Category: Darrell Pasloski Letters

Standing up for Yukon by standing against a carbon tax

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, September 23, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Here in Yukon we feel the effects of climate change every day. Whether it’s through damage to highways and buildings from melting permafrost, or changes to the water levels in our lakes, the reality is that climate change is an issue that must be addressed by all levels of government, and by each and every Yukoner.

However, the action we take in Yukon should be practical, should actually reduce emissions, and should reflect our Northern reality. It’s colder here than in southern Canada. We can’t take the subway to work. We have to truck most of our goods up the highway. And, our communities are spread out over vast distances.

Made-in-the-South solutions like a carbon tax simply won’t work here. At the end of the day, we still have to heat our homes, fuel our vehicles and buy food to eat. A carbon tax would make those things, and everything else, more expensive. Earlier this year, the independent and non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer did an analysis of the impacts of a carbon tax and found that in order for such a tax to actually be effective it would likely increase the price of gasoline by 24 cents per litre.

As Yukoners turn their furnaces on this fall, we shouldn’t have to budget for an additional tax on keeping our families warm. Unfortunately, both the Yukon Liberals and Yukon NDP have indicated they have no intention of standing up against a federally-imposed carbon tax, even though it will increase the cost of living for all of us.

The Yukon Party fully supports action to address climate change and has a made-in-Yukon suite of solutions to reduce emissions, grow the economy, and keep taxes low.

One example is our investment in major retrofits to buildings throughout Yukon, which is cutting carbon emissions and creating jobs. In fact, this summer the federal minister of Environment recognized the great work we’re doing and highlighted that, thanks to our efforts, commercial building owners saved an estimated $150,000 in energy costs in 2015.

In addition to our support of retrofits and energy-efficient buildings, we are taking a number of other measures. Over the last five years, we have increased the amount of green energy that Yukon produces, and our electrical grid is 95 per cent clean – much higher than the national average of 79 per cent.

Our implementation of the Yukon Energy Strategy and the Climate Change Action Plan has led to the expansion of Yukon’s hydro grid to reduce communities’ reliance on diesel, the adoption of a territorial biomass strategy, the development of new technologies at the Cold Climate Innovation Centre and progress on the Next Generation Hydro Project.

The Liberals and NDP don’t seem to understand that a carbon tax would have a negative impact on our quality of life. Canada’s northern economies in particular are small and developing. We need to cultivate and grow them, so that northerners can prosper and not be burdened with additional costs and barriers to success.

That is exactly what our government will work to ensure, by standing firmly in opposition to any carbon tax on Yukoners.

Trail-building program a remarkable success

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, September 9, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Creating a strong, diverse economy that creates jobs in our communities and helps to prepare our youth for those jobs are priorities of our government.

That’s why I was so pleased this week to announce a contribution of $180,000 over three years to expand the inspiring and award-winning SingleTrack to Success program to other Yukon communities. If you’ve never heard of SingleTrack to Success, or S2S as it’s known, then you are missing out on a remarkable program that every Yukoner can be proud of.

In 2006, a small crew of Carcross/Tagish First Nation teenagers was recruited to spend the summer building trails on Montana Mountain. The work was physically demanding – removing tree roots, building berms, constructing bridges – and the hours long, but they kept coming to work.

The vision was to create a world-class trail network that would attract visitors to Carcross while promoting community wellness, providing meaningful employment and reconnecting youth with the land. For many Carcross/Tagish First Nation members, it was a return to their trail-based traditions.

Ten years later, 65 kilometers of trails have been created or restored on Montana Mountain – and mountain biking enthusiasts the world-over have taken note. Dubbed “mountain biking’s new Mecca” with “the best mountain bike trail in Canada” by Explore Magazine, recognized for “some of the world’s best [trails]” by Outside magazine and designated an “Epic Trail” by the International Mountain Bike Association, Carcross now attracts an estimated 5000 visits each season from Yukon families and adventure seekers from around the globe. This is an estimated 1500 per cent increase in visits compared to a decade ago.

Project founder Jane Koepke, Minister Mike Nixon, youth from the SingleTrack to Success program and Premier Pasloski at the funding announcement.

Project founder Jane Koepke, Minister Mike Nixon, youth from the SingleTrack to Success program and Premier Pasloski at the funding announcement.

By any measure, S2S is an incredible community development success story, but at its heart is what this program has done for the Carcross/Tagish youth. Through the program, 60 summer jobs have been created, providing meaningful training and employment on the land in the First Nation’s traditional territory.

