Question re: Economic growth - April 11, 2016

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, we know that one of the defining accomplishments of this government has been to ratchet up uncertainty for investors, particularly in the resource sector. The uncertainty was reflected in the rankings of the latest Fraser Institute mining report.

It was also reflected in mining exploration in the territory, which is down again this year by 18 percent. It has actually dropped almost every year that the Yukon Party 2.0 has been in office.

Now ongoing court battles with First Nations and regulatory uncertainty have tarnished our reputation as a good place to do business. A perfect example of this is the Yukon Party’s botched attempt to amend Bill S-6, or YESAA.

Mr. Speaker, will the Premier now take responsibility for the regulatory uncertainty raised by this government’s failed YESAA review?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I’m happy that the Leader of the Liberal Party wants to talk a little bit about money, because I want to talk about the fact of how Yukoners were really disappointed that, on the first day of this Sitting, the first opportunity that the Liberal leader had to ask a question of the government, what he did, Mr. Speaker, was stand up and defend cuts to expected funding to this Yukon government, Mr. Speaker. He stood up and defended the federal Liberal Party. Mr. Speaker, that says a lot about the Liberal leader and, in fact, the Liberal Party, because Yukoners know that the Yukon Party is not affiliated with any federal political party and that we will continue to stand up for the interests and the priorities of Yukoners every day.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I don’t think I heard one iota of an answer in that response. Regulatory uncertainty is a huge problem right now in our resource sector. It comes up when I meet with mining companies and with oil and gas companies that want to do business here. This is one of the reasons that our economy has shrunk for three years in a row. It is one of the reasons why we continue to drop in the Fraser Institute’s mining rankings. It is one of the reasons exploration has dropped off every single year that this government has been in office, and it wasn’t that long ago that the Premier was singing the praises of YESAA. This is him in 2013 — and I quote: “Frameworks like YESAA enable us to harness the momentum of the past decade and turn it into sustainable economic growth...”

Why has this government been unable to deliver on economic growth that it promised just three years ago?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the regulatory side of things with resource industries, our government is leading a cooperative effort with assessors, regulators, First Nations and industry to improve the timeliness, clarity, transparency and effectiveness of the mine licensing process. This work is designed to establish common standards, simplify the processes and clarify the roles of regulatory agencies to provide certainty for companies that want to do business in the Yukon.

We are proud of the fact that our government stands up as a pro-resource and pro-business government. All members on this side of the House recognize the value of the mining industry and the oil and gas industry, not only to the social fabric of the Yukon but to our economy moving forward.

We will continue to do the hard work when it comes to improving our regulatory regime, investing in infrastructure and investment attraction as done by the Minister of Economic Development and his department. There is a lot of work that needs to be done and we will continue, as I mentioned, to do that hard work in these down commodity times so that when the commodity prices come back, as they always do, we will be in a better position coming out of this current slide than we were going in. We will be able to attract those Outside investment dollars that will help to drive the economy of the Yukon and our resource industries.

Mr. Silver: I actually appreciate an answer from the minister, which is different from the Premier who is ducking his responsibility for the role that he has played in creating the only economy in Canada that has shrunk three years in a row. They were singing the praises of YESAA to anybody who would listen back just three years ago.

With regard to the government blaming low mineral prices, here is a quote from Yukon Party 1.0 — and I quote: “Yukon’s climb to the top of the rankings has absolutely nothing to do with world mineral prices; it has everything to do with us — this government — making the changes necessary to restore investor confidence in the Yukon.” Mr. Speaker, when things are good, the Yukon Party wants to take credit and when they are bad, they blame world mineral prices; or in this case, YESAA.

Last week, the new federal minister was here to start cleaning up the mess left by this government after the YESAA review. Mr. Speaker, what role, if any, will this government play in fixing this mess — one which it created?

Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in my earlier response to the member opposite, we’re excited about the work that is underway to address some of the regulatory inefficiencies that we have and it is work that is being led by our government but has full participation from assessors and regulators and First Nations as well as industry.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to certainty in the resource industry, there are a number of factors that the government does control. Obviously there are policy factors that are controlled by the government and this is a government that, as I mentioned, does believe in responsible resource development and our policies are very reflective of that. The work that we do on the ground with First Nations and industry and our other partners is also reflective of that.

Mr. Speaker, we can talk about a royalty regime. You need to have a competitive royalty regime in place. We saw the New Democrats in their last platform seek to raise royalties and establish some sort of a fund that they would use from additional royalties. We have to be competitive when it comes to royalties and taxation. That’s something that our government is very committed to.

As well, Mr. Speaker, infrastructure — the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, in a previous question here today, asked the Minister of Yukon Development Corporation about taking the transmission line from Stewart to Keno City to shovel-ready. Those are the types of things that we need to continue to invest in. That’s what Outside investors are telling us when we’re in Toronto and Vancouver and other places. We’ll continue to listen to those who have the dollars and resources to put into our industry.