Whitehorse Daily Star

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Yukoners greet Trudeau at the Whitehorse airport.

Trudeau Meets Local Press ...

Trudeau visits the Yukon

By Whitehorse Star on May 16, 1968

During a press conference at Whitehorse, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked how soon the government would move to grant greater responsibility to the elected members of Territorial Council, a prime issue with Yukoners who have been impatiently awaiting the tabling of a White Paper on the subject of proposed government changed for the north.

Mr. Trudeau said no announcement would be made before the June 25 election, but “If we are returned as a government we might very well suggest something before the Council’s two-year term is up. Further studies of this question will help us.”

Northern Development Minister Arthur Laing said his department wants the results of the Carr economic survey before tabling the White Paper (the Carr report is due in November) because they will make a valuable contribution to their assessment of the situation in Yukon. “Things change so rapidly here” he said, and added that population changes were expected with the present tremendous mining development.

Mr. Trudeau thought his government would be in a position to state their policy during the present calendar year, and said Saturday’s discussion had helped clarify his ideas.

He was asking about steps toward provincial status for the Yukon, and said he had no idea how far off this might be. He had asked for a projected population figure here but was unable to obtain one, and it was difficult to assess when the Yukon would be a in position comparable to the smallest of Canadian provinces.

He said, “We cannot talk in terms of a deadline, but are moving toward greater responsibility in the hands of the people of this territory.

Mr. Laing added that the Yukon has “the most robust economy in Canada today” and was making a tremendous contribution to Canada in the realm of international balance of payments, but was in a different condition from the rest of Canada. He said in 1965 the Canadian territories produced $44 million towards the gross national product and in 1967, $127 million. He expected before 1970 it would be one quarter billion.

Asked about his visit to the NWT for discussion with Justice William Morov there, Mr. Trudeau, who is still Minister of Justice, said twice earlier he had planned visits to the north on this subject but “events had awaken me.” He felt the recommendations made by Judge Morrow following his enquiry at Hay River would be equally applicable to the Yukon courts.

He said “I feel strongly about the administration of justice in the territories and the Yukon has to be solved with greater decentralization.”

No Paving Plans

The perennial question regarding plans for paving the Canadian section of the Alaska Highway was asked by a student newspaper reporter, and Mr. Trudeau replied that there was nothing definite planned because the cost is prohibitive and the government cannot afford it. He said the government wants to balance the budget. He added that some sections near the larger settlements must be upgraded and Mr. Laing detailed plans for improvements in the Fort Nelson area this summer. DPW is also continuing the dust relief plan, on the 1100 miles of the gravel road past the 80 miles of paving out of Dawson Creek.

Another youthful reporter asked if the Prime Minister was in favour of lowering the legal age to 18. Mr. Trudeau said he hadn’t given the matter any thought but felt there was no particular need to encourage young people to drink.

The recent appointment of a CBC Board of Governors Director from the NWT did not indicate a need for a Yukon member of the Board, Mr. Laing said. The NWT Director is intended to represent the entire north, and Mr. Trudeau added, “If we have more than one of you vigorous northerners on the Board, they would outweigh all the others.”

Asked if in the course of events his party should fail to win the forthcoming election he would carry on as leader of the Opposition, Mr. Trudeau said yes, but “I have been in opposition most of my life. I would like a change, and would like to be on the governing side.

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