Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CRUNCHING THE NUMBERS – Members of the territory’s financial advisory panel discuss their recommendations at this morning’s news conference. From left to right are Tim O’Neill, Grace Southwick and Norman McIntyre.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

MIXED MESSAGES – Brad Cathers (seen here today), the Yukon Party’s finance critic, says Premier Sandy Silver has offered contradictory positions on measures to improve the territory’s financial picture.

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Premier Sandy Silver and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn

Yukoners spurn a sales tax, panel found

Many Yukoners are concerned about the size and growth of their territorial government.

By Taylor Blewett on November 15, 2017

Many Yukoners are concerned about the size and growth of their territorial government.

They see a reduction in spending in this area as a way for the territory to get its finances on a more sustainable track for the future.

They told the Yukon Liberal government-appointed financial panel as much during fall consultations across the territory. This feedback was represented in a final report published by the panel today.

When presented with four options to help balance the government’s books, 50 per cent of respondents to the panel’s online survey indicated that spending restraint was their preferred option.

A similar preference was iterated by participants in the panel’s public open houses and stakeholder meetings, according to the report, leading the panel to defer to the online survey results.

As far as how government spending could be reined in, many pointed to YTG efficiency, according to panel chair and Yukoner Norman McIntyre. That includes jobs and salaries.

Yukoners perceive a “two-rack economy” operating in the territory, the panel report observes.

On one side of that track are the mainly Whitehorse-based government employees and suppliers with “high and stable incomes,” the report reads.

On the other are the private sector employees and those living in the territory’s more remote communities.

Their standards of living and income are “far lower and more volatile.

“These data do suggest an important option available to the government is a review of its overall hiring and compensation policies, and potentially near-term restraint (or freeze) in both,” according to the report.

However, the Liberals have already ruled out cuts in the public service – which accounts for 40 per cent of total Yukon employment and translates into an average of $61 per hour in labour compensation for every YTG employee.

Yukoners now pay their civil service more than $500 million a year in salaries and benefits.

Premier Sandy Silver has told the legislative assembly and local media on multiple occasions that his government would wait and consider all fiscal management strategies presented by the independent panel before accepting or rejecting any one in particular.

Despite that, he ruled out public service layoffs in the legislature last spring.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn reiterated this position to reporters after question period Tuesday.

“We are not cutting the civil service. That’s for sure,” he said. “It’s off the table.”

Silver also told the house this fall that the government does not intend to raise placer royalty rates.

However, the panel recommends in its final report that the government “undertake a review of the Yukon mining royalty and tax regime,” and “in particular, explore the possibility of increasing the royalty rate on placer gold mining operations.

Brad Cathers, the Yukon Party finance critic, takes issue with the premier’s contradictory position.

While the official Opposition does not support public service cuts, their problem is with the way the government is communicating this decision, Cathers told the Star.

“Ultimately, the biggest issue at hand here is the government, the premier tries some days to hide behind the panel and wait for their recommendations.”

On other occasions, Cathers pointed out, “the premier will comment on some of the items, but won’t comment on others.”

“If you’re not prepared to consider certain options, why not just take those off the table at the start?”

One of those items on which the government has remained stubbornly closed-lipped is the panel’s recommendation that if the government is looking to raise additional revenues, it implement what the panel calls “the most cost-effective tool available”: a territorial Harmonized Sales Tax (HST).

“Yukoners were generally not supportive of a territorial sales tax,” the report reads.

The report outlines how consumption tax rates in the Yukon, as they currently stand, are relatively low.

A sales tax would generate and stabilize government revenue, extract money from visitors to the Yukon, and does not need to increase the tax burden shouldered by Yukoners if rebates and tax reductions elsewhere are implemented.

However, panel member Trevor Tombe pointed out, “sales taxes have a political problem.”

And whether the Yukon government accepts or rejects this recommendation is also a political decision.

Members of the financial advisory panel will be appearing before the committee of the whole in the legislature next Tuesday to discuss their final report.

