Question re: Income Tax Act amendments - April 8, 2015

Mr. Silver: I have a question for the Minister of Finance. Many signed Yukon First Nation governments have tax-sharing agreements with the Yukon government. It allows them to collect income tax from people who live on First Nation settlement land. In some cases, it is a substantial amount of money. When the Government of Yukon changes income tax rates, as it does in this budget, it has a direct impact on First Nation governments’ revenue. If any level of government did something that was going to impact my bottom line, I would expect to be consulted about it before it happened.

Can the minister explain why there was no consultation with First Nation governments before these tax changes were introduced?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: This government on a daily basis consults with First Nations and works cooperatively with First Nations in many, many areas. I know that the opposition likes to find the small instances — the few instances — where there are disagreements between governments and tries to make a big deal of it. The reality is that we continue to invest and work with First Nations on a daily basis.

Some recent investments working with First Nations: $2.7 million to the Carcross learning centre; $250,000 working with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Carcross-Tagish First Nation on a First Nation youth skilled trades and entrepreneurship program, building tiny houses, which — my understanding is that all of those houses, while not completed yet, have already been agreed to be leased out — have been a tremendous success; and $538,000 for Kluane First Nation’s geophysical data along the Kluane ranges, looking for geophysical data and mineral potential in those areas. The list goes on and on of the examples where we continue to work with First Nations and will continue to do so.

Mr. Silver: I would like to congratulate the Premier for successfully avoiding the answer and randomly pointing to something in his binder about money spent.

I am pleased to see these tax cuts — don’t get me wrong. Personally, I will be saving hundreds of dollars, but First Nations who are losing revenue may not be happy with this government, especially when you consider that they were blindsided by this announcement. There was consultation, no discussion — just an announcement. First Nation governments are only now finding that their revenues could be impacted by this. Signed Yukon First Nation governments have tax-sharing agreements with the Yukon government. These agreements say the government must discuss any possible changes with First Nation governments before they happen and not after. This did not happen.

Can the Premier explain why there was no consultation beforehand?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: We continue to work with First Nations and we will continue to do so. There will always be an opportunity to deal with First Nations on the potential impacts of any changes where we are reducing the taxes for Yukoners by a total, in 2015, of $5.5 million — $5.5 million going back into Yukoners’ pockets so that they can spend that money as they choose. I know some of that money will go back into the economy, which is something that we need right now. Some people might choose to put it away for a rainy day or to invest it whichever way they choose, and that is important.

Of course, if there is an impact to some of the First Nations, we will certainly be willing to sit down and talk to them. As we know, the government does do this work on behalf of First Nations, and we’re very proud of the agreement that we have on the tax sharing for people who reside on settlement land. We’ll continue to have dialogue with the First Nations.

Mr. Silver: I’m glad that the Premier has committed to some consultation after the fact, but this is a colossal oversight. This government’s track record when it comes to consultation with the First Nations is not good. Our courtrooms are full because this government has a bad habit of not meeting its obligations under the agreements with the First Nations. These are not small oversights, Mr. Speaker. This is yet another example of an obligation to meet with First Nations that was discarded by this government. These changes will impact First Nation governments’ revenue, because what they collect is tied to the income tax rate.

Does the minister know what the financial impact will be to the First Nation governments because of this cut to taxes?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I don’t have the exact number with me at this time, but I know that it is a nominal amount by First Nation. As I’ve stated in the past, we are more than willing, as we always do, to sit down and talk to First Nations about what we are doing together and the many partnerships that we have and the investments that this government makes every day to invest in ensuring that we are building capacity for First Nation governments, working with their development corporations, because, in the end, that benefits all Yukoners.