Category: Editorials

Working for and with our mining industry

Scott Kent, MLA for Riverdale NorthAs Submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 12, 2016
by Scott Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines & Resources

Since our government was elected in 2011, we have remained committed to supporting and promoting mining and mineral exploration in the territory. This is because we want Yukoners to have rewarding jobs and all the opportunities possible to build great lives for themselves and their families. Continuing to grow a strong economy, including a strong mining sector, is an essential part of reaching that goal. Our work to date includes regulatory process improvements, infrastructure upgrades, investment attraction, enhancement of training opportunities and credit and incentive programs.

One of our most significant initiatives is the enhancement of the Yukon Mineral Exploration Program (YMEP), formerly the Yukon Mining Incentive Program (YMIP). This program has been instrumental in assisting prospectors by providing a portion of the capital needed to locate, explore and develop mineral projects to an advanced exploration stage. The program provides economic incentives for individuals and companies to operate locally and invest in the Yukon economy, and it has proven to leverage more outside investment at a time when raising capital is challenging.

Over the last five years, we have dedicated $6.8 million to support 314 hard rock and placer projects through YMEP. In recognition of market challenges, we increased the annual budget to $1.4 million in 2014.

We have also made significant investments in infrastructure development to assist the mining industry, particularly through our Resource Access Roads Program. This provides $500,000 annually to upgrade and improve roads that are used to access natural resources. In 2015, this fund supported repairs to several mining access roads, including the Dawson Mining Roads, Duncan Creek Road and the South McQuesten Road. Funding critical infrastructure improves access for miners and prospectors, and keeps Yukoners working.

At a time when exploration activity is not at its peak, it is also important for our government to ensure prospectors can keep their mining claims in good standing. So we established a double assessment credit to allow claimholders to file for twice the value of work done on their claims in that year. This initiative provides direct benefits to industry because the double credit for work completed equates to a direct financial break for exploration companies. We maintain these programs because we recognize the importance of our mineral industry even during slower periods of development, and we want to encourage companies to continue working to stimulate our local economy.

In addition to our credit programs, our government’s commitment to keeping mines operating and encouraging growth has also been facilitated through improving regulatory processes and integrating resource management.

Most recently, our government has been leading the Mine Licensing Improvement Initiative (MLII), in partnership with assessors, regulators, First Nations and industry, to improve timelines, clarity, transparency and effectiveness of the mine licensing system. MLII was created as a cooperative effort to provide certainty to individuals and companies doing business in the territory.

We have also invested in new access to training to help Yukoners take advantage of job opportunities in mining, exploration and other sectors, and to provide a skilled labour force for companies doing business here. This includes our investment, along with our partners, in the new Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining (CNIM) at Yukon College and the CNIM mobile trades training trailer which strengthens local capacity and skills.

Our government remains committed to marketing Yukon mining prospects to outside investors. This gives us the opportunity to demonstrate to companies from around the world that Yukon remains one of the best places to explore, develop and mine. In addition, we continue to work with the Yukon Mining Alliance to facilitate Investment and Property Tours, which bring investors to visit our territory and see for themselves the incredible exploration potential.

Our goals for the territory have always been to maintain an internationally-competitive investment climate with a focus on regulatory certainty and efficient licensing, and we will continue to develop innovative ways to position Yukon at the forefront of mining worldwide.

Furthermore, we continually engage with the federal government, First Nation governments and stakeholders to ensure the mining and resource development industry continues to be a priority for all.

Yukon wildlife and our way of life

Wade Istchenko, MLA for Kluane

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 5, 2016
by Wade Istchenko, Minister of Environment

Hunting and fishing are key aspects of the Yukon way of life, and it is important to our government to ensure we can continue these activities in a sustainable manner. As this year’s hunting season begins, I’d like to highlight our government’s support for traditional ways of life while also maintaining our fish and wildlife populations across Yukon.

Since elected, our government has promoted and enhanced access to hunting, fishing and trapping activities. In addition, we have increased data collection efforts and promoted the sustainable harvest of Yukon wildlife by fostering cooperation between researchers, outfitters, trappers and wildlife conservation groups.

We continue to provide Yukoners with up-to-date information regarding hunting and fishing ethics, regulations, and outdoor preparedness. Our Hunter Education and Ethics Development (HEED) training is taken by over 300 people each year and we’ve made this beneficial course more widely accessible by providing it online. This was part of our government’s Environment eServices initiative, which has also allowed Yukoners to purchase angling licences and camping permits online. We hope to expand these services soon to offer hunting seals, licences and online harvest reporting as well.

Wade Istchenko at Miles CanyonThrough our work to manage wildlife resources sustainably and responsibly, we address conservation concerns, work to mitigate human-animal conflict, and monitor species populations throughout the territory with regional partners.

For big game species, we work with First Nations, communities, renewable resource councils and the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board to ensure wildlife populations remain stable. Most recently, we have partnered with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Alsek Renewable Resource Council to help recover the Alsek moose population.

Our government has also completed a number of management plans since 2011 to help recover identified species at risk and provide resources to support stable populations. Examples include the Aishihik Wood Bison Herd, the Chisana Caribou Herd and the Yukon Wolf Management Plans.

In this past year, we wrapped up our second year of implementing the Aishihik Wood Bison Herd Management Plan with a herd health assessment, and we continued data collection on herd size, location and offspring of all big game species to assess population health to enhance opportunities for ongoing sustainable harvest.

Our government is also committed to the conservation and assessment of our fish populations. For instance, we continue to monitor population trends of our territory’s lake trout, whitefish and burbot, and we are currently promoting conservation on Frenchman, Twin, Fox and Kusawa Lakes due to signs of depleted lake trout stocks. We continue to explore ways to enhance and recover all Yukon fish populations to ensure stocks can be replenished and remain healthy while still allowing Yukoners the opportunity to fish freely and conservatively.