Comments (23)

Up 1 Down 0

June Jackson on Nov 21, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Go Tax Slave!!! I've tried, but couldn't say it as well as you do! ! Our economic situation as presented by both Federal and Territorial governments is nothing but a lie..we are drowning in debt as a country.. Why aren't readers looking at what is happening nationally? and internationally? I have paid attention to all the posts..behind you 100%

Up 0 Down 1

Frosty the Snowman on Nov 21, 2017 at 8:22 pm

@taxslave

"Please give me examples of what governments do well, for public good". They literally exist for the public good, they are the reason we don't live in caves and hunt with spears. In the beginning people pooled their resources for a greater good and decided that they should live by a certain set of rules. Hence the first government was born, haha. Over thousands of years this system evolved into what we have now.....people consistently living to 90 years of age, no one dying of scurvy in the street, no gangs roaming around murdering people, etc etc

Contrast that to a land with no government like Somalia where those with the biggest guns and gangs run things..... literally survival of the fittest and smartest.

Perhaps instead of no government you would prefer to privatize everything? If that's the case consider that the ultimate objective of a business is to make money.... everything is about the bottom line and satisfying the shareholders.

Imagine if Canada decided to listen to conservatives and privatize healthcare. You would immediately see a reduction in your taxes no doubt about it. However you would instead need to pay a monthly premium for insurance (unless you wanted to risk going without healthcare at all). Then when you actually get sick or injured, your insurance company will look for any reason to not cover you, because that's how insurance companies make money. They might look into your history and find out you smoked at some point, or drank, or had some pre-existing condition..... and just like that you are on your own, despite having paid your premiums for years. IF by chance your medical insurance does cover your bills, you won't go broke but you can be sure that your monthly premiums will be pushed sky high!

So while businesses answer to shareholders, governments answer to the people (in a democracy).
Yes I did a have public education until university thank you. I'm just going to guess that you think of higher education as a liberal scam though?

Up 11 Down 4

tax slave on Nov 21, 2017 at 11:52 am

@ Frosty

Please give me examples of what governments do well, for public good, effectively, in a sustainable manner and provide value without adding unsustainable burden on the general population through debt and ever increasing taxes to keep up with out of control expenses on all fronts. There is no incentive whatsoever (since there is a monopoly) to cut costs apart from the looming bankruptcy - hence tax grab attempts at every chance possible.

The statistics you mention are doctored and presented in such a way to hide the true effects that recent tax and regulatory burdens that have been imposed as well as inflation growing out of control. Wages are not growing to keep up with inflation and people are forced into debt just to survive. Just look at the debt to GDP numbers for the true picture. The common folks know countless others who have fallen on hard times and are forced to take pay cuts to keep their jobs. There are hardworking folks all around the country who have been unable to find good jobs for years and are forced to work minimum wage service sector jobs, often times exploited yet silent so as to not get let go. Yet there are countless foreigners given work permits for jobs that 100s of unemployed Canadians would gladly line up for...

If governments were so effective and amazing, citizens would be happy, healthy, productive and there would be no homelessness, crime etc. It is well known that corruption and waste run through the veins of government with no incentive to improve or do things better or more effectively. Governments have effectively become an extortion business to benefit their own members... and I'm not talking about the people who are on the front lines and actually working to feed their own families..

You have been well indoctrinated by the public education system to accept your role in the system and not question anything, particularly if government in its current form is effective and serving in the best interest of the general public. Also at what cost?

Up 3 Down 11

Frosty the Snowman on Nov 20, 2017 at 11:40 pm

Taxes aren't just to pay for war, they are to pay for living in a modern society. Look at all of the first world countries and you will notice they all pay a relatively high rate of tax. The one that doesn't is the United States... which is why you have super rich and super poor, completely polarized. They also have the worst education system in the western world, a shorter life span than people in other first world countries and by far the highest prison population. If you are ok with such things in return for some tax cuts, then keep voting conservative I guess.

Also, Canadians are not increasingly finding themselves out of work as you suggest. Go check the economic data for this year and see for yourself.

