Question re: Affordable Housing - May 15, 2014

Mr. Silver:   In February of this year, the minister issued a news release about the Yukon Housing Corporation’s affordable rental housing development competition. At that time, the minister commented — and I quote: “Announcements on the successful proponents and their projects are anticipated in April.”

It is now the middle of May and we are well into this year’s building season. My question is: When will these projects be announced so that people can get to work on them?

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Question re: Search and rescue services - May 14, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Last year, the Government of Yukon completed a risk assessment of the territory’s search and rescue capabilities. The objective was to assess the capabilities of the territory’s search and rescue program to respond to incidents, to identify areas of greatest concern and to address those concerns.

This is an issue that I have raised before with the Minister of Environment about what types of services were available in Tombstone, for example. The report made several recommendations and said — and I quote: “The existing level of service for search and rescue may not meet the perceived needs in the future.”

How has the government responded to this report?

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Question re: Fibre optic link - May 13, 2014

Mr. Silver:   With regard to a second fibre optic link to the south through Juneau, yesterday the Minister of Economic Development said — and I quote: “I am committed to this project.” 

Last year, the government awarded, without competition, a contract to a company to look into this project and that report recommended — and I quote: “that a privately owned company be established to implement a Whitehorse–Juneau fibre optic link with connections to Seattle as well as offer wholesale data and internet services in Whitehorse. The company will require a one-time grant of at least $12.8 Million to cover half of the startup costs and enable a viable business plan. The business plan assumes funding from both public and private sources, capacity sharing agreements with Northwestel, and a 10 year commitment from the Government of Yukon to purchase connection capacity from the new company.”

How does this plan for a $13-million subsidy to start a new company fulfill the Yukon Party’s commitment to maintain a level playing field in supporting small businesses?

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Question re: Brewery Creek mine - May 12, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question about the Brewery Creek project near Dawson City. The project is owned by Golden Predator Mining Corporation. The company has owned the property for several years now and recently restarted their environmental screening to restart the mine.

As the minister knows, the company has spent a great deal of money on this project. The Government of Yukon has issued three placer mining leases on top of the Brewery Creek quartz mining project. Golden Predator has described these three leases as potentially fatal to the successful restart of the Brewery Creek mine.

What actions has the minister taken to resolve this issue?

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Question re: Diesel to liquified natural gas generator conversion - May 8, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Last week, the Yukon Utilities Board rejected parts of an application from Yukon Electrical Company Limited for new power generation in Watson Lake. The Utilities Board is currently looking at an application from Yukon Energy Corporation for a new LNG facility here in Whitehorse. In other words, it has not yet been approved. At the same time, YESAB is reviewing that project and has not issued an approval either. While these approvals remain up in the air, the government has gone ahead already and spent $17 million on the project, including more than $8 million to purchase the new LNG generators themselves.

Mr. Speaker, as we saw in Watson Lake last week, sometimes projects don’t get approved. Why has the government made such a huge financial commitment to a project that has yet to be approved? Are there any penalties involved if the government has to cancel some of the commitments that it has already made?

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Question re: School calendar - May 7, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Minister of Education. In February 2013, the government proposed that Yukon schools, including rural ones, move to a common school calendar. The idea was immediately rejected by rural schools. I told the minister at that time, if you’re going to go with a common calendar, adapt the Dawson model Yukon-wide. It was developed based upon local need and local input. This model was not an option when the department gave the school councils a choice for the calendars.

A year later, after many meetings and a survey from the minister’s department, the government has abandoned their idea of a common calendar for both Whitehorse and rural schools. Can the minister tell Yukoners how much money was spent on this process, which essentially has left the status quo in place?

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Question re: Yukon College university accreditation - May 6, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Mr. Speaker, I have a question about a Yukon Party campaign commitment made by the Premier. He said in a September 28, 2011 press release — and I quote: “By taking a leading role, we will work toward developing Yukon College into a northern university. We will work to explore university models, identify which model is best suited for Yukoners and northerners alike, and commit to achieving that goal.”

Since this bold promise was made, this government has been completely silent on this issue, perhaps thinking that if we don’t talk about it, no one will remember the commitment that we made in the first place.

Mr. Speaker, why has no progress been made on this promise during the entire first half of this government’s mandate?

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Question re: First Nation participation in mining sector - May 5, 2014

Mr. Silver:   On Friday morning, the Premier held a private meeting with the Yukon First Nation chiefs to discuss changes to the class 1 mining thresholds. At the meeting, the Premier announced that new class 1 restrictions imposed in the Ross River traditional territory last year are going to be put in place in the traditional territories of both the White River and the Liard First Nations starting July 1 of this year. He also said that notification for class 1 activities would be introduced Yukon-wide sooner rather than later. These new class 1 thresholds are results of the Ross River Court of Appeal decision handed down last year. The Yukon Party has insisted, since the decision was released, that it only applied to Ross River and not to other First Nations. Now, on the eve of another exploration season, the government has now changed its mind. Why?

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Question re: Second fibre optic line - May 1, 2014

Mr. Silver:   Last year, the government provided funding for a feasibility study for a second fibre optic line in the Yukon. Yukoners are well aware of what happens when a backhoe down south digs up the one line that we do have.

When the minister announced the project last year, he said — and I quote: “An alternate fibre optic link would improve the availability and reliability of communications services and enable competition and innovation in the telecommunications sector in Yukon.”

Mr. Speaker, the funding went to Dempster Energy Services, with no competition. I don’t believe that a copy of the funding arrangement has ever been made public. How much did the government provide for the study and what funding envelope specifically did this come out of?

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Question re: Mining regulatory uncertainty - April 30, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Premier. During the 2011 election campaign, the Yukon Party committed to, and I quote, “…work with industry, the federal government, and First Nation governments to establish greater certainty for access to resources, water licenses and permits by creating a clear permitting regime …” During the first two and a half years of its mandate, the government has in fact gone in the opposite direction and, according to a recent Fraser report, actually increased the level of uncertainty by its actions and inactions.

During the Geoscience Forum held last fall in Whitehorse, the Premier told delegates, “Our government has also submitted proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Act or YESAA to the federal government.”

Can the Premier tell Yukoners who developed these amendments and explain why they have not been made public yet?

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