Question re: Economic growth - April 29, 2015

Mr. Silver: For many years, the Yukon Party insisted that the upturn in our economy was due to its great management in the territory. This was particularly true of the mining industry. The Yukon Party has also taken credit during the good times. They have been unwilling, however, to accept any blame for the current economic slowdown that we are in. A report yesterday from Statistics Canada shows that our economic growth has stalled under this government. For the second year in a row, our economy has actually shrunk. In 2014, it shrunk by 1.2 percent. By most economists’ definitions, we are now in a recession.

Does the Premier accept responsibility for the fact that our economy has gotten smaller two years in a row, under his government’s watch, and that the Yukon is now in a recession?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: This government is not going to take credit for lower commodity prices. We are seeing it around the world, and there has been a significant reduction in exploration — especially at the junior mining level, which comprises most of the exploration that occurs in this territory. What it does show us is that we are a small economy. Mining has truly been the base of our economy, so while we are dealing with this downturn, we are doing those things that we can to ensure — coming out of it — we are ready: investing in infrastructure like roads and bridges and aerodromes; investing in telecommunications; investing in energy. We are making sure that we’re building schools and we’re building hospitals, and we are also ensuring that we are looking at training opportunities to make sure that Yukoners are ready, and we’re also looking at our permitting and our regulatory process to make sure that Yukon is the place in the world for mining.

Mr. Silver: It wasn’t that long ago that the Yukon Party was promising 8.8-percent economic growth for 2014 in one of its forecasts. The minister stood in this House and said in 2014 — and I quote: “So you generally see a positive outlook and a positive trend going forward.” According to Statistics Canada the real number for growth in 2014 is minus 1.2 percent. The government was off by 10 percent, and we know from a former Minister of Economic Development that, I guess the numbers don’t matter.

Yukon is the only place in Canada to record two consecutive years of negative GDP growth for both 2013 and 2014. Yukon had the second worst GDP numbers in Canada at minus 1.2 percent. We are only one of two places in Canada to go backward last year.

Does the Premier accept responsibility for the fact that Yukon jurisdiction is the only economy to get smaller two years in a row in Canada?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: It’s disappointing, Mr. Speaker, because I guess maybe the Liberal leader doesn’t get it. He certainly has asked that question, and the former Minister of Economic Development has articulated many times that we trust and we look at the numbers that are put forward by the economists. Essentially what the member opposite is taking a shot at is those good working people within the Department of Economic Development who put forward those estimates based on the knowledge that they know at that time. Of course it can be volatile when we have an economy as small as we have.

What I will take credit for is the $5.5 million that is going back into all Yukon taxpayers’ pockets this year and the increase in the Yukon child benefit by 35 percent, supporting families with children.

Mr. Silver: Imagine that: the Premier is taking the credit for the good things and the good news but will not take responsibility for the bad news. It is very disappointing to watch this government duck responsibility for having the worst economic performance of any jurisdiction in the country for the last 24 months.

In 2013, the government forecasted 8.8-percent economic growth for 2014 and have instead delivered two straight years of economic contraction. In 2013, the government said this about the forecast — and I quote: “… what they do point to is a direction — direction of growth and what we hope to be further prosperity for this territory.” Instead this government has delivered a stalled economy and a recession. The prospects for 2015 look no better with uncertainty hanging over the mining sectors thanks to this government’s ongoing court battles with our Yukon First Nations.

In light of the poor numbers released yesterday, can the minister tell Yukoners whether he is still —

Speaker: Order please. The member’s time has elapsed.

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Yukoners are excited and proud that they have a government that looks past the end of its nose.

This is a government that has just tabled the largest capital budget in Yukon’s history, putting Yukoners to work, keeping Yukoners at home, investing in infrastructure not only for today but for the long-term, setting the stage, because this government has vision. We’re looking to the future, whether it’s building regional hospitals in communities or expanding the hospital here, whether it’s building new schools or whether it’s looking at fibre optics or new hydro.

We are looking for the long term. We are preparing this territory to be ready for what we know will be strong economic growth in the future.