Question re: Parks Canada funding cuts
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier. Over the last number of years, Parks Canada has been slowly pulling out of Dawson City. Last summer’s decision to end guided tours at Dredge No. 4 was only the latest in a long line of cutbacks. For example, the assets of Bear Creek are no longer open to the public and SS Keno is only partially open.
I am sympathetic to local Parks Canada staff as Ottawa continues to reduce funding; however, there is an appetite in Dawson to see these, and other assets such as Bear Creek, being better utilized.
Does the Premier recognize the long-term impact these cuts have on the community of Dawson, and what, if anything, does this government plan to do about it?Read more
Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction
Mr. Silver: Last week the Government of Yukon announced an update on the F.H. Collins school project. The minister was pleased with media reports on Friday, including the story about a new design being chosen.
After spending at least $6 million on the project, the Yukon Party decided to start all over again in the spring. That money is already spent. I believe that the government made the wrong decision the first time around when it decided not to rebuild the tech and trades wing at the school. Unfortunately the media coverage from Friday confirms that the trade wing will not be rebuilt in the new school. I asked the minister on the second day of this spring sitting if he would consider including a new tech and trades wing in the new school. He replied at that time: “…the short answer to the member’s question is yes.” My question is why, or did he in fact change his mind?Read more
Question re: First Nations/government relations
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, last fall the Premier cancelled a scheduled meeting of the Yukon Forum on very short notice. Chiefs from around the territory had already travelled into Whitehorse for the meeting, only to be informed that the Premier would not be meeting with them. This is an example of the government’s frayed relationship with Yukon First Nations.
This week, the government announced plans to meet more often with Yukon First Nation leaders. The Premier deemed this revelation worthy enough to issue a press release confirming that more meetings would be planned. The Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations does not, however, share the Premier’s excitement. She told local media, and I quote: “…it’s the government’s feeling that we shouldn’t have to sit down and rehash issues, but we should be able to celebrate at the Yukon Forum. If we’re going to celebrate anything, the legwork has to be done…”
Why is this government dictating when it will meet and what will be on the forum agenda?Read more
Question re: Electrical rate stabilization fund
Mr. Silver: Earlier this week, I asked the minister responsible for energy about the new hydro projects. He didn’t want to talk about the new projects. After 10 years in office, the Yukon Party has no new hydro projects on the table ready to go. He did want to talk about rising energy rates inYukon. I welcome this conversation. We know that power rates will be increasing by close to 12 percent under this minister’s watch as a result of recent Yukon Utilities Board hearings. The interim electrical rebate provides residential customers with a maximum rebate of $26.62 per month for the first 1,000 kilowatt hours of power used. It is automatically applied to residential power bills.
The Yukon Party government rebate has been in place since 2009 and has been renewed annually in the last number of years. Given the recent 12-percent increase in bills, the need for this rebate is greater than ever. What is the future of this rebate? Will it go beyond March 31, 2014?Read more
Question re: Shakwak project
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Highways and Public Works about the future of the Shakwak project. Since the 1970s the United States government has been providing funding to upgrade the highway from Haines, Alaska, to Beaver Creek. Over the years the funding provided for construction that has totalled more than $400 million. In 2011, Shakwak accounted for approximately 40 percent of our entire highway construction budget. In 2011 it was $20 million, and in this year’s budget it is $17.5 million. The problem is the funding for the project for future years has been cut off in the United States. What is the minister doing to get the United States government to continue funding this important project?Read more
Question re: Energy supply and demand
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, we have had many discussions this spring about the government’s failure to plan for an energy cliff that Yukon is about to go over. Demand is rising when our supply can’t keep up. This lack of planning has left the government scrambling to keep up and has resulted in Yukoners paying higher electricity bills. The government is now moving ahead with plans to burn natural gas to try and address this problem. It’s better than diesel, but it’s certainly not a green fuel. A lack of planning has left us with no other options. The minister told this House a short time ago, “We do have a commitment to continue to pursue the development of hydro projects.” This is something we can support, Mr. Speaker.
Other than the project in Skagway that we’ve already discussed and is years away, what hydro project is the government pursuing and when might it be ready?Read more
Question re: F.H. Collins Secondary School reconstruction
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Highways and Public Works on some contracts related to F.H. Collins.
When the Premier announced he was pulling the plug on the old design of F.H. Collins, he said the approved construction budget, as detailed by two separate independent estimators, was $38.6 million. On the second day of this sitting, back on March 25, I asked the Premier to release those estimates so that the public could see whether or not they did, in fact, match the construction budget. He refused to answer.
Almost six weeks later, the government is still refusing to release those independent estimates. It is my understanding that these contracts were led by Highways and Public Works. Will the minister release these estimates so that the public can see whether or not they did, in fact, match the construction budget?Read more
Question re: Tombstone Territorial Park management
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, earlier this year, I attended a public meeting about the Tombstone Territorial Park Management Plan. It requires a review three years after the plan’s approval and that is what is happening this spring.
One of the issues that was raised at the meeting was search and rescue in the park. The park management committee drafted its recommendations that Yukon develop regulations necessary to fully implement the park’s management plan. This will help manage the park and ensure public safety.
The current policy of the government is “hiker beware.” The Department of Environment’s website warns visitors, and I quote: “Yukon Parks staff do not have the capacity or responsibility for initiating search and rescue.”
Inevitably, the Klondike Search and Rescue Association and the RCMP are involved in any rescue. As the numbers of visitors continue to increase, so will the number of people who will encounter problems. How does the government plan to address this concern?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the government about Holland America’s plans for the upcoming tourism season and beyond.
It is my understanding that the company plans to scale back or altogether cut bus tours that go through the Kluane region beginning next summer. This change of plans will have a dramatic effect on the economy of the Kluane region, particularly the communities of Haines Junction and also of Beaver Creek.
Is the government aware of these potential changes? And what information has the government received from Holland America directly about their plans for tours on the north Alaska Highway?Read more
Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, in a recent article in the local newspaper, the Premier was asked about the potential of opening the Victoria Gold mine near Mayo.
The original plan for the mine was to tie into the existing power grid. However, the Premier told the paper that there is now a second option on the table: having the mine generate its own power by burning diesel or possibly a diesel-natural gas mix, and I quote: “Those two options are still on the table and being discussed by the company and officials as well”. The article goes on to say that, according to the Victoria Gold president, the company has no plans to generate its own power, “No, it’s still our intention to tie into the grid. We’re actually not permitted to have our own power system, so we’re working very closely with Yukon Energy Corporation to tie into the grid and have them provide power.”
The company and the Premier seem to be in contradiction with each other here, and I just want to know: Does the Premier stand by his comments, or does he want to correct the public record?Read more