Question re: Hydroelectric dam project - November 21, 2013

Hansard November 21, 2013

Mr. Silver:   I have a question for the Premier. After many years of dragging its heels and attempting to sell our publicly owned energy corporation to the private sector, the Yukon Party finally announced this summer that it was planning to expand our hydro generation. The Premier told local media in July that he wants to build a new hydro dam.

This is news to the former EMR minister who could not name a single project when I asked him about it in the spring. It is also potentially good news for Yukoners if it is done properly.

Now the Premier said that it would be — and I quote: “a great opportunity for First Nations to become partners in a project”. Mr. Speaker, what hydro project is the top priority for the government and when might it be supplying power to Yukoners?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     This government is committed to seeing the long-term success of this territory ensured by increasing our capacity of clean renewable hydroelectricity. Because of the foresight of those people who came before us, over 95 percent of all the electricity consumed in this territory comes from renewable hydro energy. We understand, going forward for the success of this territory, the need for more renewable and clean hydro energy. This government is committed to moving in that direction.

Do we know where the site will be at this point? No, we don’t. We will engage Yukon Development Corporation to lead us in this project and we look forward to the work that they will commence to move us on the way.

Of course, one of the things that we will always be looking at and that we always talk about is opportunities to partner with First Nations in any economic opportunity that exists within this territory.

Mr. Silver:   Mr. Speaker, when the president of the Yukon Energy Corporation appeared here in this House in the spring, he was quite candid and he said, “We have no more excess hydro of any significance…”

We are at an energy cliff, because the Yukon Party spent a lot of time trying to sell our Energy Corporation instead of figuring out how to expand out hydro capacity. One of the major projects the government did move on was Mayo B. It was cost-shared by the Government of Canada. Unfortunately, Yukon borrowed its entire financial contribution to this project and we are paying millions of dollars in interest for many years to come as a result. How is the Premier planning to finance the new dam he announced in July? Will this government, once again, be borrowing money for this project?

Hon. Mr. Kent:    Under my responsibly for the Yukon Development Corporation, we will be directing the Yukon Development Corporation to lead the research and planning of a new hydroelectric dam for the territory. That work will include engaging with First Nations. It will include determining what site makes the most sense from a generating-capacity perspective as well as location to the grid and location to some of the larger industrial customers. It will also include how we can expect to finance the project. We believe that this project is of national significance and that it will require some commitment from the federal government. What that commitment will be is yet to be determined, but that will emerge through the good work of the Yukon Development Corporation as they move through this research and planning process to assist us in adding additional hydroelectric capacity and really cementing a clean power future for Yukoners.

Mr. Silver:   By the answers we got today on the floor, it doesn’t seem like we’re any further ahead as far as what project we’re moving on or how we’re going to pay for it. I believe that this inaction is costing Yukoners in higher electricity bills.

Let me change gears here — when the former Yukon Premier decided he wanted two hospitals built, he gave only a verbal instruction to the Hospital Corporation to begin working on these projects — no paper trail, no written instructions, just verbal marching orders. Since the Premier has announced that he now supports going ahead with a new dam, I’m sure that formal instruction has been passed on to the Yukon Development Corporation.

Can the Premier confirm written instruction has been passed on to the Yukon Development Corporation and that he will be providing a copy of those instructions?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski:     Before we endeavour to move forward with such a massive project for a territory of this size, we will ensure that the due diligence is done.

With regard to Yukon Energy Corporation assets — since this government came into this Legislative Assembly, we have prohibited the sale of Yukon Energy Corporation assets — something the Liberal government could have done but failed to do when they were in power. We will continue to work with Yukon Development Corporation to move forward with a project that will ensure not only the prosperity for Yukoners in the near term and in the mid-term, but this project of creating new hydroelectricity — renewable, cost-efficient hydroelectricity — will ensure the prosperity of Yukon for decades to come.