Question re: Mineral development strategy - May 11, 2016

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. In early March, the Yukon Party had taxpayers foot the bill for a flyer that was mailed across the territory. It was a report to Yukoners that tried to make the case that this government is growing our economy. The Conference Board of Canada recently confirmed that our economy shrank last year and in fact has been shrinking the last three years in a row.

In a few months’ time, the territory’s last hard rock mine will be shutting its doors. Our hard rock mining industry has flatlined. In mid-November 2014, the government announced a mineral development strategy would be in place by November 2015. Madam Speaker, why is the mineral development strategy not yet completed?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Again, work continues on the mineral development strategy with First Nations. We’re excited about what they will provide, which is a 10-year vision for the mineral development industry in the territory, looking at a number of aspects that will positively affect that so that we can emerge from this current downturn in a much better place than when we went in.

I should mention as well that the previous downturn that we saw in the late 1990s and early 2000s saw exploration numbers down into single digits, around $7 million. Certainly there were geologists leaving the territory and we were losing capacity.

This last current downturn, we still see opportunities. Mines are being permitted. Victoria Gold has their Eagle project permitted and ready to go, waiting for investor dollars. We see success with Kaminak, Wellgreen and BMC. There are many projects that we have to be proud of and there are substantial exploration numbers as well. In fact, the lowest exploration season that we’ve had in this latest downturn is better than the previous high that we had in the mid-1990s.

So there is still work being done. We’re proud of the industry and what they’re able to accomplish and we’re there to support them and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them.

Mr. Silver: It’s worthy also to note that when Yukon Party 2.0 came into office in 2011, there were three operating mines and in a few months there will be none.

In late February 2015, the government promised as it geared up for the annual PDAC mining conference that — quote: “By early 2016 a mineral development strategy will be in place...”

Madam Speaker, in March of this year the minister told Kitco News that he was preparing to launch the first draft of the strategy in the spring. We know the strategy was set to go to Cabinet, but was pulled from the agenda at the last minute this spring.

So Madam Speaker, can the minister explain how continually missing deadlines is improving confidence in our mineral development industry?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Thank you very much, Madam Speaker. Again, when it comes to the mineral development strategy — and industry certainly understands this in conversations that I have had with them — they recognize the importance of ensuring that First Nations are comfortable and confident in the mineral development strategy that we bring forward. We continue to work with First Nations.

There have been some delays in bringing forward the document. I recognize that. Industry recognizes that. We’ve been in conversations with them about it and I think obviously it’s important to ensure that our First Nation governments are confident with the document that comes forward. That’s why we’re taking the extra time required to get this document right. As I mentioned, it is designed to guide the mineral industry for the next 10 years. We’re very proud of it and, as I mentioned previously, we are proud of the resiliency of the industry here.

The record exploration numbers that we experienced in 2011 and 2012 have led to some significant discoveries — discoveries that are still being advanced through permitting, such as Kaminak’s Coffee project, Victoria’s Eagle project, BMC’s project, and Selwyn. There are a number that continue to show positive signs of moving forward. We’re proud of that and we’re excited about the future, not only of the hard rock industry, but of the placer industry as well.

Mr. Silver: Madam Speaker, there’s uncertainty because the minister sets deadlines and then doesn’t keep those deadlines, and then speaks of these deadlines in the media. This is the party that has said before that the boom-and-bust swings of the past will largely be mitigated by sound economic planning and by investment attraction efforts. It’s not necessarily working that way.

Another process to regulatory certainty — or uncertainty — for the mining industry is the mining licence improvement initiative. Like the mineral strategy, it was started late in the mandate and will produce no results by the time this government’s mandate has expired.

So, Madam Speaker, why has this government failed to address — over its entire term in office — the issue of regulatory uncertainty for resource developers?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Madam Speaker. What we do know is that the Liberal solution to the resource industry is to impose a new tax that would create a tremendous increase in costs, which will again make that industry less competitive than it is now. That is the Liberal plan: “Let’s add another tax on top of the existing expensive cost of living that we have up here.”

We’re very optimistic about the future of this territory with a Yukon Party government, and this party says that now, more than ever, we must stand up for our resource industry.