Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier-Designate Sandy Silver
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Premier-Designate Sandy Silver
Amid the flurry of promises made by all the parties during the campaign, it may be difficult to recall what the winning Yukon Liberals said they would do over the next four to five years.
The new Liberal government has yet to be sworn in, but once it is, premier-designate Sandy Silver and his team will have to act quickly if they intend to make good on the 130 or so pledges they made in the lead-up to the election.
In the first 30 days, for example, Silver said he and his cabinet would meet with all the Yukon First Nations chiefs.
Silver has said the Yukon government’s most important relationship is its relationship with Yukon First Nations.
In keeping with this spirit, Silver said he would hold the Yukon Forum four times a year, or as often as requested by the chiefs, and make National Aboriginal Day on June 21 a statutory holiday.
Further, Silver vowed to ensure the federal government repeals Bill S-6, a piece of legislation that saw controversial amendments made to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, and to protect 80 per cent of the Peel Watershed from development, as per the original land use plan.
The Peel dispute however, has moved all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada and that hearing remains on the docket for March 22.
This isn’t the only court case the Liberals will take on when they assume power.
For example last June, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in of Dawson City launched a lawsuit against the territorial government claiming it wasn’t consulted about mineral exploration that’s been happening on its traditional territory since 2003. That case is one of at least four active lawsuits against the Yukon government, not including the Peel case.
In their platform, the Liberals tried to weave economic growth with environmental preservation, claiming that each can bolster the other.
They said the environment would be considered in all future decisions made by government, and they also promised to support the mining industry.
The Liberals said they would immediately put a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” in the Yukon, support oil and gas development on Eagle Plain, but not in the Whitehorse trough, and spend up to $30 million a year on retrofitting government, commercial and residential buildings to make them more energy efficient.
Among the party’s many environmental and economic promises was one to establish an “Independent Task Force on Economic Enhancement and Environmental Sustainability.” Keeping tabs on this task force – what it will look like, and what it will actually achieve – will be a job for the opposition parties and the media in the months and years to come.
All three parties said they would implement an advisory panel’s recommendations for improving procurement in the territory, but the Liberals said they would “fast track” the process, and overhaul the system in the next two years.
Long before the election was called, Silver promoted an alternative model for infrastructure spending that included a long-term schedule for major capital projects. The Liberal platform includes a promise to develop a five-year plan with a slate of “shovel-ready” projects that will be put out for tender “well ahead of each construction season.”
Will paving the Dawson runway be on that list? Silver promised his home community that he would make that happen if elected.
It would be reasonable to expect the Liberal party to roll out its list of capital projects near the beginning of its mandate.
Silver promised to make funding for the communities more predictable. He would do this, he said, in part, by establishing a five-year plan to fund the Comprehensive Municipal Grant, the transfer of funds from the territory to the communities.
Housing, especially in the communities, was a key element of the Liberal platform.
Silver promised to prioritize affordable housing when allocating federal dollars, and to upgrade the existing housing stock in the communities.
The premier-designate vowed to work with First Nations governments and communities on a “Housing Action Plan,” and to implement a “Housing First Strategy” for Yukoners affected by poverty, or who live with addictions and mental health issues.
Last month, Chief Jack Caesar of the Ross River Dena Council made a forceful appeal to the Yukon political parties to address the housing crisis in his community.
In an Oct. 22 letter to the Yukon’s four party leaders, Caesar said that nearly half the 130 homes in Ross River are unsafe to live in, and that emergency temporary homes are needed for 48 to 60 families before winter.
Though housing in Ross River is technically a federal matter, the Liberals promised to include money for housing in the community in its first territorial budget.
Political parties are frequently asked what they will do for families.
To this end, Silver said his government would create a tax credit for families who pay to use in vitro fertilization, regulate midwifery and develop a “Yukon Early Childhood Strategy.”
Regarding education, the Liberals said they would enhance incentives to help retain teachers in the communities, expand experiential and hands-on learning in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 curricula, and develop a plan with Yukon College to transition it to a university.
How the Yukon will support its aging population continues to be a hot topic.
The Liberals said they would keep the controversial continuing care facility currently under construction in Whistle Bend, but that they would limit it to 150 beds. The previous Yukon Party government wanted the option to expand the facility to fit 300 beds.
The Liberal platform says it will work to enable seniors to age in their home communities, and “find solutions that offer alternatives and transitions between home care and full-time continuing care,” but it doesn’t provide details.
In the spring, the Yukon Party government published a 10-year “Mental Wellness Strategy.” It was criticized at the time by NDP health critic Jan Stick, who said the plan lacked a clear timeline, commitments to hire front-line staff, and goals for shortening wait times for mental health and addictions services.
“This new mental wellness strategy is a start, but it needs more substance and more resources to succeed,” she said in a May 10 letter published in the Star.
The Liberals have promised to “streamline and refocus” the strategy, and to recruit “an adequate number” of mental health care workers to meet the demand in the territory.
Welcomed by the Yukon Employees’ Union was the Liberal promise to amend the Yukon Worker’s Compensation Act to include a provision that would presume first responders with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder developed the condition on the job.
The Liberals championed open and transparent government during the campaign.
In their platform, they said they would amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to “increase the amount of government information available to Yukoners.”
In addition, they promised to review the Yukon government’s hiring and promotions process to ensure it’s transparent, to create a public lobbyist registry, and to set up a Commission on Electoral Reform that would consult with Yukoners about possible changes to the way the territory elects its government.
As of press time this afternoon, the official recount of the election results in Mountainview was still proceeding.
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