As for the north, taxes are not just 'somewhat' lower... they are MUCH lower! We pay no sales tax and actually get paid to live here (northern living allowance). As for living costs, I will agree they are higher if you live in the communities, but definitely not if you live in Whitehorse. Heck our gas is often cheaper than in Vancouver for crying out loud!

Up 15 Down 6

tax slave on Nov 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

@ Frosty
Why are all Canadians still paying a tax (income tax for example) that was a temporary measure to pay for war? This tax continues to benefit the bankers who start wars and profit from both sides in perpetuity - growing national debt.
A centrally controlled economy where a private corporation prints dollars and inflates away while our purchasing power decreases exponentially is a core component of communism.
censorship and other legislation in the works is also not comforting.

The fact that some taxes are somewhat lower in a region that is typically more expensive to live in relative to other areas of the country doesn't make me feel any better... why are taxes constantly increasing in all regions? Is this making things better? What is paying for all this? more debt? who bears the burden? the taxpayers.. ironically the wealthy politicians are some of the most popular users of tax-avoidance methods yet they scream tax cheats at small businesses trying to survive a rough economy.

Redistributing wealth and giving handouts to criminals and traffickers illegally crossing into Canada while our own citizens are increasingly finding themselves out of work due to carbon tax and others killing good jobs and dis-incentivizing Canada as a place to invest (oilsands + Petronas LNG) doesn't help either and this kind of socialism is what bankrupts governments.

The government and central bank cartel have successfully destroyed the purchasing power of the Canadian dollar, sold off all gold reserves and now have the country in dismal state - is real estate going up in value? heck NO... that is the beginning to hyperinflation as the dollar is losing value...

I dont think communism and socialism are the same, however, the worst elements of both are making their way into everyone's lives... that is the danger. I am all for a 'social system as a safety net' when citizens fall on hard times - that is very different from spending like drunk sailors and going into debt to have a socialist system that nobody can afford to pay for.
cheers

Up 7 Down 15

Frosty the snowman on Nov 19, 2017 at 11:13 pm

@tax slave

If you live in Yukon, you pay far less tax than about 95% of Canadians. So it's rather ironic that you think you pay too much.
Also, there are vast differences between communism, socialism and liberalism. The fact you think they are the same shows a lack of basic political understanding. You should pick up an introductory book to political science and start there.

Up 12 Down 8

tax slave on Nov 18, 2017 at 9:26 am

Dear Pragmatist ,

If your only justification to taxation that amounts to over half of income earned is road maintenance and overreaching nanny government of people disconnected from life in reality, then that is the worst value proposition ever. You also fail to comment on the amount of corruption and waste that comes as a result in addition to the amount of pedophiles that are being protected by this corrupt system. This is all now coming to the forefront all over the world and will lead to change. Liberty and freedom for all and enough enslavement through debt and taxes to benefit a handful of elite. A 1% flat consumption tax nationwide should be enough to cover the bare minimum 'government' needed to maintain NAV Canada, CBSA, some RCMP and health, food and safety inspectors etc. Volunteerism is the way forward - forcing people to do things they hate to be able to have food and shelter and then taking ever more away from them through extortion is not an effective or healthy system for any society.
Cheers

Up 10 Down 21

Simon on Nov 17, 2017 at 9:09 am

To all of those complaining about "way too many" policy analysts working for Government of Yukon, there's just 91 according to https://eservices.gov.yk.ca/en/find-employee?keyword=Policy-Analyst. That's out of 4,800 employees in total.

Up 26 Down 2

Yukoner on Nov 17, 2017 at 8:51 am

Charge fees for certain services and start with the Yukon Nominee program (aka the "foreign workers program"). NO fees for businesses who apply, and as we all know, they do so often. The whole program was good intention ten years ago, now it is just a scam. The "requirements" are a joke and I know of cases there the whining to the (then) minister got them the papers. Charge them big fees, after all they make money with their workers.

