Question re: Economic growth - April 12, 2016

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, in early March, the Yukon government had taxpayers foot the bill for a flyer that was mailed across the territory. It was a Report to Yukoners that boldly stated this government is — and I quote: “growing our economy”.

The Conference Board of Canada recently confirmed our economy shrank last year and has in fact shrunk three years in a row. In a few months’ time, the territory’s last operating hardrock mine will be shutting its doors. The government’s own forecast says — and I quote: “Real GDP is expected to contract for the third consecutive year” for 2015 — so much for the claim that the government has successfully been growing our economy.

When is this government going to admit that its economic record is actually one of failure?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: Of course the Government of Yukon continues to invest to strengthen infrastructure and to contribute to the diversification of the economy. It’s very important to us. We see this government continue to spend millions of dollars investing in everything from infrastructure such as roads to infrastructure in fibre. We continue to invest in education. We take the economy very seriously. We continue to invest in tourism. We’ve seen from the Minister of Tourism — she has spoken at length about all of the great investments we’ve made there.

We do understand that the global markets are in a downturn and we continue to work to make the Yukon a great place.

Mr. Silver: When the Yukon Party 2.0 came into office in 2011, there were three operating hardrock mines in the Yukon, and in a few months’ time, there will be none. The government has had successive billion-dollar budgets at their disposal. Transfer payments from Ottawa have increased every year as well. Despite this, we have just completed our third year in a row of economic decline — the worst performance, Mr. Speaker, in all of Canada.

Now, the Yukon Party loved to take credit when things were going good, but they are singing a different tune now that things are bad. Here’s one of the bold statements from the archives — and I quote: “The boom-and-bust swings of the past will be largely mitigated by sound economic planning and investment attraction efforts.”

Why has this government delivered three years in a row of “bust”?

Hon. Mr. Kent: I’ll respond to the member’s questions about the mining industry. Of course, it’s something that has been one of the cornerstones of our economy for well over 100 years. The placer mining industry itself is continuing to grow over the past number of years, employing a number of Yukoners in the Klondike region and throughout other regions in the Yukon as well, including Mayo, Carmacks and the Kluane region. We’re seeing tremendous success and growth in that industry — and largely family-run operations that employ many Yukoners and spend in those Yukon communities.

On the hardrock side, we see projects like Kaminak’s Coffee property moving out of the exploration and advanced exploration into a permitting phase — very excited to see that happen. The privately owned Kudz Ze Kayah property by BMC will see the largest exploration expenditures in the territory this year — I believe close to $14 million US.

I spoke to the chair of the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board this morning, and he is optimistic about the markets and the fact that during the period between Roundup and PDAC, companies were able to raise money for exploration opportunities — his very own project at Eagle — Victoria Gold — there’s exploration activity there as we speak.

Again, we’re seeing tremendous activity in the mining industry.

Mr. Silver: I agree that we have a lot to thank for with the placer mining industry, and the fact that they can sell their product in American dollars.

Mr. Speaker, this government has developed three years of negative growth in the economy — the single-worst economy in all of Canada — yet it has the nerve to produce brochures with taxpayers’ money that claim that it’s growing the economy. The federal budget even singled out Whitehorse for needing extra help for people with EI. The Yukon Party has blamed low mineral prices, they’ve blamed YESAA, and they’ve blamed the new federal government, but is unwilling to admit its role in how we got to the bottom of Canada’s economic barrel. Coasting on high mineral prices, refusing to address the regulatory uncertainty, and a habit of meeting First Nation governments in courts are all things that this government has control over that are not making a difference.

Mr. Speaker, this is bad for the economy. When is the government going to accept that it’s part of the problem and not part of the solution when it comes to our economy?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: We’ve heard the ministers of Economic Development and Energy, Mines and Resources talk about many of the things we’re doing during an economic downturn to ensure that this territory is in the best position to move forward very quickly when the economy turns around. We don’t live in a bubble.

The member opposite knows that this is a situation that is occurring not only Yukon, but in fact in all jurisdictions that have a resource industry as the primary driver of their economy. We only have to look to the east to the Northwest Territories or to Nunavut as well.

We are continuing to focus on doing what we can. To add to the comments the ministers made, there’s a $3-million increase in our IT investment this year — from $6.5 million to $9.5 million. That money will put many Yukoners to work with high-paying jobs. The reality when it comes to the parties opposite is that, when it comes to mining, as I’ve said many times, the NDP supports mining so long as it’s done somewhere else, and of course the Liberal Party supports everything, but sadly stands for nothing.