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Premier Sandy Silver and Official Opposition Leader Stacey Hassard

Deficit to be smaller than thought: premier

While the details will come out with the tabling of the territorial budget on Thursday, Yukoners can bank on a smaller-than-predicted deficit, according to Premier Sandy Silver.

By Taylor Blewett on February 28, 2018

While the details will come out with the tabling of the territorial budget on Thursday, Yukoners can bank on a smaller-than-predicted deficit, according to Premier Sandy Silver.

They can also expect to see a Cannabis Control Act, an Order of Yukon Act, and a omnibus bill that marks the beginning of a “long road towards gender-neutral legislation.”

Silver spoke with the Star earlier this week to paint a broad-strokes picture of his government’s plans for the spring sitting of the legislative assembly.

It will kick off with budget day tomorrow.

When the 2017-2018 budget was tabled last April, it was projected that 2018-19 would see the government run a $49-million deficit.

“Through working on efficiencies with the departments, we have been able to reduce that forecasted deficit,” Silver said Monday.

Specific details about where these efficiencies have been found will have to wait until the budget drops tomorrow.

Silver, however, said the credit goes to the public service, “who are really buying into evidence-based decision-making.

“Coming up with ways to save the programs and services that Yukoners have come to expect, but at the same time, reducing costs in that pursuit.”

Much of this work has been guided by last year’s financial advisory panel final report, which suggested various ways the government could get its finances on a more sustainable trajectory.

Silver has taken three of these options off the table – introducing a harmonized sales tax, paring down the public service, and increasing placer mining royalties.

But what his government is committing to is a comprehensive review of health care spending and services, he told the Star, noting that one out of every three government dollars is spent on health care.

“Another big theme this year is getting out of the business of doing business,” the premier said.

“We have a comprehensive network of private sector businesses that can do more, as long as we just do less. So more to come on that as well.”

This priority also echoes financial advisory panel suggestions that the government consider public-private partnerships and other forms of privatization.

On the legislative front, the government plans to table its Cannabis Control Act.

“We’ve seen tremendous public interest in this one, and just very interested to see where the debate goes, and what kind of tack the opposition takes on that,” the premier said.

The second bill the premier spoke about Monday is another piece of legislation Yukoners knew was coming.

On Jan. 1, Silver announced that an Order of Yukon is being developed, fulfilling a long-standing goal of recently-retired commissioner Doug Phillips.

The forthcoming legislation will change the Yukon’s status as the only Canadian jurisdiction without an Order.

This sitting will also see the government introduce its second round of legislation related to addressing the discrimination LGBTQ2 people face.

It will emphasize updating language in legislation, the premier said.

More details about this and other government bills will become available by the fifth day of the spring sitting – March 8.

All must be tabled by this date, or else they require unanimous consent by the House to be introduced.

Official Opposition Leader Stacey Hassard has his eyes on the government’s cannabis legalization plans.

“I certainly have concerns,” he told the Star in a Tuesday interview about the Yukon Party’s priorities for the upcoming sitting.

In fact, yesterday, the Opposition released its own “alternative vision” for legalized pot in the territory.

They see the private sector taking on the responsibility for distribution and retail.

For now, the government is restricting both to its own jurisdiction, with private cannabis retail sales left as a conversation for a later date.

The impending introduction of a price on carbon in the territory is another question mark the Yukon Party will continue to raise, Hassard said.

“We know that it’s going to raise the cost of living for all Yukoners, and there’s been essentially no response from the premier, from the government, on how it’s going to roll out.”

Government procurement also tops the Yukon Party agenda this sitting.

They, along with contractors in the territory, have been watching for movement on the $360-million Yukon Resource Gateway Project Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last fall in Whitehorse.

“We haven’t heard of anything in regards to working with the First Nations, they’ve not put anything forward to YESAB, so it seems to be a very stalled project, and that’s very troubling,” Hassard said.

And consultation – the government’s performance on which has been hotly debated in recent days – should be a theme in upcoming question periods.

“For a government that’s ran on a campaign slogan of being heard, I think they’ve done a very poor job on that,” he said.

Kate White spoke to the Star on behalf of the third party in the legislative assembly.

Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson has been on a temporary leave of absence for family reasons, and will resume her leadership role for the legislature’s reconvention, White said.

The party is ready to hold the government’s feet to the fire on a number of files. It will start with the budget.

A deficit is coming, and the NDP is looking to see where, exactly, the government is looking to cut costs.

When the premier talks about reviewing health care spending, “let’s hope it’s not going to go towards privatization, which is what that panel suggested,” White said.

Indeed, the financial advisory panel pointed to “innovations in health care delivery and funding” the government could consider, like contracting out some diagnostic work to private firms, or privately-operated, publicly-funded surgical facilities.

“If you look across Canada, P3s are not the most successful way to deliver programming, and if that’s the way they’re looking at going, then you can guarantee that the NDP will be pushing back,” White said.

She also flagged some potential issues with the forthcoming LGBTQ2 omnibus bill.

From conversations with the various communities it could affect, she’s learned there’s concern that the legislation won’t go far enough, and that not all voices have been heard.

The party has questions about carbon pricing, land use planning and where funding for the new francophone high school will be coming from.

One of the outcomes it’s long pushed for – a minimum wage review – was announced Tuesday by the government (see story, p. 3), but there are many more issue areas that demand Liberal attention, White said.

“We are going to continue to talk about what we think is important. So social assistance rates and landlord-tenant issues and the rights of mobile homeowners and minimum wage and the access to housing and the access to health care, those are all big to us.”

Both the Yukon Party and the NDP can expect to direct their queries to the same slate of cabinet ministers in question period.

The premier confirmed that no portfolios have been shuffled in advance of the sitting.

Comments (5)

Up 0 Down 0

Jack C. on Mar 7, 2018 at 4:18 am

What this amounts to is that the Liberals are better than they thought they were. The humble and low ego approach is always best.

Up 2 Down 0

Juniper Jackson on Mar 5, 2018 at 10:44 pm

It is unfortunate that the Conservative party is not running creditable candidates.. I said at one time, Pasloski had to go..and he did.. I said, i'd vote for Mickey Mouse before I'd vote Pasloski in again.. that's exactly what I got.

Up 8 Down 0

jc on Feb 28, 2018 at 8:45 pm

The legislation they produced in their term so far is pathetic. Just like their Federal masters. Pathetic. I hope Silvers and his pot buddy in Ottawa have a plan B as well.

Up 9 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Feb 28, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Lots of room to make all levels of government more efficient and less wasteful. Also lots of room to cut back on NGO and corporate welfare. One would have to live with their head buried in the sand not to see it. One would have to be addicted to the gravy train not to want to see it ended. Thumbs up to any and all politicians wanting to clean it up. That should be the number one priority for Kate and Stacey, good people both of them.

Up 8 Down 0

Premier contradicting himself on Feb 28, 2018 at 3:10 pm

He taking the Yukon Government out of business, but at the same time driving headfirst into government controlling pot distribution and sales. Make no sense the statement from what is really needed.
NDP what do you know about P3 nothing very much at all. They work very if they are done right. I know because I have being involved.
In Europa where there is social leaning countries some with a mix of conservative, liberals and NDP, they use 3P all the time.
City of Whitehorse should have done that with the cash grabbing building they are building.
If the NDP or other parties want to talk an expert on this subject I will give you her name and contact information.
Sandy there is no need for any deficit at all in the Yukon.
Wilf CArter

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