For program alumni, the technical and transferrable skills learned have helped them along their path, whether they assumed leadership roles within the crew, secured jobs as professional trail builders, or pursued their education, a trade or other careers.

On the mountain, these young men and women are sought out by bikers from around the world wanting to meet the youth behind these incredible trails; their story has been told through national and international media and now by Shift, a locally produced documentary to be featured at the Banff Festival of Mountain Films this fall.

I’m proud to say that the Government of Yukon has provided technical expertise and has been a strong financial supporter of S2S since its inception a decade ago. We have also supported complementary initiatives, such as the development of Carcross Commons.

Our new three-year, $60,000 annual commitment is based on the belief that Singletrack to Success has much to offer to the youth who build and maintain the trails, and to their communities. It is an excellent example of Yukoners collaborating to create positive change.

We are proud to continue this support so that S2S can continue its incredible work in Carcross while partnering with other Yukon First Nations and communities so that their youth can climb, dig, build, ride and benefit from the positive changes the program delivers.

I would like to extend my congratulations to the Singletrack to Success program founder, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and the more than 50 program alumni for the passion and dedication they have demonstrated over the past decade.

The success of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and S2S in leveraging this support to create what is now a world-class trail network – and for putting Carcross on the map as an internationally recognized mountain bike destination – is to be applauded. The program’s impact on the youth participants, and on the community, has been transformative.

Our government is proud to continue supporting this program in Carcross and in other First Nation communities, and I look forward to seeing the benefits it will bring to First Nation youth across the Yukon.

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.

A Safer Yukon, A Better Yukon

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, August 19, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

Recently, our government fulfilled our commitment to provide basic 9-1-1 service across the territory. 9-1-1 service is now available anywhere a telephone call can be made. This service enhancement means that by dialing one, easy-to-remember number, dedicated volunteer and professional staff can spring into action to respond to fire and medical emergencies anywhere in the territory. We want Yukoners to feel safe and secure in their homes and communities, and this is part of our ongoing efforts toward that goal.

Our government is proud to support first responders through investments in the Fire Marshal’s Office and Yukon Emergency Medical Services (EMS). By investing in people, equipment, training and infrastructure, we work to further strengthen the territory’s ability to respond to emergencies and coordinate prevention activities.

Mobile Fire TrainingThe Fire Marshal’s Office operates 16 volunteer fire departments, inclusive of 225 volunteer firefighters, and provides advice and support to eight municipal fire departments. Yukon EMS maintains 17 ambulance stations—15 of which are in rural communities—and supports training and response activities for more than 165 volunteers.

A few years ago, the Fire Marshal’s Office received $1.9 million in new investments that improved the capacity of the Yukon fire service. The investment doubled capacity to conduct life safety inspections, fire investigations, fire prevention, firefighter training, and purchased a mobile live-fire training unit that has improved firefighter training and safety across the territory. More than 70 municipal and territorial firefighters have trained in thousands of live-fire training sessions.

Support for structural fire protection in each of Yukon’s eight municipalities is provided through the Comprehensive Municipal Grant program. By 2017 each municipality will have received $250,000 to invest in fire prevention and protection.Trial by Fire

Our government’s commitment to strengthening the territory’s emergency response infrastructure has been demonstrated through our investment in facilities and emergency vehicles. More than $15.6 million has been invested in replacing or upgrading fire halls since 2009. Most recently, new fire halls in Beaver Creek and Carcross have been designed to house the local volunteer fire department, Yukon EMS, and search and rescue. The Fire Marshal’s Office also maintains a fire apparatus fleet of more than 48 trucks. New investments have allowed the replacement of aging vehicles. Since 2011, we invested more than $4.8 million outfitting 12 new fire vehicles and 8 new ambulances to add to the territory’s fleet.

As our population grows and call volumes increase, the Yukon government has helped to meet the demand for emergency pre-hospital care with infrastructure upgrades in all communities where Yukon EMS has a presence. The Yukon government invested $177,000 in funding in 2014/15 to improve Yukon EMS infrastructure across the territory and increase volunteer recruitment and retention. There has been a subsequent investment of $500,000 for the 2015/16 fiscal year and another $323,000 investment is planned for 2016/17 to support this important work.

Additionally, full-time and auxiliary staff have been added in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake. Investments in the Yukon Emergency Response Coordination Centre, housed in the recently-opened Riverdale EMS station, offer professional communication officers safer, faster and more efficient tools to dispatch ambulances in Whitehorse and coordinate medevac patient transfers throughout the territory. In addition to improving access to in-station training for community responders, Yukon EMS implemented an online learning management system to enable community responders to develop and maintain clinical competency without having to leave their home communities. This in-community training is linked to higher levels of volunteer recruitment and engagement, and more training modules are being developed to support these critical community volunteers.

