Whitehorse: With an eye towards weathering the very real possibility of another global economic recession the government’s top priority for 2012 should be to maintain a strong economy, says Liberal Leader Darius Elias.
“We need to maximize the benefits of our emerging oil and gas industry, start to diversify our economy, encourage new investments and clear up uncertainty in our regulatory processes,” Elias said. “We will be affected by the continued financial turmoil in the United States and Europe, the federal government’s planned cuts and Canada’s own economic performance.”
Elias pointed to employment in the mining industry as an area that needs improvement.
“Yukoners were told recently that more than half the jobs at Yukon’s three operating mines are occupied by people from Outside,” he said. “More needs to be done to ensure those high-paying jobs go to Yukoners and the government could start by addressing the housing needs of these workers. The business community has been encouraging the government to do more on this front for the last two years.”
As the government puts the 2012-2013 budget together it should keep in mind the recreation needs of rural Yukon.
“Tangible recreation assets mean healthy communities,” Elias said. “We need new recreation facilities in Ross River, Dawson, Old Crow and Carmacks and we expect to see funding for all four in the spring of 2012.”
The Liberal Caucus is already on record requesting an increase in funding to the major crimes unit of the RCMP “M” division and hope to see that in the budget as well.
On the legislative front, Elias wants to see a revised Yukon Oil & Gas Actin the fall sitting, work begun on an improved Environment Act, Wildlife Act and amended family, child and property laws.
“The previous Yukon Party government began work on updating our oil and gas legislation but chose not to proceed,” he said. “Changes could certainly be ready by this fall and other legislation should be updated as well. Many of these bills are quite outdated and we need to catch up with the times.”
As education critic Elias believes the Education Minister has his work cut out for him.
“The to-do list is quite long and includes improving the graduation rates of students, attempting to negotiate a settlement to the francophone school situation and continuing to move forward with a new F.H. Collins school,” he said. “Replacing the Yukon Student Information System (YSIS) and improving data collection on drop-outs should also be on the priority list.”
Elias remains optimistic the new government will work with members of the opposition.
“There’s a new premier, 15 new MLAs and I am optimistic that we, as public representatives, can address the issues of our time and secure a future for our children that ensures prosperity, growth and compassion for those who need help,” he said. “No one political party has all the answers or good ideas and it is incumbent on a responsible government to represent 100% of Yukoners, not just the Yukon Party supporters. That’s leadership.”
Outside the Yukon Legislative Assembly there are others levels of government at play as well.
“There is certainly a great deal of work to be done in the area of First Nations relations and it starts with reconvening the Yukon Forum,” he said. “We’ll be looking to government to work in co-operation with first nations, municipal leaders, the Government of Canada, non-government organizations and industry to solve problems and foster strong partnerships.”
Contact: Jason Cunning 667-8942
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