Category: Wade Istchenko Letters

Camp a life-changer for Yukon Youth

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 31st, 2015
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

This year the Yukon Youth Conservation Corps (Y2C2) and the Conservation Action Team (CAT) celebrate 25 successful years of programming.

CAT began operation in 1990 and continues to offer rare opportunities for young Yukoners to learn about and experience the natural wonders found in our territory. Each summer the program offers three camps for youth in Grades 6-9: two Cheechako camps for the 6th and 7th graders, and a Sourdough camp for the 8th and 9th graders.

Made possible by Yukon government funding, the camps offer 8-10 days of travel and exploration by van, canoe and foot. Topics and activities include ecology and wildlife management, hunting, trapping, fishing, mining, and agriculture. With an average 30 campers per summer (some doing both levels of the camp), more than 700 youth will have participated in the camps by the end of 2015.

Cheechako camps have mostly been run in the Carmacks-Pelly area, from Tatchun Lake to Fort Selkirk and Pelly Ranch. Over the years, Sourdough level campers have travelled to every road-accessible part of Yukon. The camps have also visited many remote areas, including Tuktoyaktuk, NWT.

The Yukon Youth Conservation Corps (Y2C2) program began operation in 1992. Its purpose is to offer another level of training and opportunity for Yukon youth interested in environmental conservation.

Past topics have included wildlife research, public education, trail-building, wire and garbage cleanups, invasive weed pulls and infrastructure development. This year, as in other years, senior staff led elementary school students in age-appropriate, curriculum-linked, outdoor learning activities.

As minister, I am very pleased to hear the enthusiasm expressed by past participants about the impact of these camps on their lives. One former participant, who is now a Fish & Wildlife Technician for Environment Yukon, says “I was fortunate to be on one of the first Conservation Action Teams. I remember it as a great summer adventure of seeing different parts of the Yukon and making friends from other communities… (It) really solidified my interest in working in this field.”

My department has received other rave reviews from former campers, which I’m happy to share:

“CAT camps raised the bar on what to expect of myself as an adult as they were so far out of my knowledge and comfort zone as a kid at the beginning.”

“Y2C2 taught me how to be an adult. And that being an adult can be fun!”

“CAT gave me the chance to see and be in places in the Yukon I would never have had access to otherwise – this kind of program, were it not offered by the government, would have been out of reach financially for my, and many other families. It was invaluable in teaching me ways of knowing and appreciating my Yukon home, the northern natural world, and opening my eyes to places and people living in ways I wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. And, 21 years later, I want my daughter, and all children, to be able to do this, I find it to be of such value.”

If that doesn’t say it all, maybe the numbers will. Here are some interesting stats from Environment Yukon Youth Programs:

  • CAT – 74 camps, 733 student campers, 675 days in the field.
  • Y2C2 – 652 projects completed, 491 high school and post-secondary students hired for summer work, 14 First Nation partners, and 27 Yukon settlements in which we’ve worked.
  • Kindergarten to Grade 7 students in 10 schools engaged during 2015 – 693.
  • Number of kilometres of rivers & lakes paddled – Unknowable.
  • Bad Jokes told – 678,454,001.
  • Number of ah-ha moments experienced: Incalculable.

 

I’d like to thank all the organizers and instructors who have enabled this program to run so successfully for a quarter century. I encourage Yukoners to find out more about Environment Yukon’s youth programs available to you or your children by visiting www.env.gov.yk.ca/envirowild.

An anniversary weekend retreat is planned for August 21-23 at the Kusawa Lake Campground. All past participants in the CAT and Y2C2 programs (and their families) are invited to join in celebrations, including campfire gatherings, a group dinner, and a retrospective slide presentation.

Yukon Government’s Bold Climate Change Action Plan

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 17th, 2015
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

With Premier Pasloski wrapping up his trip to St. John’s to meet with other provincial and territorial leaders at the Council of the Federation, I would like to take a moment and update you on the accomplishments our government has achieved on climate change.

Since the development of the Climate Change Action Plan in 2009, our government has demonstrated its leadership and commitment to the issue of climate change by focusing on greenhouse gas emissions reduction activity and increasing adaptation efforts in response to the impacts of the changing climate.