The Government of Yukon is proud of its first responders, but emergency response is a shared responsibility in Yukon. Multiple agencies work together to provide response services throughout the territory, communities champion their local teams, and the government provides training, equipment and infrastructure to those who respond to fire and medical emergencies. This spirit of cooperation and the support that volunteers offer in their communities reflect our true northern values.

A made-in-Yukon approach to climate action

Darrell Pasloski, Premier, MLA for MountainviewAs submitted to local media on Friday, July 29, 2016
by Premier Darrell Pasloski

No one needs to remind anyone in Yukon or the North that climate change is real – it has changed our day-to-day lives more than anywhere in Canada. Our winters are shorter; invasive species like the pine beetle are now present in the territory; changes to our waterways are affecting water and energy systems, fish habitat and traditional ways of life; and our risk of catastrophic forest fires is increasing.

We are already paying the cost of adapting to our changing climate as melting permafrost damages roads, schools and other infrastructure. Last year, we spent $2.04 million to repair the Ross River School because of structural damage caused by shifting ground. We have also spent millions of dollars over the past five years to repair frost heaves in roads, which are caused in part by melting permafrost.

But that doesn’t mean Yukoners should have to bear the brunt of an ineffective carbon tax. And those advocating for what is effectively a new consumption tax need to stop suggesting that it will miraculously alter Yukon’s carbon emissions. Because it won’t.

We live in a diverse country and our response to climate change should reflect this diversity. Yukoners are already doing more than our part to take action. We are in an enviable position compared to other jurisdictions: 95 per cent of Yukon’s electricity is generated by green sources.

We are also one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that is actually Kyoto-compliant. We kept the promises we made in the 1990s in regard to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s how Yukoners and Canadians can be assured we’ll keep our promises now.

We have already made a concerted effort to reduce use of carbon, and we’ll continue to find made-in-Yukon ways to address climate challenges.

We have implemented a light fleet vehicles purchase policy at our Fleet Vehicle Agency that emphasises environmental stewardship.

We are performing energy audits on specific buildings to identify how performance can be improved through energy efficient retrofits.

We committed that all Yukon government construction and renovations will meet or exceed the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Certified Standard for energy efficiency.

We are partnering with the Kluane First Nation to build wind turbines to power their community, and we extended the Mayo-Stewart transmission line to link the hydroelectric grid and eliminate 30,000 tonnes of carbon annually from our emissions by taking Pelly Crossing off diesel.

We know that we are facing real challenges as a result of climate change, and we are working to address those challenges with concrete investments. We know there are ways to deal with these issues that focus on adapting to a new reality without burdening Yukoners with taxes they cannot afford.

As a result, I cannot support politicians from other parts of the country, where the issues and the solutions are significantly different, imposing a national carbon tax on Yukoners. The emissions from Yukon are not the cause of the world’s climate issues. But we are facing the brunt of the damage.

The reality is that Yukon’s highest carbon emissions come from heating homes, and transporting food and goods to our territory. We can’t stop heating homes in the winter and we can’t suddenly grow and manufacture everything we need to live here. We don’t have easy choices or options, so a tax on carbon here is not the solution.

In Yukon, a carbon tax will mean only one thing – more money taken out of the pockets of Yukoners and families, who are already working hard to make ends meet. I cannot support making their lives more expensive to satisfy the promises of politicians who are trying to fix problems in other parts of the country.

As Premier of Yukon, I will ensure we continue to do our part to take action against climate change. We are planning a Next Generation Hydro project, recently expanded to include the consideration of smaller hydroelectric sites and other forms of renewable energy. We are retrofitting the main Yukon government administration building to reduce our emissions by 425 tonnes of carbon annually. And, we will announce further action in our election platform.

My job is to ensure that I put the interests of Yukoners first. We will work with any government to make that happen. We recently announced a joint federal/Yukon investment of $78 million in critical infrastructure across the territory, including bridges, roads, wastewater and drinking water projects. This will mean that we will be able to continue to invest in our economy at a time when it’s important to keep Yukoners working and to prepare us for the upswing in commodity markets.

But the Yukon Party isn’t bound to the promises of any federal party, and there will be times when we will respectfully disagree with our federal and provincial counterparts.

We are already leaders when it comes to cutting our carbon emissions here in Yukon. Let’s keep pursuing a made-in-Yukon approach that continues to combat climate change, but doesn’t take more money out of the wallets of Yukoners.