The Yukon Party made two accusations about the territorial Liberals in the legislative assembly Tuesday, both of which have since been disputed as untrue by the parties involved.
Official Opposition Leader Stacey Hassard told the house that he had received a call earlier that day from Premier Sandy Silver, telling him the premier would not be pushing for an extension to the federal government’s consultation period on controversial small business tax changes.
According to Hassard, Silver told him he now felt a longer consultation period would create “uncertainty in business.”
Silver was in Ottawa yesterday for a meeting between the federal government and the premiers.
Hassard’s assertion comes nearly a week after the Yukon premier sent a letter to federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, asking him to extend the government’s 75-day public consultations and inviting him to the Yukon to hear the concerns of the business community firsthand.
“I guess that’s the scary part,” Hassard told reporters Tuesday.
“That was only just a few days ago that the premier promised to stand up for Yukon businesses and that quickly, he’s flip-flopped on this and changed his mind. It’s very concerning.”
However, deputy premier Ranj Pillai dismissed Hassard’s claims as “spin.”
He said the government remains committed to its request for a longer consultation period on behalf of Yukon businesses.
“I certainly wasn’t on the phone today,” said Pillai in a post-sitting scrum.
“But what I know is that in communication with the premier, his remarks are not consistent with what was stated today by the leader of the Yukon Party.”
Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson said she also spoke with the premier over the phone yesterday, and that he didn’t say anything about withdrawing his support for extended consultations.
He did tell her, however, that he and the other premiers had just met with Morneau.
While “the case had been made about the need for an extension” and the meeting saw “significant debate” on the issue, said Hanson, Silver reported the Finance minister seemed unwilling to budge on the length of the consultation period.
“I’m not trying to defend the Yukon Liberals because we’ve got lots of disagreements, but his letter was pretty clear; they were seeking an extension to the consultation,” she said.
Hassard also told the media that during their phone call, Silver said the Liberals would not be supporting the motion the Yukon Party introduced in the legislature
That motion called on the house to urge the federal government to “extend public consultation on its proposed changes to tax law affecting small businesses, farmers, placer miners, and medical practitioners and to ensure that Yukon citizens have an opportunity to fully participate in the public consultation.”
Had the motion received unanimous consent from the legislative assembly, it could have been debated and passed yesterday.
It did not, however, and a Yukon Party press release said the government’s failure to support the motion was another instance of the premier “rolling over to Ottawa
and failing to defend the interests of Yukoners.”
Pillai called the motion “gamesmanship” and “redundant.”
He said the government has already listened to Yukoners and has carried out the actions urged by the motion, evidenced by the premier’s letter to Morneau and his
presence in Ottawa.
“Was it important to have the Yukon Party bring a debate forward and have this repetition in activity? No, we didn’t believe that,” said Pillai.
“The premier’s (in Ottawa) today, having that discussion, standing by premiers from across this country on the fact that small business feels that they have more to say.”
Yukon Party finance critic Brad Cathers also claimed Tuesday that the government-appointed financial advisory panel was not being given access to detailed information about the government’s financial situation.
The five-member panel was tasked by the Liberals last spring with conducting an independent assessment of government finances as it heads into several years of
It is currently holding public consultations about the options available for the government to deal with looming deficits expected for the next several years.
Cathers told the house that the Yukon Party had met with the panel, and had been told that it was not “given detailed access to the government’s books to do a full and proper analysis of the government’s financial picture.”
He questioned why the government was spending “a quarter-million dollars of taxpayers’ money on this flawed consultation process.”
The Star spoke Tuesday afternoon with Trevor Tombe, a member of the panel and professor of economics at the University of Calgary.
“We’ve been given access to absolutely everything that we needed, I honestly couldn’t think of what else we could want to do the work we are still doing,” Tombe said.
A lot of information about government financing is publicly available and consequently doesn’t require special permission to access, Tombe pointed out.
However, the panel did need to request certain information like that about territorial formula financing, the key source of government funding from Ottawa.
When they did so, they were granted that information, he said.
The financial panel met with Cathers and Hassard on Sept. 15.
Norman McIntyre, the financial panel’s chair, told the Star this morning that panel members may have mentioned in this meeting that they were using publicly available information to assess the current status of government finances and make projections.
Because their mandate is only to present various options the government can use to balance its books, McIntyre said, the panel doesn’t need to pore over the kind of detailed information in those books that the Yukon Party suggests they don’t have access to.
“It’s more high-level than that.”
McIntyre speculated that the panel’s comments in their September meeting were likely “inadvertently taken out of context” by Cathers in his question period statements Tuesday.