WHITEHORSE – The Yukon Liberals are refusing to tell Yukoners why they are lapsing $3.85 million of the $5 million they promised to spend on the Mayo aerodrome during the summer of 2019.
The Minister of Highway and Public Works confirmed this week that only $1.15 million of the budget has been spent. However, the Liberals will not explain why over 75% of the funding is lapsing and why those lapses do not show up in the Supplementary Budget. The fact that it does not show up in the Supplementary Budget suggests that the money has been re-profiled to other projects, but the Liberals have so far refused to say where it has been reallocated.
“Despite the Liberals claims about how they have improved capital planning, and that their announcements would be thoughtful and well planned out to avoid over-budgeting and lapsing funds, we have yet to see that backed up with action from the Minister,” said Stacey Hassard, Leader of the Official Opposition. “Yukoners deserve transparency when it comes to how taxpayers’ money is being spent and the Minister’s refusal to answer simple questions is disrespectful to the Legislative Assembly. Allowing almost 75% of their investment to lapse this year only speaks to poor planning by the Minister and the inability of the Liberals to follow through with their commitments.”
The following is a copy of the Blues from today’s Question Period exchange:
Mr. Hassard: Speaking of scattershot approaches to things, this past March, the Minister of Highways and Public Works committed to spend $5 million on the Mayo aerodrome this summer. Yesterday, we confirmed that he is lapsing over 75 percent of that money. We’ve also confirmed that, even though he said that the work would be completed this summer, now it’s not scheduled to be completed until 2021. That’s about two years late, Mr. Speaker. The minister has stood in this House for the last three years claiming the amount of planning and thought that he puts into projects means they will be on time and on budget and that the announced money won’t go unspent. But now we find out he has completely dropped the ball on this project. Mr. Speaker, why has the minister failed to deliver on his commitment to spend $5 million on the Mayo aerodrome this summer?
Hon. Mr. Mostyn: As I said yesterday, the Government of Yukon is making some investments in the Mayo aerodrome, including runway reconstruction, runway lighting, and purchasing new maintenance equipment and facilities. We are doing this, Mr. Speaker, because we have an incredible new mining project up in the Mayo district. This brings a lot of jobs and a lot of investment into the territory in producing gold. Because of that incredible economic story, we have to expand our airport. We are doing that, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that there are scheduled flights. This summer, we applied to Transport Canada to certify the aerodrome as an airport and this will allow scheduled flight service on a long-term basis which will help support resource development and that mine in the region, which is a great improvement to the territory’s economy and to our GDP.
Mr. Hassard: The Minister of Highways and Public Works has so badly managed the Mayo aerodrome project that he is lapsing over 75 percent of the budget, and it is now going to be two years late. This is a fast and loose approach to contracting, and it is going to create uncertainty for the industry, but since he committed that there was $5 million in this year’s budget for the Mayo aerodrome but only spent $1.15 million of that, it should mean that the supplementary budget would show a $3.85 million line item. However, there is no line item for these lapsed funds. My question is: Why is there no line item for these lapsed funds? Has the minister reallocated this money to another project? If so, what project is it?
Hon. Mr. Mostyn: The mine in the Mayo district is just an incredible story, Mr. Speaker, and I am glad that we have that type of investment and confidence in our territory which is allowing our economy to grow and putting people to work. Because of that, we have had to improve the aerodrome in Mayo. We are spending $1.1 million in upgrades this year and another $1.8 million next year. We are also contributing another $300,000 in operation and maintenance so that we can actually keep that airport running year-round. Transport Canada will inspect the site to ensure that it meets certification standards once all of the reconstruction is complete. Lights will be installed next year to allow for night operations, which have been asked for by the flight operations at Air North and Alkan Air.
Mr. Hassard: I am not sure if my mic isn’t working or what, but apparently the minister isn’t hearing the question that I am asking. We know that this minister really doesn’t have a handle on his job, and he has a reputation for not paying attention to the details before he makes decisions. If he would like to, maybe he could take a 15-minute break and get briefed on this so that he can actually provide us with some answers, because we certainly haven’t received one yet. My question was: Why is there no line item for the $3.85 million of lapsed funding for the Mayo aerodrome? Are the Liberals purposefully delaying this project to try to get the budget back in balance?
Hon. Mr. Mostyn: Listen — a lot of words from the Leader of the Official Opposition. I appreciate his thoughts this afternoon. The Yukon government is building an aviation system that provides transportation options for Yukoners while supporting economic development. Just yesterday, Mr. Speaker, we heard that Air North is expanding its operations again, creating more work for the territory and creating more opportunities for Yukoners to get Outside. Why is that, Mr. Speaker? Because of the strategic investments we’re making in aviation throughout the territory. We have a mine up in Mayo. Why is that? Because we’re working with First Nations. We’re making sure that industry has a secure — and they can be confident that, when they make investments in the territory, that investment will see dividends. We take pride in providing a safe and secure environment for airport users, and we work closely with Transport Canada to meet or exceed national safety standards and industry best practices. The Yukon government manages and maintains four certified airports and 24 registered aerodromes in the territory, and we are very pleased with the investments — almost $40 million in aviation this year, including $1.1 million in Mayo, which is helping make that a certified airport to sustain the mine that has just opened under our government.