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MEETING A CLEAR CHALLENGE – ‘It’s extremely important, we recognize the climate emergency,’ says Premier Sandy Silver, seen being interviewed by the Star in his office following Thursday afternoon’s throne speech.

Environment has starring role in throne speech

The third session of the 34th Yukon Legislative Assembly kicked off Thursday afternoon with a throne speech given by Commissioner Angélique Bernard outlining a number of priorities for environment, education, tourism and vaping legislation.

By Gabrielle Plonka on October 4, 2019

The third session of the 34th Yukon Legislative Assembly kicked off Thursday afternoon with a throne speech given by Commissioner Angélique Bernard outlining a number of priorities for environment, education, tourism and vaping legislation.

Climate action dominated the list of priorities. The speech contained promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create an energy retrofit loan program, install electric vehicle charging stations along the Alaska Highway, ban single-use bags and launch a youth panel on climate change.

“It’s extremely important, we recognize the climate emergency,” Premier Sandy Silver said in a Star interview following the throne speech. “The most important thing is action.”

Silver said his government is committed to balancing climate action and economic growth.

“I do remember back in the day, a couple elections ago, big ads in the paper saying ‘you have to pick between one or the other,’” Silver said. “I don’t think Yukoners believe in that.”

The throne speech promised a 10-year strategy to be developed with Yukon First Nations and municipal governments to “set out ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the actions needed to achieve them.”

The government will also introduce amendments to the Assessment and Taxation Act next year to create an energy retrofit loan program.

The speech also cited a $1.5-million annual investment in the Renewable Energy Initiative geared toward reducing the Yukon’s reliance on fossil fuels.

It was conceded that transportation poses a “particular challenge” for climate action, as it accounts for more than 60 per cent of the territory’s total greenhouse gas emissions as of 2016.

The solution presented was electrifying the Alaska Highway and supporting more electric vehicle use in the local bus system.

A motion to ban single-use plastic bags was submitted by Ted Adel, the Liberal member for Copperbelt North.

The introduction of the youth panel on climate change will advise himself and ministers directly, Silver said.

“It’s so amazing to see the civic action with the protests, and the public engagement,” he said.

“We want to make sure their voices actually come to policy changes as well.”

The throne speech said the legislature can look forward to the introduction of a “modern” Liquor Act that will address alcohol-related harm in the territory.

There will also be legislation aimed at regulations for vaping and e-cigarettes. The move comes after an outbreak of lung injuries associated with e-cigarettes topped 1,000 cases in the United States this year.

The Yukon is following suit with provincial governments on vaping legislation. Both the Alberta and Nova Scotia governments announced reviews of smoking and tobacco laws last Wednesday.

At the end of September, the B.C. government said it plans to reduce the number of vendors licensed to sell e-cigarettes.

Silver said legislation introduced in the Yukon will modernize the Smoke-Free Places Act.

“It’s a focus on protecting public health, especially when it comes to youth,” he said.

Regarding education, the throne speech committed to investigating the expansion of pre-kindergarten across the territory. This would give parents the option to start their children in school at the age of four, instead of five.

The government plans to introduce legislation to establish Yukon University in this sitting.

This legislation will be passed in time for the first graduates of the Yukon-made bachelor program in Indigenous governance to receive their degrees in May 2020.

“This is a bold move, but one that Yukon College has been building towards for several years,” Bernard told the legislature.

Silver said the advent of the college into a university with the addition of a new sciences building is “an exciting time.”

He said the university will be in a position to provide science education that goes “hand-in-hand” with traditional First Nations knowledge, making it unique to the territory.

The throne speech also committed to a 10-year vision for tourism.

A new governance model establishing an appointed body of representatives to advise the minister of Tourism and Culture was endorsed by the Yukon government this morning. It was also recommended that administrative improvements be made to enhance functionality.

In a news release, Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys said the recommendations will “bring new voices and perspectives to guide tourism governance.”

The throne speech committed to consultation with Yukon’s LGBTQ2S+ community, starting with the banning of conversion therapy. A group of students gathered in the legislature gallery to demonstrate support for the ban, many of whom had signed a petition several months before (see photo, this page).

Three additional motions were introduced by Liberal members alongside the move to ban single-use bags.

Porter Creek Centre MLA Paolo Gallina submitted two motions. The first supports recessing the legislature during the Arctic Winter Games in early 2020.

