Question re: Territorial formula financing - April 7, 2016

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, this year the annual transfer payment from the Government of Canada to the Yukon is on the rise again. It’s at a record level, in fact. We received $21 million more than last year and we continue to rely on Ottawa for more than 80 percent of our budget.

Despite years of promises from the Yukon Party, we remain as dependent as ever on Ottawa. The Yukon Party promises to make Yukon a net contributor to Canada and we are failing in that regard. Despite yet another increase, the government is still unhappy and wanted more from Ottawa. The changes should come as no surprise to the Premier because he and a former federal Conservative Finance minister signed the agreement that we have in place now. Changes that were implemented last fall are part of that agreement, and the government has known about these changes since 2012, and certainly since 2014.

Mr. Speaker, will the Premier confirm for the record that the transfer payment from Ottawa is up some $21 million over last year?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, I guess I can only describe that as Liberal math. It’s quite clear what we have here, and it was very well-articulated to all Yukoners back in December when, in December, we were notified by the federal government that they were going to reduce the territorial formula financing by $23 million. This is a very articulate, comprehensive formula that clearly states what the amount of the transfer payment should be. Only a Liberal could come, stand up in this House and say that it was an increase. It was an increase, Mr. Speaker, of the total that we received the previous year. It was a cut to what we were supposed to receive, Mr. Speaker. That is the Liberal math.

Mr. Silver: I guess, from that answer, Mr. Speaker, it’s up and it’s down. We received more money than last year, Mr. Speaker; that is a fact. The current agreement was signed by the Premier and the former Conservative Minister of Finance. I will be tabling a timeline outlining the history of the changes that the Premier now says he knows nothing about. It shows clearly that this government has known about the changes since 2012 and was even provided estimates about the financial impact.

The only thing that changed is the fact that the new government in Ottawa is red instead of blue, and the Premier seems to not like that. Attacking the new Finance minister as disingenuous, as the Premier did, is hardly a way to build a new relationship or get along with another level of government, Mr. Speaker.

Instead of making this political, he should have simply gotten down to work, as many others did. Why did the Premier insist on making a political statement about the future of the federal transfers instead of admitting that he knew about the changes three years ago?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, I will stand up in this House every day and defend Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I guess not only was I wrong, but so were the Finance ministers and Premiers of Nunavut and Northwest Territories, who themselves also said that this was a cut from what we were supposed to receive. This is the truth. Math — Liberal math — is always what it is, Mr. Speaker. What the people of Yukon know is that the Yukon Party speaks only for Yukon. We are the only party in this territory that is not encumbered to be the little sister of their federal political party. We will continue to stand up for Yukoners.

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, the changes we are discussing were set in motion by the former Conservative government. They are part of an agreement that the Premier signed. To try to blame the federal Liberals is just politicking as we go forward into a fall election.

Now, attacking the federal Finance minister as disingenuous is just another example of this government’s inability to work with anybody else, other than Conservatives. It is also counterproductive, considering the issues that are ahead of us — the work ahead of us with the Government of Canada in areas such as infrastructure spending, Mr. Speaker.

The document that I will table shows that the government has known about this for three years now. Instead of being open an accountable about it, the government tried to pretend that it was a total shock. The drop in corporate income tax and our shrinking economy is a much larger issue, but you don’t hear the Premier talking about that. $14-million less than last year — that’s Liberal math.

Why won’t the Premier admit that he knew about these changes three years ago?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party is absolutely wrong. The changes that occurred were as a result of Statistics Canada making a methodological change to how they looked at the data. That became obvious in December. As a result of that, the federal government notified us that we would be receiving $23 million less than what was agreed to. We were just finishing the second year of a five-year agreement. My conversation with the federal minister was that the end of that agreement would be the right time to have a discussion about making such changes.

I will acknowledge the work that was done by the federal Finance minister to see that we got $16.5 million of the $23 million eventually. However, that still left us $6.5 million short of what was articulated and laid out in the territorial formula financing agreement.