Our 33 item Climate Change Action Plan aims to enhance knowledge and understanding of climate change; improve our ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change; reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and lead Yukon action in response to climate change.

It is with great pleasure that I can share with Yukoners that just six years into our plan, 31 of the 33 original priority actions are either complete or are on track and continuing.

Our 2012 Action Plan Update highlighted accomplishments such as establishing the Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College for the purpose of innovation, research and outreach as well as implementing efforts to address emissions from buildings through the development and application of a made-in-Yukon energy efficient standard for construction, among others. Yet another accomplishment was the creation of the Climate Change Secretariat.

Despite the successes highlighted in 2012, our government has not rested in our commitment to the issue of climate change. We continue to remain flexible and responsive to new and emerging climate change realities and needs.

Since 2012, the Yukon government has launched new initiatives to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and respond to climate change impacts.

In 2013, a study of Yukon’s transportation sector yielded important information about Yukon government transport emissions. Our government also completed detailed energy audits of seven identified high-consumption buildings.

Most recently, Yukon government’s Climate Change Secretariat co-launched an online portal that enables the sharing of climate change adaptation information across the circumpolar arctic. We are also working with the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to support nine adaption projects over four years to address important issues such as the impacts of permafrost thaw on highways, buildings, and water.

In addition, we supported Yukon homeowners with the newly launched Good Energy Residential Incentives Program. We expanded hydroelectricity and transmission capacity at the Aishihik and Mayo plants, and provided the opportunity for residential and commercial electricity customers to generate electricity from renewable energy sources and sell surplus electricity to the grid through our Micro-generation Policy.

Our government remains committed to implementing the Climate Change Action Plan. While there is still work to be done, I am proud of the work carried out by this government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to address the very real impact that climate change is having in the North.

Everyone plays a part in addressing a sustainable environment and it is important that we all take responsibility. Our government will continue to identify and address important climate change issues and I encourage all of you to think about your day to day actions as stewards of the environment.

Celebrate and Know Your H2O during Canada Water Week

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, March 20th, 2014
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

Canada Water Week is a celebration of water from coast-to-coast-to-coast, held annually in the third week of March to coincide with World Water Day on March 22. Across the country, events are taking place to raise the profile of water and its importance to Canadians.

This year, Water Week overlaps with Yukon’s school spring break period, so events in the territory are being held during the entire month, to allow more people to participate.

In our part of the country, we recognize how critical water is, as we continue to strive to make Yukon the best place in which to live, work, play and raise a family. We are very fortunate to have an abundance of fresh, clean water on our doorsteps, and we recognize the important role we must play in its stewardship to ensure water for nature and water for people.

This year’s Canada Water Week theme is “Know Your H2O!” A majority of Canadians consider fresh water to be one of our country’s most important natural resources. “Know Your H2O!” reminds us of the importance of this resource, which we all need to care for. It also encourages us to be better informed about the role of water in our lives, the health of our local sources, and the people who work to manage and protect this valuable natural treasure.

In Yukon, at least 20 “Know Your H2O!” school presentations are scheduled this month, with topics focusing on watersheds, glaciers, placer mining, erosion by water and water turbidity.

Specialists from a number of Yukon government branches (including Water Resources, Environmental Health, Yukon Geological Survey, and Compliance Monitoring and Inspections) are sharing their knowledge and passion for water resources with students from grades one to 12.

These educational events give students an opportunity to learn and reflect on the importance of water to the health of Yukon’s environment, people and economy.

The Yukon Water Strategy and Action Plan that we introduced last year will help the government manage Yukon’s water. The strategy reflects our government’s vision that the quality, quantity and overall health of waters flowing through Yukon lands are sustained for all living things now and in the future.

Canada Water Week gives us all an opportunity to understand, appreciate and celebrate this essential resource. I encourage you to “Know Your H2O!” and to learn more about the intrinsic value of water. Visit yukonwater.ca or canadawaterweek.com for more information.

What is a Capital Plan and how does it benefit Yukoners?

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, Apr 25th, 2014
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Highways & Public Works

One of the tools the Yukon government uses to manage the use of taxpayers’ dollars is a multi-year capital plan. This plan ranks construction and development needs and spreads them out over a period of years to ensure local businesses and workers are able to take full advantage of contracting and work opportunities.