Up 11 Down 26

Pragmatist on Nov 17, 2017 at 7:03 am

It's amusing reading comments like tax slave's.
Do you know what taxes buy? Civilization.
Maybe you'd be happy enough living in a cabin in Ross River, with no road access (because if no one paid taxes, there'd be no road maintenance right?).
However, we here in The YT live the good life precisely because others in our great country pay taxes, because our share sure a shades does not come anywhere close to meeting even our most base requirements, so before you go to bed at night, kneel down in your 'jamys and thank baby Jesus that others pay taxes.
Complex societies require complex governments. Nothing is easy and everyone demands better service. This is the reality that the Tea Party types in the US don't seem to get.
Every large organization, whether government or private corporation can be better run. So let's work towards that. In the meantime......
I'm guessing by the number of thumbs down to my previous comment, that the entitled aren't in agreement...... Critical thought has never been commonplace.

Up 35 Down 15

tax slave on Nov 16, 2017 at 2:40 pm

socialism/communism/liberalism and associated imbecilic scammers/thieves are basically a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme...
this extortion racket has got to end.
other people's money always runs out.
it clear who the real criminals are - the ones robbing everyone into poverty with their idiotic excuses while they are the greatest hypocrites of them all.

SHAME!

Up 42 Down 9

moe on Nov 16, 2017 at 12:25 pm

"We're not cutting the civil service. That's for sure. It's off the table." - Liberal party spokesperson.
Then why in the H did you have that option on the survey?! What kind of BS is that? I don't get the thinking process of this government.
Also, $61 an hour in total compensation? That is bloody crazy. Pennies in royalties for $1700 worth of gold... "We can't touch that. No way."

The Liberal party has their marching orders from specific interest groups and has no intention whatsoever of threatening that. They have no interest in what's right, but only in what's right for themselves in terms of support from the mining industry and high paid workers.

I am fairly disgusted and a little more sorry that I voted Liberal in the last election. Can't say totally sorry, because I'm glad the Yukon Party is gone, but the Liberals are working on it.

Up 32 Down 11

Dave Evans on Nov 16, 2017 at 11:57 am

Wanna save some govie wage money? Might help to stave off the seemingly inevitable sales tax up here. Here's how.

Get rid of the motor vehicle department, a good portion of it anyway. Think about it. Every year I go down and drop money on paperwork and process to basically say that yes, I still own my car. In exchange I get a nice little sticker that says I still own my car....even though nobody else has come in to say they now own it. If I get pulled over for an expired plate, it is still in the system...only now it says it is expired. I still own it, it is still in good mechanical repair and operation, I am the last registered owner and am currently driving it. Yet I must still advise someone that I do indeed still own the thing so here's my money.....it's basically a form of charity.

People need money and too much time is apparently not good so here's a job doing nothing useful and in return for your spending time at doing nothing you get a decent wage.
I say send 90 percent of the department home, with wages and the admonition that they do something useful for someone else.

Taxes as a means for justifying useless positions performing even more useless tasks is the worst kind of charity....it borders on slavery. Imagine...spending every day in a requirement of basically doing nothing for a wage that you pay a portion back in taxes so more useless jobs can be filled doing basically nothing. It must be exhausting.

I've had occasion to do work in various government buildings. Amazing how we as a species make simple things stupidly complicated. Self important fleshbags pushing about bits of paper and process for essentially nothing.

Up 51 Down 7

ralpH on Nov 16, 2017 at 8:18 am

Just reduce size of government through attrition and change the way spending is done in government. A lot of waste and abuse.

Up 16 Down 47

Pragmatist on Nov 16, 2017 at 6:58 am

We are a government town. Just as Juneau is a government town.
There it is.
One could argue that there are too many government employees, and one could easily say just fire a bunch of them and all will be well, but that's just a knee jerk action.
We are where we are Yukon government employee number wise for a number of reasons, and many of our previous administrations can shoulder the blame.
So, lay off a bunch? What percentage? 10%? What are our numbers right now, 4600 or so? So, lay off 460 people. Generally, that person would be the primary earner for the family. Policy analysts seem to be the scapegoat these days (through no fault of their own), so where would these people find employment? Macs Fireweed? Walmart? Norcope? Maybe get a job at Minto, because policy analysts have lots of relevant expertise in that industry, just as a diamond driller would make a great policy analyst....
The point is, those people would be gone. A conservative guess would be that laying of 460 YG employees would result in at least 1500 people living our territory, and that impacts EVERY business.
The current gov has inherited a mixed bag and have to deal with it, the premier has spoken to reducing YG numbers through attrition which is really the only realistic option.
We need revenue, and some tough decisions have to be made.
A small sales tax, while generally unpopular to us Yukoners who feel we are entitled to living off the largess of the rest of the country, is probably the best approach.

