Question re: Mining regulatory uncertainty - April 9, 2015

Mr. Silver: This year, Yukon continues its slide down the Fraser Institute’s ranking for a good place to do mining business. Yukon has dropped from eighth in 2012-13 to 19th in 2013 to 26th in 2014 on the institute’s policy perception index. This indicates a decline in the relative attractiveness of a place to do business.

The lower scores reflect a decrease in the percentage of respondents that perceive that the following policy factors encourage investment: our legal system, down 12 points; regulatory duplication, down eight points; and administration of regulations, down eight points.

Unlike the Premier, who now blames low mineral prices, the Fraser Institute doesn’t even mention this and, instead, points its finger squarely at this government and its regulatory and legal problems. Yukoners know the government holds the Fraser Institute in a very high regard; now that we’re on the decline, does the government accept responsibility for the much lower rankings?

Hon. Mr. Kent: With respect to the recent Fraser Institute report, I think the most encouraging news that we see there is that we are number one in the world for geological potential. That’s something that we can be very excited about and, again, something that we can’t control, but we’re very proud of.

The things that we can control, such as regulatory licensing and permitting, are things that we are undertaking improvements on, such as the work on the mine licensing improvement initiative, which will address some of the shortcomings in the water licensing process, as well as the quartz mine licensing process.

We certainly want to emerge from the current downturn in the mining sector in a better position than when we went in, and that is reflected in the work that we’re doing on the licensing and permitting, as well as training and infrastructure investment and a whole host of other things across all departments within this government.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, it’s not lost on me, the Member for Klondike, on what our potential is with regard to mining in the Yukon. We don’t need the Fraser Institute to tell us that.

Here’s a quote from a Yukon Party minister in 2010 about the Fraser Institute report, and I quote: “…Yukon’s climb to the top of the ranking has absolutely nothing to do with world mineral prices; it has everything to do with us — this government — making the changes necessary to restore investor confidence in Yukon”.

Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is continuing to slide in the rankings. When we’re up in the rankings, it’s all about minerals and us and when we’re sliding, it’s about the world prices. In response to our poor showing, the government reminds Yukoners that it’s working on a new mine licensing improvement initiative.

When will this project be completed and what changes does the minister anticipate will come out of it?

Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to clarify for the member opposite — again, when talking about the Fraser Institute rankings, I think we’re very pleased and proud that we have such a rich and diverse mineral endowment here in the territory and we’re pleased that the executives who respond to the Fraser Institute survey have recognized that by ranking us number one in the world.

Again, we certainly recognize that, along with the recommendations of the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board, there is an increasingly negative image with respect to our licensing and permitting regimes. That’s why we support Bill S-6 and the amendments that is proposing. That’s also why we’re embarking on the mine licensing improvement initiative. Early work on that is underway right now with officials being led by Executive Council Office. Energy, Mines and Resources is also participating. Early engagement, of course, with our partners, First Nation governments, is underway right now. We would anticipate that this work and some sort of recommendations for mine licensing improvement will be ready within the next 12 months.

Mr. Silver: Let’s hope that the mine licensing improvement initiative goes smoother than the government’s botched attempt at amending YESAA.

Mr. Speaker, here’s another gem from the Yukon Party. Let me quote this. “The boom-and-bust swings of the past will be largely mitigated by sound economic planning and investment attraction efforts”.

For many years, the Yukon Party government tried to take credit for a strong economy. The reality was that our economy performed well because mineral prices reached record highs. In 2013, we had the second worst GDP growth of anywhere in Canada and Keno mine closed. The numbers are not final for 2014, but they don’t look good; it wasn’t a great year. 2015 began with the closing of Wolverine mine.

Mr. Speaker, we are certainly in a bust period and it happens to be during the Yukon Party’s charge. Will the government accept responsibility for our poor showing in the Fraser Institute report or for our declining economy?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely true that this government cannot control commodity prices. That is something that this government, nor any government, will be able to do.

We are moving forward with things that we can control — that we can make a difference — so that as we come out of this downward portion of a cyclical mining cycle, we’re in a much better position.

As we heard from the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, we’re investing in a mineral development strategy. We’re working together with First Nations on a mine licensing improvement initiative. We support the amendments to the environmental assessment act that will ensure that our assessments are consistent with other jurisdictions, but we’re also investing in training — the creation of the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining.

I believe our first graduates were announced today. We are also investing record investments in infrastructure — strategic investments in infrastructure that Yukoners will benefit from for generations to come — roads, bridges, telecommunications and energy. Of course, what we know is that the members opposite like to talk the talk, but what do they do? They oppose everything that is an economic opportunity for this territory. They vote against it. We talked about it yesterday. They are opposing new nursing homes, they are opposing LNG. What we do know is that there has been a 20-percent increase in population since this government has come in and we will continue to deliver for Yukoners.