Overall, in the past year our government has invested over $1 million in more than 30 fish and wildlife-related projects that help us monitor the health and status of these important populations, and fulfill our commitments in community fish and wildlife plans. Our government’s great work on management and data collection has not only informed our decisions for setting sustainable harvest levels, it has also provided baseline information to help assess environmental impacts.

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.

Governments partner to invest in community infrastructure

Currie Dixon, MLA for Copperbelt NorthAs submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 29, 2016
by Currie Dixon, Minister of Community Services

Our government knows that improving the territory’s infrastructure is critical for our economy, and for maintaining the quality of life for communities throughout Yukon.

This week our Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell and I announced that the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada would be spending over $78 million on 17 road, bridge and other infrastructure projects throughout the territory. Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to Ottawa to sign an agreement with the federal government to access new infrastructure money that will fund 21 projects around Yukon, worth $68 million, specifically for drinking water and wastewater. Yukon was the first jurisdiction in Canada to sign onto this new agreement and to access this money. Altogether, MP Bagnell and I have announced over $150 million in infrastructure funding for Yukon since March.

These investments have many benefits for Yukon. Repairing and upgrading roads and bridges facilitate economic activity; water and wastewater projects maintain and improve the quality of life for small communities throughout the territory; and the construction of these infrastructure projects creates jobs and economic activity for Yukon businesses.

Both the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon have made infrastructure investment a priority and through our close working relationship and partnership, we’ve been able to make these considerable investments. For the Yukon government’s part, we’ve been able to do this while maintaining a balanced budget and avoiding taking on any net debt. Were it not for our strong financial position, these investments wouldn’t be possible.

Small Communities Fund

Community Services Minister Currie Dixon and Yukon MP Larry Bagnell at the announcement earlier this week of over $78 million in federal/Yukon investment for road, bridge and other infrastructure projects in Yukon.

Likewise, the work occurring in Yukon municipalities would not be possible without the support, participation and input of municipal governments. Over the course of the past year, we have worked closely with Mayors and Councils to identify projects and ensure that our priorities are aligned. In Faro, upgrades will be done to the sewage lagoon and, in Haines Junction, a new wastewater station and building will be constructed. In Whitehorse, 6th Avenue will be reconstructed between Ogilvie and Jarvis Streets. In many cases, projects occurring in municipalities would not have been possible without this investment from the governments of Canada and Yukon.

There is also significant work occurring beyond our municipalities. This week’s announcement also included around $40 million in funding for bridges and highways. Over the course of the next few years, the Nares River Bridge in Carcross, the Yukon River Bridge in Carmacks, the Nisutlin Bay Bridge in Teslin and the Fox Creek Bridge near Lake Laberge will see replacement, rehabilitation, or improvements.

As these various projects roll out, I look forward to seeing the economic and social benefits that they will bring over the course of the coming months and years.

Solving our health care challenges – together

Mike Nixon, MLA for Porter Creek South As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, July 22, 2016
by Mike Nixon, Minister of Health & Social Services

Increasing access to vital health services and improving care for Yukoners has always been a priority for our government.

This week, Premier Darrell Pasloski and I, along with the Yukon Hospital Corporation, were pleased to announce another step forward for our government as we continue to provide a high level of care to Yukoners in need.

We are creating more continuing care beds, adding additional home care supports, and increasing supports for those already in care. And we are doing all this in the next 90 days.

Recently, bed shortage pressures at the Whitehorse General Hospital (WGH) came to the forefront. Acute-care beds required for surgery recovery and treatment were occupied by Yukon seniors requiring long-term care.

Yukon has 193 continuing-care beds for individuals who require extensive care and cannot be maintained through Home Care Services. These long-term care beds are fully occupied, and the waiting list continues to grow.

Those awaiting a place in long-term care are often unable to remain in their own homes, so they are accommodated in acute-care hospital beds. This has increased pressure not only on hospital staff, but on other patients as well.

We are pleased that this challenge was met with an impressive response by Health and Social Services officials, and hospital staff and administrators.

Doctors, nurses, and department officials were able to come together and find solutions that will help tackle the obstacles we face day-to-day, while ensuring that each and every Yukoner has the level of care they deserve.

As a result, our government has a plan to address growing pressures at the Whitehorse General Hospital, to support our health-care professionals, and to provide more continuing care beds across the territory.

With an investment of up to $5 million, our plan forward will improve the situation in a variety of areas.

The most significant will be the addition of a 10-bed unit in the Thomson Centre in Whitehorse. Renovations are starting immediately, and these vital beds will be available to patients by October.

To support our hospital staff, new programming will enable continuing-care staff to provide support to the patients who must remain in the hospital. This will allow hospital staff to focus on their acute-care patients and on emergency admissions.

In addition, over the last several years we have consistently increased home-care services, but more recently, in listening to feedback from Yukoners, we will be extending service hours to evenings and weekends for those who require it. WGH will continue to ensure the safe discharge of long-term care patients with the necessary supports, and the extension of home-care hours will ensure they receive an adequate level of care at home with their families.

With this plan, we are able to build upon the hard work of hospital, home-care and continuing-care staff and increase their capacity so that all Yukoners receive an appropriate level of care as they wait for placement in a continuing care facility.

Our collective actions to address this pressure are only one aspect of our government’s larger continuing-care commitment. We are seeing that Yukoners can trust this government to take action on the issues that affect the daily lives of our families and friends.

I am extremely proud of the efforts from those working tirelessly to alleviate bed pressures at the hospital and our other care facilities.  I want to thank all the doctors, nurses, departmental staff and leaders who were brought together in developing this plan, to find short-term solutions as we await the opening of our much needed Whistle Bend facility in 2018.