Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Earlier this year, the government released its annual tourism visitor statistical report after spending $600,000 on a new visitor tracking program. The government released the report without these new numbers saying that they were simply unavailable; $600,000 and no new numbers is not a great return on this investment. Yukon tourism operators are forced once again to rely on border crossing numbers as they have for many years. The contractor from the 2012 study has asked repeatedly for access to the data that was collected at that cost of $600,000 and has repeatedly been denied that information from this government. They have even filed an access to information request to get that data so that it can be distributed to the industry.
Why is the government fighting the release of this information?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I would like to follow up on the question of infrastructure spending that I raised last week. While the Premier has been busy asking Ottawa to send more money, the Minister of Community Services has stated that he is worried too much money is on its way and the Yukon would not be able to keep up with its share. The government has known since last fall that a large influx of cash would be on the table from Ottawa and seems ill-prepared to take advantage of it.
Now, one option for the Government of Yukon to pursue would be to approach Yukon First Nation development corporations as a potential source of capital in order to take maximum advantage of the federal infrastructure dollars.
Madam Speaker, has the government even looked at this option?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. The final section of the budget speech for the spring 2015 outlined yet another attempt by the Yukon Party government to redesign our education system: “A New Vision: A Made-in-Yukon K to 12 Education Curriculum”. This was the fourth try in the last 13 years of this government to redesign, make over or change the direction of the Department of Education. Fresh out of the gates, the new plan is now just called “A New Vision”. A common complaint after years of these reviews is a lack of follow-up to measure whether any of the changes are producing better results. Without any goalposts in place, these exercises really become change for change’s sake. A full year after work has begun on a new strategy where the questions of how to measure progress on a new vision’s website come up, the answer simply says, “to be determined”.
Madam Speaker, when does the government plan to fill in these very crucial blanks?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Each year, the Department of Environment publishes information on snowpack conditions. Surveys published this spring confirm what most Yukoners already observed in the wintertime, and that is that the snowpack conditions in the Whitehorse area and across the Yukon have been well below normal.
In the Southern Lakes basin, the average has been estimated to be only 48 percent of normal. This is something that I know the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation is watching closely. A snowpack this low could mean that both Whitehorse and Aishihik hydro plants will not have the normal water in which to generate hydro. In normal conditions, the dam spills extra water. This year, we may not have that luxury.
Could the minister outline the impact of this year’s low snowpack on our hydro generation?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I think all of Yukon was taken aback last week when the chief coroner confirmed what had been rumoured for some time. Last year, a young Ross River man was killed by dogs. Yesterday, the government said three separate times that they were committed to reaching out and working together with the Ross River Dena Council. The minister also said that senior government staff attended a recent public meeting in Ross River.
Madam Speaker, has anyone from this government — and I mean an elected official — spoken with the Ross River Dena Council since this public meeting was held?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It was great to spend the weekend in the community of Watson Lake attending the annual meeting of the Association of Yukon Communities. It was interesting to hear the Minister of Community Services’ comments about Yukon infrastructure needs and federal funding, mainly because they were completely at odds with what the Premier had been saying.
The minister’s main concern was that the new Liberal government in Ottawa was planning to spend too much money here over the next 10 years and he couldn’t spend that money fast enough. He was also concerned that the Yukon had to come up with 25 percent of the project money — this is, however, exactly what the government asked for and was the subject of a unanimous motion that passed this House just last fall.
Madam Speaker, if there is so much money available, why hasn’t the government actually applied for any of it to build the Dawson runway, the fibre optic line and the new power line to Keno?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Earlier today, Statistics Canada confirmed what many Yukoners already know: our economy has stopped growing under this Yukon Party government. Statistics Canada announced that Yukon’s economy shrank for the third consecutive year in 2015. Alberta led the way and Yukon was second as the two worst performing economies in Canada. This is the third year in a row for Yukon’s economy to shrink. The Department of Economic Development produces its own report on our GDP, and the minister has that data.
Can the minister confirm that Yukon’s own GDP estimates for 2015 show our economy shrank for a third year in a row?Read more
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?Read more
Mr. Silver: After ignoring the concerns of the local business community over local hire and procurement for the last four years of the mandate of this Yukon Party, with an election on the horizon, they have finally agreed to talk about improving contracting rules. Last week, it released a glossy brochure that confirmed that a good share of the contracts go to Outside companies and that the Yukon Party has ramped up capital spending over the last two years, as the election approaches.
It failed to mention the fact that the two largest projects being built this summer have gone to contractors outside the territory. The government followed up by inviting local businesses to a conference and, for a $320 fee, they would be told by the Yukon government how the private sector can develop proposals to pursue government business.
Madam Speaker, what is the justification for such a high cost for this conference?Read more
Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier this spring, the Premier went downtown to buy a brand-new pair of shoes for budget day and sent an e-mail to all Government of Yukon employees reminding them to buy local. If only the government practised what it preaches when it comes to local purchasing and contracting. The two largest contracts underway in Yukon this year, for example, were both awarded to Outside companies. At the same time as the Premier was trying on his new shoes, the government was busy awarding a multi-million dollar contract for tourism marketing to a company from Vancouver. There has, of course, been no e‑mail to the government employees announcing this decision. There wasn’t even a news release.
Mr. Speaker, what is the value of the contract this government awarded to Cossette Communications, a Vancouver agency for tourism marketing?Read more