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News archive for January 16, 2013

MP working to soften Parks Canada cuts

Yukoners were given the chance Tuesday afternoon to speak to their MP about concerns over the upcoming 2013 federal budget.

By Ashley Joannou on January 16, 2013 at 4:08 pm

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Photo submitted

FEWER FEET ON DECK? – The withdrawal of guided tours on the SS Klondike is one of the most serious impacts of the Parks Canada budget cuts on the territory. Photo by JIM PETELSKI

Yukoners were given the chance Tuesday afternoon to speak to their MP about concerns over the upcoming 2013 federal budget.

For at least the first half of the three-hour open house, members of the media and MP Ryan Leef’s staff outnumbered constituents who walked in to have a one-on-one discussion with Leef.

The MP said he’s not expecting any major shocks when the 2013 budget is tabled in Parliament.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of major surprises. I think what we’re looking at is another budget that is going to have a steady course towards deficit reduction, return to balance budget with maintaining our commitments to keeping taxes low for Canadian families,” he said.

The last budget saw some things that were “hard to digest,” he conceded.

Yukoners were particularly vocal about cuts to Parks Canada programs and the closure of the local Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) office.

Budget reductions to Parks Canada meant guided tours of the SS Klondike in Whitehorse were cut, while tours of any kind of the Dredge No. 4 near Dawson City were shut down.

The date the new budget kicks in will be on the cusp of the tourism season.

“My hope would be that we look at the dredge and realize that its economic impact, its historical significance and value and that we just return back to status quo operation of the dredge,” Leef said.

“That’s my hope. Of course now, whether that’s possible is still to be determined.”

The MP said he and Yukon Senator Dan Lang have met with officials with Parks Canada and staff from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office, to discuss possible solutions.

The men presented a range of options, from returning sites to the pre-budget status quo, to following through with the announced plans, “which clearly Yukoners have said is not something they’ll accept,” Leef said.

They are expecting a response by the end of January or early February.

One possible option is to have the sites run by private businesses.

“TIAY (the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon) right now has put out an expression of interest just to measure if people would be interested in that,” Leef noted. “They had a really good response rate on private industry wanting to take on that.”

The only barriers Leef sees is determining the feasibility of running sites as a successful business and doing it in a short timeframe.

“We recognize the clock’s ticking, we recognize the season is coming up quickly,” said the first-term MP.

“We also recognize that vendors and visitors have all started to plan their summer trips.

“So every day that goes by, every week that goes by, we don’t have an answer, that takes a bite out of the potential tourism market that’s going to be able to actually book.”

Meanwhile, the concern over last fall’s closure of the local CRA office did catch Leef by surprise.

“I probably underestimated what level of service was being provided there and what level of service people use the CRA office for,” Leef said.

Currently, people can come to Leef’s office with questions if need be.

This gives his staff a chance to monitor how much concern there is and the specific needs, he said.

“Obviously, as the volume picks up, especially during tax season, that will be eye-opening for us. The one thing we want to make sure we’re on top of it so that there’s no loss of service, that nobody’s suffering and nobody’s impeded at all in their legal response to pay their taxes,” he said.

“People want to pay their taxes; they’re obliged to pay their taxes, and there shouldn’t be a barrier to actually accomplishing that.”

As for potential new program cuts coming down the pipe, Leef said he hasn’t been given a heads-up on any specific plans.

“I would think the worst is behind us,” he said.

Sometimes, cuts are necessary, Leef said.

“More money and more human services doesn’t always equate to better services. Sometimes that’s a hard realization; that streamlining and cutting can actually make a system program or services more effective and better.”

The MP will likely be busier today. He is scheduled to have similar meetings with representatives from businesses, community groups as well as mayors from around the territory and other municipal officials.

Those sessions are booked back-to-back from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The information Leef gathers as well as the results from questionnaires Canadians can fill out on the Department of Finance website will all be sent to the federal minister’s office.

CommentsAdd a comment

flyingfur

Jan 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Ryan is quick to disagree with Parks Canada and really slow to disagree or even have Yukon’s voice heard in the PM’s chambers.  This is not news but a sad reality for Yukoners.  Next federal election is when?

hmmm

Jan 17, 2013 at 10:39 am

You don’t need to create more tax cuts but why not close the loop holes in taxes where people are not paying their fair share? That’s not to hard of a concept for you to digest is it Leef?

Jackie Ward

Jan 21, 2013 at 5:13 pm

That’s why our country is so broken. That’s why the USA is so broken. It’s always this line “we will vote him out next election”. It’s a cowardly way to deal with the problem these people create. It’s pure laziness. Until we get rid of this stupid 3 way party system, no one gains except the government. Conquer and divide? Over and over and over. As long as we are all on a different page, things will just get worse. I’m a liberal, blah blah blah. I’m a NDPer, blah blah blah. We’ve already lost before you finished the sentence. Think about it.

north_of_60

Jan 21, 2013 at 9:25 pm

A divided left keeps the right in power.  We see this both federally and territorially.

Leef was elected because Bagnall lied to his constituents.  He lost the support of just enough voters to loose the election.  The Greens and the NDP helped Leef win too.

north_of_60

Jan 21, 2013 at 9:28 pm

The cuts were made at the bottom where they hurt the most because the public service union prevented the cuts at the top where they would have done the most good.  Terminating one redundant, useless bureaucrat, would have funded about 30 seasonal workers.  Blame the union if you lost your job.

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