Question re: Economic outlook - May 5, 2015

Mr. Silver: Yesterday the Minister of Economic Development said that his focus remains on growing and diversifying the private sector economy. That is a good thing, Mr. Speaker, because our private sector needs some help right about now. Last week, Statistics Canada confirmed that we are in a made-in-Yukon recession. All around us in B.C. and the other two territories, the GDP is growing.

Under this government, Yukon has the worst-performing economy in Canada and our GDP has shrunk for two years in a row now. Now the latest employment figures show that the number of private sector jobs has dropped by 400 jobs from this time last year.

If the focus of this government is growing the private sector, why has the number of private sector jobs dropped in the last 12 months by 400 jobs?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: I think it is important to note that in a jurisdiction as small as the Yukon’s that when we have a single project go down or a project get stopped it changes the GDP numbers significantly. The member opposite spoke about the GDP in other jurisdictions. Those jurisdictions also have a small number of working people in them and so, fortunately for them, they have a different type of mineral sector and those sectors have actually done quite well in the past year, so their numbers look a lot better than ours, even though they don’t really have a lot more mining — or a lot more mines — on-line than the Yukon, but the numbers reflect differently.

Mr. Silver: The government’s efforts to grow the private sector have failed — full stop. We have heard a lot from this government about growing the private sector; however, the stats don’t back up the picture that the Yukon government is trying to paint. Private sector jobs are declining under this government and the number of private sector jobs has dropped by 400 since last March. The number of private sector jobs has dropped 2,000 — 2,000 — since July 2014. Even accounting for the seasonal nature of jobs in Yukon, it is still a very large number. The number of public sector employees, on the other hand, is going up — 500 more jobs in the public sector than just a year ago.

Can the minister explain to us why this so-called private sector-friendly government is only growing jobs in the public sector?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: We do understand that when we have such a case as we have with Wolverine mine and we lose a couple of hundred jobs, that makes quite a difference to a jurisdiction as small as ours. I think it’s important to understand that our focus does remain on growing and diversifying our private sector economy and providing jobs and opportunities for Yukoners, we’re continuing to move forward with infrastructure, we’re continuing to move forward with improving our regulatory regime, and we’re continuing to educate and train Yukoners for Yukon jobs so that, when the economy does turn around, this Yukon will be in a very good place.

Mr. Silver: The Yukon Party continually presents itself as the party that is best suited to grow the private sector. The reality is something quite different as we can see from the numbers from Statistics Canada. The private sector is shrinking, our GDP is shrinking and we have the worst performing economy in Canada over the last 24 months. This is despite record transfers from Ottawa and record spending from this government. The only jobs being created are public sector jobs — 500 more than last year alone.

Is the minister prepared to admit that the only job growth we’ve seen in the last year is in the public sector?

Hon. Mr. Hassard: I think the member opposite doesn’t seem to realize what this government is trying to do, and I think that you only have to look at the budget that was tabled by the Premier just a few short weeks ago. It is the largest capital budget in history. Those jobs from those capital projects are going to the private sector. This government continues to work for Yukoners and will always work for Yukoners.