The second recommended improvements be made to the Small Business Investment Tax Credit and implement further tax measures to support Yukon businesses.

Adel also submitted a motion to investigate leave provisions for those who experience domestic violence.

Four documents were tabled in addition to the speech from the throne.

The first was the June report of the Auditor General of Canada regarding kindergarten through Grade 12 education in the Yukon.

The second was a report from the clerk on the absence of members from sittings between March and April of this year.

In two reports of standing committees on appointments to major government boards and committees, a number of recommendations were made.

Claire Ness, Joshua Lesage and Mary Ellen Read were recommended for appointment to the Yukon Arts Advisory Council.

Keith Ellert was recommended as a representative of workers on the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board. Tyler Bradford was recommended to the Yukon Recreation Advisory Committee.

Warren Pearson and Bunne Palamar were recommended for reappointment to the Yukon Lottery Commission.

John Jenson, Clint McCuaig and Wendy Shanks were recommended for reappointment to the Yukon Energy Corp. board of directors.

Anne Middler and Melville Johnson were recommended for appointment to the Yukon Utilities Board.

Silver told the Star he is looking forward to a successful sitting this fall.

“There’s lots of progressive work that we’ve been doing as a government; it’s been a lot of hard work,” he said.

“I look at my ministers, and they are more determined now than ever to continue on this pace.”

Silver added that maintaining relationships with First Nations governments will continue to be a priority.

Plans laid out at this year’s Yukon Forums had major impact on first initiatives going forward, he said.

“I have to give so much credit to the other leaders of other governments in the Yukon,” he said. “We all come very passionately at this.”

Silver commended the work of Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations. He said the two leaders have been “focusing together on those hard conversations” affecting First Nations communities in the territory.

Silver told the Star the electoral reform commission has been put on hold until after the federal election, following the sudden resignation of chair Jessica Lott Thompson.

“I thought she was a fantastic chair; it’s a shame that she had to step down,” Silver said.

He is unaware of the reason for Lott Thompson’s stepping down beyond what was included in her resignation statement, he added.

“In the interim, we can talk to the opposition parties on how to move forward.”

See related story.

Comments (18)

Up 7 Down 3

jean on Oct 10, 2019 at 4:50 pm

@Michael Miller, if you vote for conservative politicians there will be no CarbonTax, and lower taxes across board.

Up 9 Down 2

Michael Miller on Oct 9, 2019 at 9:06 pm

Eventually we will not get a carbon tax rebate and we will have to pay approximately $800 per person for medical premiums and probably 20% more in federal tax.

There are behind the scenes discussions regarding cutting the generous federal transfer payments over a very short period of time.

The fallout of all this is that people will need high incomes to survive here and the government will have to tax people more heavily and make draconian cuts to services to stay in the black. The large homes and opulent lifestyles will soon be affordable to only a few people.

Up 19 Down 2

Obi on Oct 8, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Attn; Sandy and fellow cabinet members.
Perhaps a solution to rule by: "A government is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done."

Up 4 Down 14

Grade 5 on Oct 8, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Electrify the Alaska Highway sounds grander than it is. It could just be 4 chargers in Watson Lake, Teslin, Haines Juction and Beaver Creek, no new generators required, while recognizing 2 of those are off the hydro grid. New EVs are in the 350-400 km range.

My Grade 5 child can do that math. That is 882 km and a car would need only 130 KWh to do that, about $15 of power. So 10 cars a day is $150 of power and so yes, these demands are not beyond solar/wind capacity. Even if you use LNG to make the power these cars are using approx. 10-15% of the fuel a regular car does.

Take a moment to consider just how cheap and efficient these vehicles are and ask why would we not want cheaper transportation?

Up 27 Down 3

Electrickly Your on Oct 8, 2019 at 10:34 am

Virtue signalling is alive and well in the Yukon.

Single use plastic bags are better for the environment than multi use plastic bags, paper bags, plastic baskets, metal baskets, cardboard boxes. But won't you feel good coming back from the store - in your 6.0L 350 horsepower 20L/100km truck.
How many and how big are the EV stations to be to support 10 Californian tourists per day? Get the kids to answer this, make it a school assignment. What size of generator will you you need to charge up 100 cars per day. Can you do it with sun and wind? How far apart do they have to be?

Put some numbers together, let's see what the science says.

