Question re: Economic growth - November 10, 2015

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This spring the Premier delivered a speech at the Conservative think-tank, the 2015 Manning Networking Conference. Those who watched it on YouTube heard the Premier talk about his goal of making Yukon a net contributor to Canada.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if Yukoners were to judge this government on what progress has been made toward achieving that goal, the government would certainly receive a failing grade. We are no closer now to becoming a net contributor to Canada than we were 13 years ago when the Yukon Party came to office.

According to the government’s own budget documents, the Yukon continues to generate only 13 percent of its own revenue. The rest still comes from the Government of Canada and other sources. So there is a lot of talk about growing the private sector, but it’s not matched by the numbers. One only has to go to the updated budget documents, released this fall, for the proof.

Mr. Speaker, can the Premier confirm that revenue from Yukon-generated corporate income tax has dropped by 50 percent in just the last two years?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What I can confirm is that the Leader of the Liberal Party has his head in the sand. We certainly continue to see growth in own-source revenues over the span of the Yukon Party coming into power in late 2002, as opposed to the growth in the formula financing that we receive from Ottawa. We see all provinces receiving money from Ottawa through transferred equalization. 

My question to the Leader of the Liberal Party is: What programs and services would he cut, if he is not so inclined in seeing those monies coming from Ottawa? Mr. Speaker, our goal is to see Yukon become a net contributor to this country so that we don’t rely on the backs of the workers in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

It’s a long-term vision, Mr. Speaker, but it’s our vision and we’re moving toward it.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That certainly is a long-term vision. It has been 13, 14 years. The economic forecast released recently says that the Yukon economy will decline for the third year in a row under this government, Mr. Speaker, and we are the only place in Canada that can lay claim to that dubious distinction.

Mr. Speaker, our economy has shrunk for two years in a row now and our GDP will continue to shrink — six percent this year alone. The Premier said that his goal was to make the Yukon a net contributor to Canada. One of the best ways to do that is to grow the private sector, which in turn would bring in more corporate tax revenue. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened under this government.

Mr. Speaker, corporate income tax has dropped 50 percent in the last two years — from $32 million to $16 million. Does the Premier not agree that this puts us further away from becoming a net contributor to Canada?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. What this shows and tells Yukoners is that, in good times and in bad times, they can count on the Yukon Party government to continue to invest in the territory, to continue to run modest surpluses, and to soon be the only jurisdiction in this entire country without net debt. We will continue to work on those areas that we have control over — investing in infrastructure, investing in trades and skills, investing in education — to ensure that as we come out of this economic downturn that is being felt truly across this globe — especially in areas that focus on resource extraction as a major component of their economy — we will come out of this much better and stronger than we were when we went into it.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, what we can continue to rely on is a declining economy under this Yukon Party government. A quick look at the budget documents released this fall shows a drop in almost all taxes collected locally by this government. Our economy is shrinking and so is the amount of revenue collected locally.

Without the massive transfers from Ottawa, we simply wouldn’t exist. Despite the Yukon Party being in power for almost 14 years, we are no further ahead in self-reliance than when they came to office. The amount of corporate income tax Yukon collects has shrunk by 50 percent in the last two years. Lawsuits with the First Nations continue. Regulatory problems in the mining industry will do nothing to turn around this trend either. Continuing to award major construction contracts to companies from Alberta and British Columbia won’t help either.

Is the Premier prepared to admit that we are not closer to becoming a net contributor to Canada than we were at least four years ago, when the Yukon Party 2.0 came to office?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: This government is certainly proud of the work that they have achieved in the past decade as the government here in the territory. We have seen a growth of over 20 percent in our population during that time, focused on the resource industry as a primary industry, but using that to diversify. We have been continuing to focus on that, whether it’s at the Yukon Research Centre, whether it’s creating a mobile trades training trailer, whether it’s investing in infrastructure, or whether it’s improving our regulatory and our permitting processes. We continue to focus and use those levers that we have — and continue to ensure that our long-term vision will be to grow the private sector — because that is how governments really do get their revenues to provide programs and services for their citizens. So, we’ll focus on growing the private sector, we’ll focus on doing what we can do during this economic downturn, and we will continue to aspire to seeing this territory one day become a net contributor to this great country.