Up 42 Down 14

jc on Nov 15, 2017 at 9:12 pm

This Liberal party can't run a government and the Premier can't lead. 40% of the workers in Yukon live on taxpayer money supplied by low income workers who make an average of 2 times less than them. Absolutely unbelievable. They are the only ones that can afford housing and the high rents. Something has to be done. The non government workers and poor class workers need a leader. And one other thing, the FN need to start contributing to the economy and pay their fair share. They have had their four feet in the trough long enough.

Up 29 Down 12

Bob Ablanalp on Nov 15, 2017 at 6:35 pm

HST for all Yukoners or a hiring and wage freeze for the bloated Civil Service ?
An easy choice to make if you're not an over-payed and under-worked government employee.

the Libertarian Party will be getting my vote in the next election.

Up 49 Down 6

joe on Nov 15, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Although nobody wants to touch it, everyone knows the YG is bloated and needs to be trimmed. It's time to do a through assessment of each department and cut unnecessary costs. We all know it, we've all seen it. We also know the BS we're hearing right now is just a delay tactic before some sort of new taxes get implemented.

Up 34 Down 19

Thomas Brewer on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:29 pm

I'm a little sick and tired of listening to the placer miners whine about their royalties... a whopping 30 cents an ounce... They should be paying a lot more given an ounce fetches $1200+USD... let's look at what Alberta charges:

http://www.energy.gov.ab.ca/minerals/699.asp

Up 31 Down 6

Groucho d'North on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

I think when all the taxes we know about already are tallied up there will be a fair amount of sticker shock for the cost of living in the Yukon. Coupled with a recent jump in gasoline and heating fuel prices and the pending carbon tax on just about everything related to transportation of goods and essential products like food, medicines, clothing and everything else we buy to survive.
All of us consumers will need to tighten our belts and become much more budget-conscious because governments just can't seem to manage a reduction in their spending and impose new tax pressures on the public instead. I for one am growing tired of paying for the largess of government and their flagrant entitlements and waste.

Up 33 Down 8

June Jackson on Nov 15, 2017 at 4:02 pm

The following is the most pathetic thing I've ever seen come out of a report.. Really? IF rebates and tax reductions elsewhere are implemented?" REALLY?
"A sales tax would generate and stabilize government revenue, extract money from visitors to the Yukon, and does not need to increase the tax burden shouldered by Yukoners if rebates and tax reductions elsewhere are implemented." What does that even mean?

Outside of the good laugh, the sales tax will come in because Canada is broke.. the Federal Liberals recently released a report saying.. http://nationalpost.com/news/politics/john-ivison-liberal-government-doing-an-outstanding-job-says-liberal-government
The Liberals say they are doing a great job... another, oh really? given that the country is desperate for money ..can we even pay the monthly interest on our loans? 1.4 trillion dollars in debt, with 30% of that held inside the country and 70% held by foreign interests, oh yeah..we're going to get a carbon tax, a sales tax, a health care premium and every single Yukoner is going to get a 'mean's test...
Personally, I believe its much worse than I think it is..and I think its pretty bad.

Up 39 Down 10

Scotty on Nov 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Even if the politicians are scared to cut the public sector maybe we could have fewer Policy Analysts and more Plow Truck Drivers.

Up 46 Down 10

Nile on Nov 15, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Things I expect to see in the next 4 years:
1)Sales Tax
2)Airport Tax
3)Carbon Tax
4)Hotel Tax
5)Mining/Royalties Tax
6)Recycling Tax
Soon only government workers will be able to afford to live here.

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