Up 8 Down 28

ED on Oct 8, 2019 at 10:28 am

Never underestimate the wisdom of our young people. They are well aware of the issues and can provide valuable insight toward their future. These young people are between 15 to 30 years old. They are not children. There is nothing wrong with them being part of the solution. I hold my hands up to the young people for the positive and respectful way they have injected themselves in to community matters. Perhaps the adults should be more willing to listen and stop putting down efforts of those attempting to ensure inclusion.

Up 32 Down 4

Obi on Oct 8, 2019 at 9:32 am

And in Whitehorse, we will use Diesel powered snow removal equipment to clean bike lanes of snow and ice so a dozen" organ donor" bikers can use them.
Ask any of these members of the Church of Climatology, to give up their phones, or tablets, or laptops, or internet and you'll have a riot on your hands.
Nothing we do will have an impact, because nothing we do changes the rest of the globe....

Up 22 Down 2

No Excuse for Failure on Oct 7, 2019 at 9:55 pm


The thoughtless crusade to eliminate plastic packaging is misinformed. Lighter, non-recyclable packaging actually generates less waste. And once you start looking into plastic packaging, this kind of counterintuitive conclusion comes up all the time.

Some packaging is a foolish waste, but are shrink-wrapped cucumbers really so silly if it means they stay fresh for 14 days rather than three? Which is worse 1.5g (0.05oz) of plastic wrap or entire cucumbers going off before being eaten?
Plastic bags stop bananas going brown so quickly, or new potatoes going green; they catch grapes that fall off bunches.
About a decade ago, one UK supermarket experimented with taking all its fruit and vegetables out of their packaging - and its food wastage rate doubled. And it's not just shelf life - what about waste created before food gets to the shop in the first place.

Another supermarket, stung by criticism for putting apples in plastic-wrapped trays, tried selling them loose from big cardboard boxes - but so many were damaged in transit that the approach used more packaging per apple actually sold. According to a UK government report, only 3% of food is wasted before it gets to shops. In developing countries, that figure can be 50% - and that difference is partly due to how the food is packaged.

As more of us live in cities, far from where food is grown, this matters.
Even the dreaded single-use shopping bag might not be the villain it seems.
https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47161379

Natural gas is used to make plastic. The plastic is used to wrap food, keep it fresh and relatively uncontaminated. It's also widely used to wrap products to reduce damage and pilferage. Once the plastic has served it's purpose it can be burned like natural gas to provide heat and electricity in a Waste-to-Energy facility like the one in Burnaby BC, or used as 'engineered fuel' to heat cement kilns at 2000°C. That's a far better use for waste plastic than having it litter the land or end up in the ocean.
Why is this so difficult for misinformed, ideologically driven people to comprehend?

Up 19 Down 4

Juniper Jackson on Oct 7, 2019 at 5:08 pm

I am not a climate alarmist..16 year olds can be alarmists because, Mom and Dad are paying the bills.. the picture looks different when you have to pay the heat and power bill. The fridge is always full for a 16 year old living at home.. They also have the time to talk because.. they are not paying the bills.

I see tons of money in this for the 1%..the celebrities griping the loudest.. AND Al Gore, AND Suzuki.. somehow all seem to have big beachfront mansions..they just don't seem to be too worried about the rising ocean? or is it sinking now? oh..and they all eat beef..just saying..because that's the next big alarmist scare coming.. Gore is heavily invested..200 million + in non meat products while Trudeau can be seen screaming get rid of cattle, their farts are killing the world..while eating a big juicy hamburger.. yeah..Morneau and Trudeau, at least have money in non meat products..

All that being said.. it is to every human being living on the planet..(there are a few that don't live on the planet) advantage to keep our living space clean.. In Whitehorse people dump refrigerators, old cars, tires, oil.. over the side of the road into a ditch or canyon, making it hard for someone else to clean up..I pick up garbage..it isn't MY garbage..but it IS my community. What in hell are they thinking of? I totally agree, garbage at a proper garbage site should be free.. but it isn't.. so live with it and keep us clean..all communities in Canada can start a keep us clean project, I'm sure most all ready do.. so, yeah.. keep our planet clean.. give people a place to recycle their bags, the ocean especially needs to be cleaned up..but our mountain tops too, these are no brainers that everyone can do their little bit with any undue suffering.. just sayin' . But another poster is right..it's really about the money, and we're going to be paying out the wazoo for climate scare.

