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.