Question re: Economic outlook - May 12, 2016

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Earlier today, Statistics Canada confirmed what many Yukoners already know: our economy has stopped growing under this Yukon Party government. Statistics Canada announced that Yukon’s economy shrank for the third consecutive year in 2015. Alberta led the way and Yukon was second as the two worst performing economies in Canada. This is the third year in a row for Yukon’s economy to shrink. The Department of Economic Development produces its own report on our GDP, and the minister has that data.

Can the minister confirm that Yukon’s own GDP estimates for 2015 show our economy shrank for a third year in a row?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Of course, as we all know, mining is the cornerstone of Yukon’s economy and, as we all know as well, mining throughout the world is in a decline. But we have spoken many times in this Assembly about the importance of diversifying our economy, and we have worked very hard to do just that.

I am happy to announce that many sectors of Yukon’s economy have actually increased. In the construction industry, we see an increase of 5.1 percent; retail trade, 1.7 percent; professional, scientific and technical services, 5.1 percent; real estate, two percent; transportation and warehousing, 2.3 percent; health care, 2.3 percent; education, 2.2 percent; finance and insurance, 2.4 percent; utilities, 5.4 percent; and public administration at 0.7 percent. This government continues to do the hard work to help improve Yukon’s economy to help make the Yukon a better place for all Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: Madam Speaker, Yukon taxpayers are currently paying for Facebook ads that promote the Premier. These ads make a point of saying the Premier is focused on growing our economy. After three years of focusing on growth of our economy, we see three years of negative economic growth. This is the economic track record of the government, and no amount of Facebook ads saying the opposite can change that.

It’s worth noting that the government’s own forecast, released in October, said that our economy would shrink by six percent in 2015. I guess the good news is that the economy performed better than the government thought; the bad news is that the government’s forecast still missed the mark yet again.

Madam Speaker, what changes, if any, has the government made to improve its own economic forecasts?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I’ve said many times — and I just said here moments ago — this government understands the importance of diversifying our economy. We understand that the mining sector is in a decline and that’s not just here in the Yukon; that’s throughout the world.

Madam Speaker, we have taken the steps to move forward, to try to diversify Yukon’s economy. We are working on things such as the diverse fibre project. We have invested many dollars in infrastructure, in training and in education. This government is committed to Yukoners and we are committed to improving the economy of the Yukon.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I appreciate those efforts. The question was about the forecasts. Maybe in the supplementary, the minister can speak to that. But the government’s message to Yukon as we approach election is: “We are good financial managers. We’re good economic managers.”

Yukon taxpayers are even footing the bill to spread this Yukon Party message. The only problem is that the government’s own stats don’t support this argument. Under this government, our economy shrank in 2013; it shrank in 2014 — and confirmed in 2015. It’s worth noting that we are the only place in Canada where that has happened. In each of those years, the government’s economic forecasts had been well off as well. Most years, the numbers aren’t even close.

Madam Speaker, why does this government keep billing taxpayers for ads that say the economy is growing when in fact the opposite is true?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Certainly, we are proud of the work that we have invested through these years of an economic downturn in the resource industry.

As I have said many times: so goes mining, so goes Yukon. I’ve also said many times that now more than ever, we need to stand up for our resource sector, so we have been working on that. But as we heard from the Minister of Economic Development, while our growth was contracted last year, primarily in the mining sector, we’ve had all other major sectors of our economy grow last year — construction, retail trade, professional, scientific and technical services, real estate, transportation, health care, education, finance, insurance and utilities. We are proud of the work that’s going on. We have more work to do but Yukoners are comforted knowing that there is a government that is looking after the finances, making strategic investments and ensuring that we’re not spending money paying interest loans off for debt like every other jurisdiction in this country.

Madam Speaker, I was fortunate to speak to Eira Thomas, the CEO of Kaminak this morning. We have also spoken to Goldcorp today. We’re very excited about the news that a Canadian company — the third-largest gold producer in the world — is coming to Yukon. It really speaks volumes for the project that Kaminak — their Coffee Gold project — but really speaks —