Question re: Energy projects - April 19, 2016

Mr. Silver: In the summer of 2013, the Premier announced the government was moving forward on building a new hydroelectric dam. After the Yukon Party government and the previous Energy, Mines and Resources minister spent several years trying to sell our hydro system to Alberta, this was a welcome change. The government told Yukoners that there would be a business case completed by 2015 to proceed with the planning of one or two future hydroelectric power projects. That deadline has come and gone, Mr. Speaker.

Recently, the minister admitted that in fact no project or site had been selected. After spending $2 million and two deputy ministers being let go, we still don’t have a potential project.

Why has the government not lived up to the commitment that it made for itself back in 2013?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: First of all I have to take issue with the characterization the Liberal Party leader made to deputy ministers who have served Yukon citizens ably and with distinction. He should really apologize to them and retract that remark.

I would note as well that doing this long‑term planning is something that is necessary, just as this government has benefited from the planning done by Yukoners in previous decades for hydro facilities. Hydro facility planning or any energy planning is expensive. That is a significant portion of the costs, but we believe it is important to plan for the future energy needs of the Yukon. In fact, as I have acknowledged, while the timelines for the next generation hydro planning are taking longer than originally anticipated, our focus is on working with Yukon First Nations and the Yukon public and our focus is on selecting the right energy path that will benefit future generations of Yukoners 20 to 50 years from now and beyond that time period.

Mr. Silver: The minister can try to twist out of this as much as he wants, but the reality is that the government hasn’t stuck to the schedule that it set for itself or the budget. We have seen this time and time again. This is just the latest example, Mr. Speaker. While the Premier likes to talk about meeting commitments, this is another one that has fallen by the wayside like so many other politically driven projects that this government tackles.

A business case that was supposed to be delivered by the end of last year was not ready. The minister himself admitted that the term of this government will end and no project or projects will be selected. The big hydro project was announced with great fanfare and has been followed up with some major delays.

Why hasn’t this government been able to complete the job under the deadlines that it set for itself?

Hon. Mr. Cathers: It’s truly unfortunate — as we saw yesterday, as time has gone on in this Legislative Assembly the Liberal leader is sounding more and more like his predecessor as Liberal leader with the same old tired, twisted messaging.

I would again note, Mr. Speaker, that the planning for next generation hydro has taken longer than originally anticipated, but that is because we listened to what we heard from the Yukon public and Yukon First Nations. I would note that doing this planning work takes time.

None of the energy options that the Yukon government and Yukon society have to choose from are perfect. They all have their drawbacks, they all have their costs. Our focus is on doing that detailed technical planning, on sharing it with First Nations and with the general public, and on hearing their input and working with them to select the energy option that best meets the needs of Yukoners for 20 to 50 years from now, just as we have benefited from what has been done by previous generations here in this territory. We are doing that long‑term planning that is necessary to pick the path that is best for Yukon’s energy future for future generations.

Mr. Silver: While this one‑off and politically motivated project is going on, the Yukon Energy Corporation itself is also reviewing its own 20‑year resource plan. Talk about no coordination between plans. The minister and his predecessor repeatedly told this House the plan would be ready by the end of 2015 and the project would be selected, and that has not happened. It simply has not happened.

The delay in the new dam project means that the big decisions are going to be left to the next government. I believe that this was always the plan for this public relations exercise. The government wanted to look busy on this issue, but doesn’t have the support it needs to go ahead, nor does it have the money in place to build it either.

Can the minister tell Yukoners how much money has been spent so far on this public relations exercise?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Yukoners appreciate the work and the energy that is going forward to do the due diligence to plan this project to ensure the long‑term prosperity for Yukoners. As we have seen with the previous vision, when the dams that we have in place today were built and the increased capacity that this government has done through Mayo B and through a third wheel at Aishihik — this is quite different from the Liberal plan for energy, Mr. Speaker, and that is to raise taxes, create new taxes and do what they did in the past, which was to kill the economy and drive thousands of people out of this territory. Then we won’t need extra power because we’ll have fewer people here. Yukoners appreciate a vision that is full of optimism and a path to prosperity, and that’s why Yukoners support this Yukon Party government.