Question re: Community Consultation - October 22, 2015

Mr. Silver: For many years, the Government of Yukon, no matter which party was in charge, held community fall tours to engage with citizens and gather input for the spring budget. That practice was scrapped in 2010 and not revived with this government when they came into office, until now — sort of.

I’m pleased with the Yukon Party announcement that it’s actually going to consult some Yukoners in the upcoming election-year budget. After four years in office, the Yukon Party is finally admitting that they are out of touch and they want to start listening to Yukoners. The good people of the north are smarter than that, and this death-bed conversion from the Yukon Party is a hard pill to swallow and it begs many, many questions.

The government released a press release saying it had a local consultant hired to develop a list of potential participants who will be invited to take part in these discussions. Why did the government have to hire a consultant to tell them that it’s a good idea to talk to Yukoners?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: This government, to a man and a woman, meets and talks and listens to Yukoners on a daily basis. In this community and every other community, that has not changed. That will continue to go forward as we listen to Yukoners, and we deliver on what we hear. In 2011, after listening to Yukoners, we put forward to the citizens of this territory what our platform was, what we had heard from Yukoners, and I’m proud to report, Mr. Speaker, that we have essentially almost completely delivered, or are currently delivering, everything in that platform. We’ve worked hard, we’ve been responsible with taxpayers’ money, and we’ve done it responsibly. I enjoy speaking about the fact that other jurisdictions like to talk about deficits and surpluses and live within the moment of that current fiscal year — the reason being is that those other provinces, territories and the federal government carry billions of dollars of debt that they have to pay interest on. They don’t talk about that debt because they have that debt.

I am proud to report that this jurisdiction does not have that debt. We have not mortgaged our children’s and our grandchildren’s futures to pay for things today — and we’ll continue to do that.

Mr. Silver: We’re forgetting to talk about the corporations’ debts, but we’ll leave that for another day.

Mr. Speaker, this news release announcement reads more like an admission of guilt than an exercise in diplomacy. The Yukon Party, as an organization, has isolated and alienated so much of the general public over the years — they have finally looked around the room and realized they’re alone. The room is empty because people are so sick and tired of not being heard and nobody believes this government genuinely wants to hear their views — from the Peel consultations to the fracking committee report to education reform to Bill S-6. When the Yukon Party says, “We really want to hear from you”, nobody is listening anymore and they have themselves to blame for this.

Why is the government making these meetings invite-only and refusing to hold public meetings?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: What we’ve heard from Yukoners is what their priorities are, and those are our priorities: focusing on jobs, focusing on opportunities for youth, training opportunities, focusing on education with our new vision that is focused on successful outcomes for students in health care. Those are this party’s focuses because that’s exactly what we heard from Yukoners.

All people have the opportunity to provide their input to this budget process that we are doing, simply by going to community.conversations@gov.yk.ca. I invite all people who have thoughts or suggestions on how we should continue to move forward to send their emails and their thoughts to us. We’ll continue to listen to Yukoners, as we have from the beginning. The good news is that Yukoners know that, when this government says they’re going to do something, they get it done.

Mr. Silver: Entering the 14th year of office, at least the Yukon Party has finally admitted that they are only listening to a select group of Yukoners behind closed doors. Yukoners who aren’t on the Yukon Party’s hand-picked, secretive list should be asking themselves why the Premier doesn’t want to hear their opinions. Meetings behind closed doors with secretly selected Yukoners are not the kind of public consultation that encourages more people to get involved in politics. It only breeds the kind of mistrust and scepticism in the political process that causes people to give up, to disengage.

So why did the government have to hire a consultant to tell them that they should be talking to the public? Why did the Premier make the decision to have invite-only discussions? How did they decide who gets to speak to their deaf ears?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Who we are engaging with is a broad spectrum of people from all sectors of our society here in the territory. We are going out to communities as well and talking to a broad range of people, as we will continue to listen to Yukoners, both in community conversations that we’re having across this territory and on a day-to-day basis — as we’ve heard in the grocery store, in our offices and in the communities. We’ll continue to listen to Yukoners — Yukoners who have told us that they are focused on jobs, they’re focused on education and health care. We will continue to keep our focus there and do it in a responsible and fiscally responsible manner.