Question re: Economic growth - April 30, 2015

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, this week, Statistics Canada confirmed that we are in a recession. Yukon had the second worst GDP numbers in Canada in 2014, at negative-1.2-percent growth. On the other hand, GDP increased in British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut in 2014. Yesterday, the Premier blamed the downturn on mining. Let’s look at the neighbours and mining, Mr. Speaker. Northwest Territories’ GDP grew 6.8 percent and mining was up 21 percent. Nunavut’s GDP grew 6.2 percent in 2014. Mining increased by 9.9 percent. British Columbia’s GDP rose 2.6 percent — nickel, lead, zinc, ore mining all rose by 27 percent, mainly because of a new mine.

Our neighbours all saw economic growth last year and they all saw improvements in the mining sector. They are dealing with the same world mineral prices. Why is Yukon in decline when our neighbours are growing?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: It’s important to understand that while we do have a decline in GDP here in the Yukon, this isn’t something that makes us happy by any means. We have to understand that, knowing that we have a decline, this government continues to work hard in the Department of Education to do training for jobs for Yukoners. We continue to work hard in Energy, Mines and Resources to work on things like mine licensing. The Department of Economic Development — my department — works hard to continue to promote Yukon as a great place to invest so that when things do turn around the Yukon will be in a great place.

Mr. Silver: Our neighbours are all seeing economic growth and their mining sectors all performed well in 2014. The exception was Yukon, where our GDP declined for the second consecutive year under this government. Yukon is the only place in Canada to record two consecutive years of negative GDP growth, both in 2013 and 2014. It’s interesting that the government continuously falls back to the argument of world mineral prices. It was singing a different tune not too long ago — 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.” When you see the success all around us, it is clear that we are in a made-in-Yukon recession.

Does this government accept any responsibility for the dismal economic performance that we have seen over the last two years?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: As I said previously, we do understand that we have a slowdown, but this government is committed to looking at economic diversification. This government continues to work to increase the diversification and sustainability of Yukon’s economy by identifying and exploring significant economic development opportunities. While this requires the capture of external wealth from a number of diverse sources, economic growth is a critical component of determining and understanding government and stakeholders’ roles in diversifying this economy.

Mr. Silver: We are in a made-in-Yukon recession. All around us our neighbours are seeing economic growth, and there is good success in mining in British Columbia, Northwest Territories and Nunavut — all in 2014, according to Statistics Canada. Our mining industry, on the other hand, is in decline because of this government’s inability to get along with First Nations and huge regulatory problems that this government has yet to fix. Two mines have also closed since this government has come to office. At the same time, there has been little attention paid to diversification of our economy over the last decade.

My final question to the Minister of Economic Development: What new initiatives are underway to ensure that we do not see a third consecutive year of negative economic growth?

Hon. Mr. Kent: There are a number of new initiatives that are underway in my portfolio alone — Energy, Mines and Resources — to ensure that we continue to look for opportunities to grow the economy. Exploration expenditures are expected to be increased over last year in this upcoming year. We are seeing opportunities for expanded development, particularly at Alexco with the flame and moth opportunities there for them to get after that deposit. We are looking at developing a biomass strategy that will enhance forestry opportunities. We are looking at opportunities in oil and gas on this side of the House that members opposite, including the Member for Klondike, will not support.

Again, we see great opportunities to diversify the economy — not only on the natural resource side, but we’re making significant investments in tourism, in the knowledge sector, the IT sector and across the spectrum. Unlike the members opposite who want to shrink the economy — no oil and gas, removing vast tracts of land from exploration. Again, Mr. Speaker, I guess the only thing we can say — and it’s becoming very apparent, not only to us on this side of the House, but to many Yukoners — is that the Liberals have no plan.