A plan of this scope must be detailed, yet flexible, with the ultimate goal of managing tax dollars with care, to ensure our spending is focussed on what Yukoners need and want. It’s also beneficial because it allows the private sector to plan ahead.

This government has a strong history of sound financial management and capital project management. In the 2012 Auditor General’s progress report, improvements were highlighted in the way the department of Highways and Public Works manages projects. Specifically, the report noted that 100 per cent of building projects were completed on time, 90 per cent of transportation infrastructure were completed on budget, and 75 percent of building development projects were on budget.

We have an excellent record of getting the most out of our capital spending. Our responsible management has put us in an enviable position in 2014 and 2015. We currently have the largest capital budget in our history at $293 million and have still been able to maintain a surplus, which is why I’m pleased to highlight some of the major projects coming down the pipe.

Your budget includes $85 million for transportation improvements, the largest ever, and $48 million for highway work. More than $7 million has been set aside for bridges and $16 million for airports.

We’ve laid out plans for work on the Silver Trail, improvements to the Haines Road, and reconstruction on the Atlin Road and the Robert Campbell Highway. As for bridges and airports, we’re planning to build a new single span Tatchun Creek Bridge, and nearly $10 million worth of work at the Whitehorse airport on replacements, resurfacing and water and sewer upgrades, as well as expansion of leasable lots. There are future plans for community airports as well, specifically in Pelly Crossing. We’re currently looking at the best way to improve the airport, while getting the most out of taxpayers’ dollars.

These projects are complex to plan. Their budgets can and should shift through the planning process, as more details are worked out. We adjust our plans. We adjust our budgets. We make sure we meet the needs of Yukoners, at a reasonable and manageable cost.

Our multi-year capital plan benefits Yukoners in a number of ways. Major project and planning opportunities benefit Yukon businesses and workers, and we are meeting the public’s needs by building infrastructure and helping to build a better, stronger Yukon. Our record speaks for itself.

New high school will enhance learning experience

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, Feb 21st, 2014
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Highways & Public Works

This week, the Yukon government was pleased to announce that it has signed an intent-to-award letter with Clark Builders for the F.H. Collins Secondary School replacement project.

Clark Builders’ bid was slightly over $31 million. We were pleased with all of the bids on this project as they were very competitive and reflected our understanding of a reasonable replacement cost for the FH Collins Secondary School.

Since the beginning of the re-design process, we have been confident that we could build a world-class facility that meets the current and long-term needs of our school community in a fiscally-responsible manner.

Clark Builders began operating in Yellowknife in 1974 and is experienced with building educational facilities and infrastructure in the north. We look forward to working with them throughout this project.

The company already has several local partners, including Stantec and Arcrite Northern Ltd. Clark Builders is committed to working closely with the local building community and we expect to see many local contractors involved with this project over the next several years. Construction is expected to begin this coming spring and completed in the fall of 2015.

The new F.H. Collins Secondary School is designed to create the most flexible and best possible 21st century learning environment for students. It is based on the design of the Mother Margaret Mary School in Edmonton, Alberta, where learning outcomes are among the very best in Canada.

Using input collected from consultation with students, teachers and the community, we have been able to refine the design to suit Yukon’s needs. The design will enable best practices in team teaching, multidisciplinary courses, and hands-on, project-based learning. Access to technology and the ability to make spaces either smaller or larger when needed will greatly enhance the student learning experience, leading to better outcomes.

The design employs modern efficiencies to accommodate 750 students in a smaller overall footprint. The current F.H. Collins was built for a much larger student population. At one time, it was Yukon’s only high school and is now over-sized for the current student population.

In the new school, students will benefit from an industrial kitchen, enhanced science labs, First Nations language labs, a school-wide wireless network, flexible learning spaces and a dedicated Distance Learning room that will enable students to access out-of-territory programs.

It will also have an Elders’ lounge, Community Education Liaison Coordinator offices, two language classrooms and a separate storage area for First Nations programming. Yukon’s 14 First Nations will be invited to express their culture through artwork on an interior wall that runs the length of the school near the multipurpose space, which will be seen upon entering the front entrance.

We look forward to the completion of this important facility that will meet the needs of F.H. Collins Secondary School communities now and into the future.