Question re: Economic growth - November 28, 2013

Hansard November 28, 2013

Mr. Silver:   The Yukon Party government has a little bit of a problem. Our economy is heading in the wrong direction and it has done very little to prepare for it. This year, we are 11th out of 13 places in Canada in terms of economic growth. A spokesperson for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently said there is a drop in optimism that they have found in their membership in the Whitehorse area over the past year.

In this year’s budget speech, the Premier said, “Our objective has been and continues to be to develop an economy that is less dependent upon government spending and more reliant on the private sector.” Can the Minister of Economic Development confirm that, in the last 12 months, private sector employment was down by 700 jobs, or 5.7 percent, from October of 2012?

Hon. Mr. Dixon:         What I can confirm is that both the economic forecast put forward by the Government of Yukon, as well as the economic forecast put forward by the Conference Board of Canada, project Yukon’s economy to grow this year for the 10th consecutive year in a row.

This is in a climate of a fairly down economy, with weak mineral prices and a soft investment climate for mining companies. For that climate to still produce growth is a testament to the resilience of the economy here in the Yukon. We’ve continued to make strategic investments throughout the territory to grow our economy and to diversify it.

What is particularly disappointing is when we see the members opposite — and particularly the Liberal Party — cheer against those projects and root against economic projects in this territory because they see a political gain in it.

I think what we will continue to do is focus on growing the private sector in this territory, allowing the development of a healthy mining industry, diversifying through investing in tourism and the knowledge sector and creating opportunities for Yukoners right here at home.

Mr. Silver:   I won’t apologize for bringing forth the private sector’s concerns. I think the minister is missing the point. For his information, the private sector employment is down 700 jobs or 5.7 percent from October of last year. At the same time, public sector employment has increased by 400 or 5.5 percent. The Premier is failing in his objective to be more reliant on the private sector. Over the last 12 months, we are in fact heading in the opposite direction. Private sector jobs are down almost six percent and public sector ones are up more than five percent. The stat just doesn’t back up the government’s story that our private sector is growing.

Mr. Speaker, this government coasted for many years on massive upswings in mineral prices. During that time, the Yukon Party refused to take action to diversify our economy to deal with the slowdown that we knew would eventually happen and there is no plan B. Why does the Premier keep saying the private sector is growing when in fact it is shrinking?

Hon. Mr. Dixon:         What we know from the Liberal Party, and in particular the Leader of the Liberal Party, is that they are vastly out of touch with the economy in this territory. We have heard a number of statements by him in this House and outside of the House that are widely divergent from what we’re actually hearing from people in the economy.

For instance, I’ll give an example. When the Premier and Minister of Tourism returned from their tourism mission to Europe, the Leader of the Liberal Party suggested that it was a disappointment and it was a wasted opportunity. The next day after that, the president and CEO of Air North said it was a wonderful opportunity and they hailed the government and said the agreements that they signed simply wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the presence of the Premier and the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

We’ve heard the Liberal leader suggest that a number of the mining projects that are slated to go forward won’t go forward because he doesn’t think they will. We’ve heard him denounce business plans of private companies in this territory. What we have to point out is that the Liberal leader is vastly out of touch with the economy in this territory and really has no validity or basis for the claims he’s making.

Mr. Silver:   The minister opposite is vastly out of touch with answers in the Legislative Assembly. The Yukon Party government has only been too happy to ride the wave when prices went up. It is now the fault of the global market forces, according to the minister.

For many years, the Yukon Party took credit for a strong economy saying that it was all their doing. Here’s a quote from the minister’s predecessor, and I quote: “The boom-and-bust swings of the past will be largely mitigated by sound economic planning and investment attraction efforts.” The president of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board said this week that we are seeing a slowdown.

We are seeing the effects of the Yukon Party relying solely on high mineral prices to drive our economy. Now that the mineral prices are falling, we will have one of the worst economic growths this year in Canada, only behind Northwest Territories and New Brunswick. What changes is this government making to adjust to this slowdown?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     The Liberal Party and the Liberal leader certainly are out of touch with the economy and he continues to show it every day, whether he comes out here and tells us he wants to ban mining in the Peel area and the next day he’s in support of mining within Ross River.

This economy has grown for 10 consecutive years in virtually every sector, and the Minister of Economic Development has eloquently on many occasions talked about some of the great diversification that we continue to support in this territory, such as the knowledge network and the IT network, but it doesn’t end.

Simply, this is really about Liberal math and I’d like to go back today to a comment that was made this week by the Leader of the Liberal Party when he talked about the hospital expansion being $15-million overbudget. There has been no budget for the hospital expansion, so I’m not sure how the Liberal leader can assume and make the accusation that it’s already $15-million overbudget when there in fact has never been a budget. We won’t have a budget for that hospital until we actually decide what will be in the hospital, and once we know what that will be, we will go forward with a design and we’ll be able to estimate exactly what the price will be. As I say, this is another example of Liberal math at work, continuing to show us that they are out of touch with the economy.