True North – Standing up for Yukoners

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, September 2, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

The Yukon Party government believes in ensuring that, no matter what the challenge is, we find solutions that make sense in the North. And, we are committed to focusing on what we see as the key purpose of government – growing the economy, investing in health care and education, and providing a business climate that encourages the creation of jobs, all while making life affordable for families by keeping taxes low.

Life is tougher north of 60 and our northern way of life is often misunderstood. Policies and programs developed down south aren’t always practical here. People here are resilient and are proud to be able to look after themselves. True North means protecting our Yukon way of life and ensuring Yukoners chart their own path forward.

Our new vision for education is seeing us move forward on made-in-Yukon curriculum changes that will incorporate First Nations and community-based knowledge. We understand that not all parts of the current curriculum meet the needs of Yukon students.

The Yukon Party government has committed $1.5 million over the next three years to see Yukon College transition to Yukon University. Yukon College will also offer its first completely made-in-Yukon degree program, a bachelor of policy studies in Indigenous governance, starting in 2017.

Our Yukon Mental Wellness Strategy was released earlier this year. The intent of the strategy is to work with First Nation and community partners to find ways to improve mental wellness in Yukon. The next 24 months will be dedicated to improving access to services, focusing on children, young people and families, and building community capacity. This has already led to the opening of the Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth Centre in Whitehorse, which is open outside of business hours and serves as a hub to connect youth with appropriate government services.

This year we also committed $1 million to a Mental Wellness Innovation Fund as a part of the Yukon Mental Wellness Strategy. $620,000 of that has been awarded to 12 different First Nations and women’s and youth groups. It will fund projects offering various supports including healing camps, cultural workshops, and life skills programming.

We are going to continue investing in the popular Yukon Now marketing campaign with $900,000 a year for three years starting in 2016/17. The campaign initially saw a joint investment, between the federal and Yukon governments, of $3.6 million over two years. This was the largest investment in tourism in the history of Yukon’s Department of Tourism and Culture.

We are investing in the formation of a Strategic Initiatives Division within the Department of Economic Development to work on initiatives relating to the Devolution Transfer Agreement Protocol, Mine Licensing Improvement Initiative and the Mineral Development Strategy. As well, the Yukon Party government has committed funds to promote and enhance mineral prospecting and exploration opportunities in Yukon.

We are investing in greener energy solutions, starting with funding for the Kluane First Nation to install three wind turbines over the next three years. Implementation of our Independent Power Production policy allows projects such as these to tie into existing electrical grids for distribution. Our Yukon Biomass Energy Strategy was released earlier this year and we are in the midst of implementing it. We have provided funding to Raven Recycling to help test a biomass heating project that uses waste from the Whitehorse landfill to make woodchips that will help heat the building at the depot.

This year we also invested an additional $3 million in Information Technology (IT) capital spending, increasing government’s total IT budget by 46% to $9.5 million. This increase in investment will predominantly go into the private sector for government IT projects and systems development. This increase will also see more government services provided online such as hunting licenses, trades and professional licensing, government forms, and birth, death or marriage certificate requests. This ties in with previous work done that has made camping permits and fishing licenses available for purchase online.

The Yukon Party government has also recently finished modernizing the Land Titles Act and accompanying regulations. Changes to this legislation are the first of their kind in Canada. The government worked closely with the Kwanlin Dün First Nation on these changes to ensure that Yukon First Nations with self-government agreements can start to take advantage of registering Settlement Land while safeguarding Aboriginal title. This will open up more economic opportunity for First Nations who wish to take advantage of registration.

True North means we will continue to focus on made-in-Yukon programs and solutions, such as the examples above, in every sector, from education to the economy. We will work on innovative ways to develop our resource industry, grow small businesses, invest in schools and health care, and protect our Yukon way of life.