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.