Mr. Silver: Yesterday I asked the Minister of Health and Social Services a question in Question Period about the cost of the 300-bed continuing care facility this government is planning in Whistle Bend. We also had a long debate in the afternoon as well about the facility. I believe three of the members opposite got up to speak.
During Question Period and in the debate that followed, the minister had plenty of opportunities to answer the simple question that I had asked and that is: What is the cost of this new facility? Now he refused to answer the question. We have heard and seen some estimates anywhere between $268 million and $330 million, and we are looking for a confirmation. Surely the minister knows what the number is or the government would not barge ahead with the construction.
The question is simply again: What is the cost estimate for the new seniors facility?Read more
Mr. Silver: A business-case analysis was done by a private contractor on the Government of Yukon’s new 300-bed continuing care facility and listed the price of it at $330 million. Now, in this year’s budget there is $26 million set aside for the advancement of this project. Several months ago, the government referred to this as a 300-bed facility. This spring, the government changed its mind and now refers to it as a 150-bed facility. The new minister said yesterday that the second phase could be built 20 years down the road. The government has certainly changed its tune from just a few months ago.
While the government figures out how many beds it actually is going to build, can it at least tell Yukoners what the total cost for the project is going to be?Read more
Mr. Silver: I want to talk about this government’s vision on energy. It has been well known that, for many years, the Yukon Party government spent its time and resources planning to sell our energy futures to a private company from Alberta. Many fruitless years and a resignation later, Yukon Party 2.0 has decided to take a closer-to-home look to energy solutions.
For example, last year, the government funded a study to look at the viability of an electrical interconnection between Yukon and southeast Alaska. It was called the West Creek project. Last fall, the minister said that the report would be ready in February of 2015. When will that $250,000 report be released to the public?Read more
Mr. Silver: Last December, Yukoners learned that yet another capital project was mismanaged by this Yukon Party government and went over budget. Yukoners were informed, not by the minister, but by the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation, about the new LNG facility being $6.4 million — or 18 percent — overbudget.
We could add this to a long list of projects that have cost more than they were supposed to under this government’s not-so-watchful eye.
The new estimate cost, according to the president of the Energy Corporation, is $42.9 million. Can the minister tell Yukoners whether this is, in fact, the final cost, or whether he, as minister, accepts responsibility for this major cost overrun?Read more
Mr. Silver: Under the watch of this government, the Keno mine closed in 2013 and we had the second-lowest GDP of any place in Canada. In 2014, spending on mineral exploration dropped 22 percent. Across the border in the Northwest Territories, we saw a 32-percent increase in spending that same year. We began 2015 with news of Wolverine mine being closed, leaving many Yukon companies owed more than $4 million in unpaid bills. After insisting that we were a mineral hot spot in Canada, the Yukon Party has changed its tune and now blames low mineral prices for the downturn that we are currently experiencing. As we head into an election cycle, the Yukon Party has sprung into action, announcing that by 2016, a mineral development strategy will be in place.
Why did the government wait until three-and-a-half years into its mandate to begin working on this plan?Read more
Mr. Silver: For many years, the Yukon Party insisted that the upturn in mining in the territory was a direct result of their actions taken. Now that the mining industry is in decline, the government is trying to shift the blame to world mineral prices. The government is trying to have it both ways: take credit during the good times and assign the blame during the bad.
Here’s what the owner of the Eagle Gold property near Mayo said this winter — and I quote: “Everybody is a bit uneasy about the Yukon these days.” He said that the mining industry is uneasy because the Yukon government’s efforts to streamline the permitting process had been met with so much opposition. He also said that investors fear it is impossible to open a mine in the territory right now.
Mr. Speaker, this is happening under the Yukon Party’s watch. Does the government accept responsibility for the fact that investors are now saying it is impossible to open a mine in the Yukon?Read more
Mr. Silver: In 2013, as the result of another legal battle with Yukon First Nation governments, this government was under a court order to work with the Ross River Dena Council on what land would be available for staking in their traditional territory. I asked the minister in November 2013 if he would be forced into placing a staking moratorium in Ross River traditional territory due to this court order. We didn’t hear an answer in the House. However, only a few days after the Legislative session concluded, we found out at the government was unable to reach an agreement with Ross River.
Without a deal in place, the entire 63,000-square kilometre area was taken off the table for staking. Last fall the minister assured Yukoners that a deal would be done by the latest deadline of January 2105. Instead, since we last met, the government has extended the amount of time that this land will be off limits for another two years.
Why did the minister break his promise to have the land back in circulation by January 2015?Read more
Mr. Silver: This year, Yukon continues its slide down the Fraser Institute’s ranking for a good place to do mining business. Yukon has dropped from eighth in 2012-13 to 19th in 2013 to 26th in 2014 on the institute’s policy perception index. This indicates a decline in the relative attractiveness of a place to do business.
The lower scores reflect a decrease in the percentage of respondents that perceive that the following policy factors encourage investment: our legal system, down 12 points; regulatory duplication, down eight points; and administration of regulations, down eight points.
Unlike the Premier, who now blames low mineral prices, the Fraser Institute doesn’t even mention this and, instead, points its finger squarely at this government and its regulatory and legal problems. Yukoners know the government holds the Fraser Institute in a very high regard; now that we’re on the decline, does the government accept responsibility for the much lower rankings?Read more
Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. Many signed Yukon First Nation governments have tax-sharing agreements with the Yukon government. It allows them to collect income tax from people who live on First Nation settlement land. In some cases, it is a substantial amount of money. When the Government of Yukon changes income tax rates, as it does in this budget, it has a direct impact on First Nation governments’ revenue. If any level of government did something that was going to impact my bottom line, I would expect to be consulted about it before it happened.
Can the minister explain why there was no consultation with First Nation governments before these tax changes were introduced?Read more
Mr. Silver: I’ve already noted in this sitting the fact that Yukon is one of only two jurisdictions in Canada without a mental health strategy. Just over a year ago, the Department of Health and Social Services released a report called A Clinical Services Plan for Yukon Territory. One of the key findings of the report was quite blunt, Mr. Speaker — and I quote: “Mental health services are in a significant deficit outside of Whitehorse …”
Mr. Speaker, what has the government done in the year since it received the $200,000 report to address this lack of mental health services in rural Yukon?Read more