Question re: Raven Recycling Centre funding - October 28, 2014

Mr. Silver:   I would like to go back to this government’s commitments on recycling that were clearly outlined in their election platform. The Premier told Yukoners before this session started that the government has fulfilled many of its commitments it has made to Yukoners. I would like to remind the Premier that there is still more work to be done.

Let’s go to page 15 of his platform and see what was promised for recycling: “…develop a goal of zero waste with a target of 50% waste diversion by 2015.” It has become clear that the minister responsible doesn’t even support that goal. He told Yukoners on October 1 that recycling was a personal responsibility and really had nothing to do with his government.

Will the Premier admit that his government’s commitment to 50-percent waste diversion by 2015 will not be met, especially now that our largest recycler has been seriously marginalized by a lack of funding?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the Member for Klondike, the Liberal leader, is not accurately representing my comments on October 1. In fact, what I was attempting to convey at that point in the interview was the fact that recycling requires not just government investment, which it does require, but it also requires people making a personal commitment to changing their own behaviours, to choose not to throw recyclables in the trash but, instead, to separate them out.

Again, we have continued to work in this area. When it comes to Raven Recycling, we are working with partners, including the City of Whitehorse, to identify sustainable, long-term and cost-effective solutions for processing recyclables.

With Raven, specifically — last month they requested that the diversion credit we implemented last year at their request be more than doubled to $330 per tonne. We’ve asked them to give us a cost breakdown on that, and we’re still waiting for that. In fact, I asked my deputy minister this morning to send Raven a reminder that we are looking forward to receiving that information.

Mr. Silver:   What he says and what he means — we’ve heard this before from the minister responsible. Given the minister’s attitude, it’s no wonder that Yukoners don’t trust the government on when they are going to make good on this commitment or not. The minister believes that recycling is a personal responsibility, as cited from his words in the paper, and that’s — I’ll let those words speak for themselves.

Let’s go to the actual issue. The government is sitting on the sidelines and is letting Raven Recycling stay closed to all but refundables, so it’s clear that a cash injection is needed for this reopening immediately while some longer-term issues get resolved.

The question would be: How does the minister plan to meet his own target of 50-percent waste diversion by 2015 when Raven Recycling is all but closed?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Again, what I should point out to the member is that last year Raven Recycling and the other processor jointly approached government and asked us to implement a diversion credit matching the $75 per tonne the city pays for a combined credit of $150 per tonne, and we did exactly that.

Last month Raven requested the combined diversion credit be more than doubled to $330 a tonne. We’ve asked them for more information and, as I noted in my previous response, I asked my deputy minister this morning to remind them that we are still waiting for that information. We are continuing to work with the city on identifying sustainable long-term and cost-effective solutions for processing recyclables in the Yukon. We have jointly funded a consultant’s study that they have commissioned. Officials have been in discussion and the Minister of Environment and I are scheduled to meet with the mayor and city council on Friday of this week, along with our senior officials, to talk about issues including recycling, and to talk about next steps for both the City of Whitehorse and the Yukon government.

Mr. Silver:   We’re looking for a leadership role here from a senior level of government. It’s very clear that this government is not going to meet its commitment of 50-percent waste diversion by 2015 without Raven being completely open. It seems there has been a complete 180-degree turn in policy here and it begs the question: Does the Yukon Party no longer support the previous environmental and social principles that led to the original investments into a public good? If the government no longer supports a 50-percent target, or Raven, then what is the new policy objective that is being sought here? You don’t take away an integral service or public good without an alternative plan or objective. So, what are these? Or, are we witnessing here just a complete absence of forethought on this particular file?

Hon. Mr. Cathers:      Again, as I noted to the member, in fact we are continuing to work on this issue jointly with the City of Whitehorse. They are in fact a larger player in waste management then we are, because most of the Yukon population is within the City.

We made it clear that the Yukon government is committed to continuing to do more in this area. In fact, when it comes to Raven Recycling, it was just last month that they asked us to more than double the combined diversion credit to $330 per tonne from the $150 per tonne it was put at, at their request, last year. We’ve asked them for more information to clarify what those increased costs are made up of. We have yet to receive it. We are working jointly with the city in considering options and identifying long-term solutions to ensure that Yukoners continue to have access to the recycling processes and capacity that they need. That includes a meeting that the Minister of Environment and I have scheduled this Friday with the mayor and city council, as well as work that has been going on, on a weekly basis at the officials’ level.

Again, we will work jointly with the city on this and identify what needs to be done to ensure that Yukoners have access to the recycling services they need.