Mr. Silver: For many years, the Government of Yukon, no matter which party was in charge, held community fall tours to engage with citizens and gather input for the spring budget. That practice was scrapped in 2010 and not revived with this government when they came into office, until now — sort of.
I’m pleased with the Yukon Party announcement that it’s actually going to consult some Yukoners in the upcoming election-year budget. After four years in office, the Yukon Party is finally admitting that they are out of touch and they want to start listening to Yukoners. The good people of the north are smarter than that, and this death-bed conversion from the Yukon Party is a hard pill to swallow and it begs many, many questions.
The government released a press release saying it had a local consultant hired to develop a list of potential participants who will be invited to take part in these discussions. Why did the government have to hire a consultant to tell them that it’s a good idea to talk to Yukoners?Read more
Mr. Silver: The government is set to begin working on the realignment of the Dome Road in Dawson in order to allow a placer miner to access his claims. One of the outstanding questions from my constituents is what the top of the road will look like when the project is completed, particularly the intersection that occurs with Mary McLeod Road. While the government has stated that safety concerns will also be addressed by this road project, residents I have spoken with have a different point of view. They’re not too happy with the proposed realignment of the intersection, and they want a different solution — in particular, one that was under consideration by this government but was scrapped. There was a public meeting, officials stuck around afterward and a solution was in the works — a solution that would have met neighbourhood values.
Will the government revisit this issue and address these residents’ concerns?Read more
Mr. Silver: Being in the last week, I wanted to bring up something from a news release. Last fall, the Government of Yukon issued a news release informing Yukoners a new Land Titles Act would be up for debate this spring. A consultation document made the same commitment — and I’m quoting from that: “The bill is expected to be introduced during the spring 2015 session.”
Why was the bill not on this government’s agenda this spring and will it be ready for this fall?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the minister responsible for WCB. The issue of supporting first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder has been raised a few times in this Legislature. I asked last fall if the government would consider changing legislation to make it easier for first responders to make a claim for PTSD. In subsequent discussions that I have had with first responders and with others, it has been suggested that a higher priority to focus on is access to health professionals to ensure a timely diagnosis. Our legislation might be just fine the way it is.
The main problem is that we do not have access to psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnosis PTSD quickly. We have heard of cases, for example, of individuals waiting for months, or even over a year, for a proper diagnosis.
What steps is the Workers’ Compensation taking to cut the waiting time to a more responsible level?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Premier. Over the weekend, Yukoners learned that the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation signed its intent to join the appeal for the Peel land use court case.
In announcing its decision, VGFN said that it has concerns regarding the Government of Yukon’s conduct during the later stages of the Peel planning process. This brings to three the total number of Yukon First Nations now involved in this court action against the Yukon Party government.
In light of this new development, will the Government of Yukon abandon its appeal of this court case?Read more
Mr. Silver: Yesterday the government selected a B.C. company to do the new expansion at the Whitehorse General Hospital. In 2010, the chair of the hospital board told the Legislature that the expansion project would cost — and I quote — “between $45 million and $50 million”. At that point it said it would include the laboratory, medical imaging, the emergency room and the ambulance station.
He then appeared in the Legislature in 2013, and the chair said at that time that it had risen to a $60-million range. According to the announcement yesterday, the cost of the project has now ballooned to $72 million.
Can the minister explain why the cost of this project has gone up almost 50 percent since it was first announced just four years ago?Read more
Mr. Silver: Over the last two years the government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars studying the possibility of a second fibre optic link to the outside world through Juneau. This is an issue because we only have one link and it continues to get dug up in Alberta and B.C. All of the options looked at so far involve a major cash investment from the Yukon government. One report called for the government to create a privately owned company to implement a Whitehorse-Juneau fibre optic link with connections to Seattle that would offer Internet services in Whitehorse. The company would require a one-time grant of at least $12.8 million to cover half of the start-up costs and enable a business plan. The business plan also assumes a 10-year commitment from the Government of Yukon to purchase connection capacity from a new company.
We are a year further down the road in this project now. Is the government planning to invest millions of dollars to compete against Northwestel in the Internet business?Read more
Mr. Silver: The 2014 annual report from the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board made for interesting reading over the weekend. It opens with the board confirming the worst-kept secret in the Yukon — that there is no investor confidence right now. It goes downhill from there.
We know the Government of Yukon likes to pin this on low mineral prices, but there is no mention of low mineral prices in this report. The board lays the blame squarely on this government and laments the fact that the Yukon is now — and I quote: “predominantly an exploration jurisdiction” and not a mining jurisdiction. The report voices many of the same concerns that I have been raising this session — about this government’s inability to work with First Nations, regulatory uncertainty and our poor performance in the latest Fraser reporting on mining.
Does the minister accept the criticism from the board that the Yukon has become predominantly just an exploration jurisdiction?Read more
Mr. Silver: About a year ago this time, the Yukon Minister of Tourism and Culture had returned from a meeting in Dawson where he had heard concerns about a gravel runway. It was limiting the number of tourists Air North could fly in and out from Alaska, for example.
The minister stood in this House and stated that the government was to pave the runway. He also told a local newspaper. His statement was — and I quote: “…meant as a message to Yukoners and the tourism industry that the government takes their requests seriously.” A year later, we know how seriously the government took this request: There is no money in this budget to pave Dawson’s runway and there is no money in next year’s forecast either. We have a new minister but no new runway.
Mr. Speaker, why has the new minister backed away from the old minister’s promise?Read more
Mr. Silver: One of the recurring characteristics of this Yukon Party government is its habit of picking and choosing when it wants to listen to advisory boards and First Nation governments, and its handling of Bill S‑6 is one of the latest examples.
Last fall, the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development was tired of taking the blame for this legislation and let the public know that the some of the more problematic amendments were in fact slipped in by this Yukon Party government at the last minute.
On April 16, the chair of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board wrote to the federal government urging it to stand down on these four amendments. The chair argued that these amendments should be set aside, as they introduced an unstable element to environmental assessment in the Yukon.
Does the Premier agree with the chair of the board or does he side with his federal colleagues in Ottawa?Read more