Up 4 Down 25

Davis on Oct 7, 2019 at 1:49 pm

@ Max Mack - If the law doesn't force us to change to protect the environment then change will never happen, I think this is a good first step, although much more needs to be done.

Fossil fuels are most definitely NOT essential to keep us from freezing to death. All we need to do is invest in renewable energy production and switch to electricity to heat buildings. People in the Yukon act like we are the first place in the word to have this problem when actually we are literally one of the last places on earth to have this problem, we have hundreds of examples around the world to learn from. Many parts of Scandinavia are just as cold and remote as we are and they seem to mange just fine. About 95% of the total energy generated in Norway comes from renewable sources.

Please don't tell me you live in Whitehorse and are complaining about the cost of living. With all our subsidies and grants Whitehorse is one of the cheapest places to live in Western Canada.

Up 4 Down 18

David on Oct 7, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Banning single-use bags is great but it's not nearly enough! All single use plastics should have been banned a long time ago! A major concern right now is energy, we need to start investing in renewable energy production and stop putting in more LNG generators!

Up 3 Down 20

Michael Miller on Oct 7, 2019 at 1:17 pm

Well there is comfort knowing the city of whitehorse is on the right track.

Up 24 Down 2

Obi on Oct 7, 2019 at 12:23 pm

Sandy, and the Prime Minstrel!
What a perfect fit. A youth panel on climate change to advise him? Yukon Greta's to the rescue.
It brings to mind a quote, "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies."

Up 25 Down 4

Tory on Oct 7, 2019 at 11:05 am

Wow banning plastic bags! I read somewhere that you have to use a thicker reusable bag sometimes up to 10,000 times to make it more environmentally friendly then a single use plastic bag. Also studies in California have shown when plastic bags are banned small plastic garbage bags sales go up.

Up 40 Down 5

Erik on Oct 5, 2019 at 9:11 pm

The whole premise of banning single use plastic bags as an environmental action plan is ridiculous. At the same time Yukon Energy is planning renting 10 to 12 diesel electric generators from Finning Tractor. These things will burn at a minimum one B train of diesel fuel every day, and they are focusing on single use plastic bags!
How about start to make some plans for new hydroelectric generation, and forget the plastic bags and charging stations? Ever since the Liberals took office they have dropped the energy planning process. It feels like they are completely lost when it comes to real planning that makes sense.

Up 40 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Oct 5, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Considering all the front page news many here have commented on over the past year or so, I'd consider these issues to be the topics the public has some interest in. Yes, the environment was also a key issue, but I'd hope the government could put together a legislative agenda that dealt with some other important matters as determined by the public. Topics like our growing murder rates and crime and punishment overall; the inebriated street people problem and ways to improve that situation; the education and social services departments each have a long list of problem areas that could benefit from some policy attention by the government.
What do we get? A plastic bag ban proposal that was probably poached from another jurisdiction. Pretty low-hanging fruit when you consider how many well paid policy wonks are working to improve our lives as a government.

Up 46 Down 8

Max Mack on Oct 5, 2019 at 6:07 am

Banning plastic bags has nothing to do with "climate action". This is an extreme measure that will increase the cost of living in multiple ways while actually doing more harm to the environment. How about allowing consumers to make their own choices instead of ramming your virtue-signalling values down our throats?

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions? Does Silver not realize that we live in a very cold and very remote part of the world? Fossil fuels are absolutely essential to keep us all from freezing to death and to keep our goods trucking up the highway. This part of the speech has more taxes and other cost-of-living increases written all over it.

Building EV refuelling stations on the Alaska Highway? A VERY expensive proposition to satisfy a tiny fraction of drivers, whilst Yukon Energy has been loudly complaining about electrical demand outstripping supply. Nonsensical policy. Are we also going to allow all those EV drivers to fuel up for free?

The only part of the speech that I think has any merit is expanding the energy retrofit program. However, the loan program does not go far enough as many Yukoners simply can't afford to retrofit -- payback periods are too long to justify the many 10s of 1000s needed to retrofit a typical house. Meanwhile, contractors simply up their rates and quotes to absorb any subsidies and regulators impose evermore drastic regulations and standards that entirely suck any possible cost advantage out of these policy proposals.

A youth panel on climate change? Sure - let's have 16-year olds design government policy. Great idea. /sarc off.

Up 30 Down 10

JC on Oct 4, 2019 at 6:25 pm

A youth panel on climate change. That's right Liberals, bring in the big guns. You need the wisdom of youth.

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