at the Environment Yukon website.

Enjoy the long weekend, and have an excellent and safe summer. Happy camping.

Caring for all Yukoners is a priority for this government

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek South As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 13, 2015
by Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

The past two weeks have been busy and exciting ones for me as Yukon’s Minister of Health and Social Services.

One of the highlights came last week, when I tabled our Mental Wellness Strategy 2016-2026: Forward Together in the Yukon Legislative Assembly.

The 10-year strategy is the result of many months of hard work and collaboration by the Yukon government and our partners: the Council of Yukon First Nations, the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Mental Health Association Yukon.

The release of the document coincided with national Mental Health Week, an annual event that takes place during the first week of May to encourage people from all walks of life to learn, talk, reflect and engage with others on all issues relating to mental health.

Considered holistically, mental wellness balances the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional aspects of our lives. Our strategy recognizes the significant interaction between mental health, addictions and trauma, and acknowledges that interventions must take a “whole person” approach. It recognizes that we must look at the broader social determinants of health and the importance of culture.

The strategy is a “living document”, which means it will change over the coming decade as the Yukon government continues to conduct research, adopt new practices and learn from experience. The strategy’s immediate focus is on the next two years.

After meeting with multiple stakeholders and our First Nation partners we identified three priorities that will guide us for the next 24 months: improving access to mental health, trauma and substance use services through the integration of services; focusing on child, youth and family-focused initiatives; and building community capacity through training and development.

As we announced last month, Yukon communities will soon have access to $1 million in funding to help them meet the mental health needs of their citizens.

The Mental Health Innovation fund will support the principles and priorities of our Mental Wellness Strategy. It will help communities create mental wellness initiatives that meet their specific needs. We’re currently working with our partners, communities, stakeholders and service providers to develop criteria for the fund.

Meeting the mental wellness needs of every Yukoner is a challenge. We accept the challenge and we are moving forward together.

We also announced this week that we are allocating an additional $244,000 this year to expand home care services in the territory.

Our government is committed to helping seniors stay in their own homes as long as possible. We fully appreciate that people want to age in place and we are dedicated to helping individuals and their families make that happen.

Yukoners may not be aware of the fact that our Home Care program is one of the most comprehensive in the country. Services it offers include medical support, counselling, bathing, light housekeeping and meal preparation, as well as assistance with daily living activities.

Yukon currently has no wait list for Home Care services – something unheard-of in other Canadian jurisdictions. And I’m proud to say these services are offered free of charge to all who require them.

Home care is a cost-effective and integral part of our health care system. It helps keep patients in their homes, and not in acute-care beds in our hospitals. This makes those beds available for elective surgeries and other much-needed uses.

The funding in this year’s budget will allow us to add three home-care staff, or another 5,850 hours of service, to increase in-home supports for Yukon seniors and others who need specialized care. This is in addition to significant increases over the past fourteen years.

Caring for all Yukoners is a priority for this government.

To that end, I also announced this week that we are allocating an additional $1.277 million in the year ahead to cover the costs of the Hepatitis C drugs, Sovaldi and Harvoni.

In 2015, 43 Yukoners started treatment for Hepatitis C. This is a more than three-fold increase compared to previous years. The drugs used to treat the infection are effective, but very expensive – the cost for a full treatment can run upwards of $90,000.

For this reason, we believe it is important to help Yukoners who don’t have access to private insurance or whose private insurance won’t cover the entire cost.

We’re proud of these recent announcements, and will continue working to ensure that our health-care system is among the best in Canada.

Like your smart phone? Thank a miner.

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, May 6, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Our government was very pleased to pay tribute to Yukon Mining and Geology Week yesterday in the Legislative Assembly.

Organized by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the many events and activities that took place this past week – from the always-popular Mining & Exploration Discovery Camp at the S.S. Klondike to the Whitehorse Copper Belt field tour – provided great opportunities for Yukon families to learn more about the mineral industry and the science of geology.

It’s an opportunity for all of us to take the time to appreciate our rich mining heritage, while remembering the men and women who have contributed to it. This is also the week when we acknowledge the contributions that mining and mineral exploration have made to our quality of life in Yukon.

The trickle-down economic effects of a successful mining industry are obvious.

With exploration and mining activities come employment, wages and tax revenues. These revenues, combined with other sources, allow us to invest in infrastructure and programs – everything from roads, hospitals and schools to arts grants and health-care services.

The economic spinoffs from the minerals sector benefit local businesses such as hotels, restaurants and retailers. The industry also relies on the suppliers of equipment, transportation, health services, engineering expertise and environmental monitoring services.

In the tribute we also spoke about the ongoing work of the Yukon Geological Survey. A branch of the department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the YGS generates and compiles scientific and technical information about Yukon’s geology and mineral deposits.

The raw data it collects, and the analysis it provides, helps guide the decision making of the Yukon government and of Yukon’s private mineral sector.

For example, YGS recently acquired a wealth of historical data from the National Archives that was compiled by a prominent company that operated in the Klondike from 1923 to 1966, the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation.

Our geologists are pulling key information from these documents – which include 950 maps and 230 reports – to help identify areas within previously mined creeks where gold-bearing gravels may have been overlooked by the original miners.

Another YGS project this year is the electromagnetic survey of the Livingstone Creek area, a historical placer district northeast of Whitehorse that has been the source of large gold nuggets. The goal of this aerial work is to identify geologic structures that could be the source of this gold.

When the geophysical maps and data from this work are released to the public, prospectors will have a valuable new source of information to guide their exploration work in the region.

YGS geologists also visited more than 100 placer operations and quartz exploration camps over the past year. During these visits they shared their expertise with miners and prospectors, and collected information to update our mining and geology database.

These valuable investments by the Yukon Geological Survey produces practical geologic information and supports exploration, which in turn provides longer-term economic benefits to all Yukoners.

As it has for well over a century, placer mining continues to be a solid contributor to Yukon’s economy. Last year, an estimated 62,271 crude ounces of placer gold was extracted, with a value of approximately $73.2 million.

On the hard-rock side, companies invested more than $65 million in exploration last year, despite the global downturn in commodity prices. The fact that companies such as Wellgreen Platinum, Kaminak Gold and ATAC Resources are continuing to successfully raise exploration capital is a testament to the mining sector’s tenacity and to Yukon’s mineral potential.

Another highlight of the past week was last night’s official launch of the Our Yukon, In It Together campaign, which is supported by our Department of Economic Development.

Led by the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the campaign is designed to help Yukoners better-understand how mining enriches our lives and our communities.

The launch featured the debut of six new videos that tell the stories of our most vital private sector employer and its committed First Nations partners. I encourage all Yukoners to check out the videos at www.ouryukon.com.

I would like to thank the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Geological Survey, and everyone else who worked together to organize events for another exceptional week dedicated to mining and geology in Yukon.