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Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon

YP being selective about gov’t size: Liberals

The Yukon’s official Opposition says the government is creating more public sector jobs while failing to help private businesses expand their workforce.

By Ethan Lycan-Lang on January 30, 2023

The Yukon’s official Opposition says the government is creating more public sector jobs while failing to help private businesses expand their workforce.

“Over the last few years, the Liberal government has been quick to take credit for economic growth in the territory,” Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon told the Star last Thursday.

“But what we’ve seen, unfortunately, when we look at the job numbers is that that growth has occurred primarily in the public sector. 

“That is not healthy for the territory,” he said.

A Yukon Party release issued last week noted that in November 2016, when the Liberals were first elected, the territory’s Bureau of Statistics reported 8,800 public employees in the Yukon and 13,300 people either self-employed or working for the private sector.

The bureau’s latest stats from December 2022 show 1,900 more public sector jobs in the territory, and 500 fewer self-employed or private sector workers.

“(Yukon businesses) have expressed to us over and over again, that the rate of growth of the public service really affects the private sector,” Dixon said.

“It hurts their ability to recruit staff and their ability to grow as businesses.”

Geraldine Van Bibber, the party’s economic development critic, said the party has “heard over the past few years from the private sector about the difficulties they are facing when it comes to attracting employees.

“From an economic standpoint, this is a startling trend for anyone who values a vibrant private sector and for the multitude of Yukon businesses that contribute so much to our economy.

“We can only hope this trend reverses itself soon.”

The Star contacted the Yukon Chamber of Commerce on Friday for comment, but executive director Shayna Hammer wasn’t available before publication this afternoon.

Denny Kobayashi, the chamber’s former executive director, wrote a letter to then-premier Sandy Silver in February 2022 voicing business concerns over paid sick leave, minimum wage increases and public sector growth.

“This growth in the public sector is seeing employees leaving the private and self-employed sectors to join the public sector in increasing numbers, which has resulted in increased costs for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to recruit and retain employees in a market that is struggling to attract and retain employees,” Kobayashi wrote. He called the trend “highly disturbing.”

The government stands by its work, though.

A statement provided by spokesperson Matthew Cameron last week called the YP release misleading and selective.

The YP release referenced employment statistics from November 2022, Cameron noted, though the latest figures are from a December 2022 report published Jan. 10.

That report shows a 300-job increase in the private sector from the previous month.

Further, Cameron noted the Bureau of Statistics includes all those working in one of the four levels of government within the territory – municipal, First Nations, territorial and federal – when looking at public sector employment.

Premier Ranj Pillai said last week the government supported Yukon businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic and support for the private sector remains important as the territory moves out of the pandemic.

“As we see the federal government starting to reduce spending, and they talked about austerity, the focus has to be growth in the private sector,” he said.

Pillai said increasing public sector jobs has been important over the past number of years, especially in the face of the pandemic and labour shortages in health care and education.

He said the Yukon Party has asked for more public services in the territory, and to criticize growth in the sector is hypocritical.

The government statement provided to the Star called the YP release a “veiled threat” to public servants and their jobs.

Dixon said he doesn’t want to cut public sector jobs, though. He said growth in the public sector has been necessary, but it has come without attention to growing the private sector.

“We think that there needs to be a real clear policy agenda set forth to grow the private sector and allow the small businesses that make the territory so special to grow and thrive,” he said.

Beyond job numbers, Dixon said the government has held back the private sector through policies like rent control, a paid sick day rebate and an annual minimum wage increase tied to inflation. 

These initiatives are part of a Confidence and Supply Agreement (CASA) the Liberals negotiated with the NDP in 2021.

If that agreement isn’t renegotiated by Tuesday, it will expire, and the policies within it could be repealed.

Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn said in November 2022 that the government was looking to end rent control after this month, for instance.

Criticisms of those CASA initiatives are nothing new from the YP. Neither are its attacks on public sector growth.

The YP used the last day of the 2022 fall sitting to ask about the increase in public sector jobs under the Liberals.

According to the latest Public Accounts report published in October 2022, the territory spent just over $716 million on public sector personnel.

That’s close to a $25-million increase from 2021, and a $182 million increase from 2016, when spending was about $534 million.

Dixon criticized Silver in that final question period.

“This massive 34-percent increase in the size of the public service is clearly the defining legacy of this premier,” he said in the last question period of 2022.

Dixon said then the rate of public sector growth is unsustainable.

Silver responded to Dixon’s questions on Nov. 24, saying a large portion of that increase is due to temporary jobs created during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Outside of that,” Silver told the legislature, “we have done a yeoman’s job of actually making sure that we are providing the programs and services necessary for Yukoners, and doing so with a conscientious lens to make sure we have the government grow at a sustainable rate for the programs and services that Yukoners deserve.”

The Department of Health and Social Services added the most public sector jobs, Silver said, with 20.6 FTE (full-time equivalents) created for Mental Wellness and Substance Abuse Services.

Silver said the Yukon Party has its own history of spending more on public sector personnel.

Silver was referencing increased spending between 2003 and 2004, as well as from 2007-2008. Money spent on public employees rose approximately $19.4 million and $24 million, respectively.

In the six years prior to 2016, under Yukon Party leadership, spending on public sector jobs went up about $121.5 million.

In the six years before that, also under Yukon Party leadership, that spending rose close to $164 million.

The size of these increases varies, but in the last two decades, annual spending on public sector personnel has gone up consistently, regardless of the party in power.

Comments (22)

Up 7 Down 1

EJ on Feb 2, 2023 at 9:42 pm

Go ahead and slash hundreds or maybe thousands of high paying govt jobs. Then watch half of all business in the territory go down the drain. You don't think those evil govy workers are eating out at restaurants, flying air north, buying houses, vehicles, furniture, merchandise and on and on? You are dreaming if you think you can just remove a ton of people with good wages from a local economy and not have it cause a downturn in local businesses especially those that operate on slim margins.

I suppose we will find out in a few years when Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party likely come back to power and start slashing again. Maybe I'm completely wrong and the economy will be fine, but I doubt it.

Up 7 Down 2

Nathan Living on Feb 2, 2023 at 6:16 pm

I know many Public Service Employees and they are very well educated and professional. And they deserve good wages and benefits and good union representation.

I call private tradespeople at local companies to troubleshoot a washing machine problem or install stovepipes for a wood stove or fix a toilet; they do not even return my calls so I have to go to this manual or that or this video or that and learn to do it myself.

I walk into many stores where the private sector employees are talking to each other about nothing important or talking to a friend that walked by and it seems like its an imposition for them to help me.
Many private sector businesses are so brutally managed that you wonder how they can actually stay in business or retain good workers who want a decent wage and a promising future.

So, keep bashing the Public Service and suggest the Private Sector will save us.
The number of government employees can of course be reduced. But let's get real and acknowledge how important police, teachers, nurses, care home staff, biologists, park employees, and highways crews are. And there are many other groups I can mention!

Up 8 Down 1

George on Feb 2, 2023 at 1:11 pm

@politico…, i agree with Simon, I worked many years in public sector, senior management- it sucked all around- now in private sector, make way more money, flexible work and way less hours.

Up 14 Down 2

Here we go again on Feb 2, 2023 at 9:05 am

While in most economies, the private sector would be integral to growing the economy, this is simply not true in Yukon.
As you know, the territory cannot even levy enough via taxation to support itself. The vast majority of funding comes from the federal government.

Yukon has next to no exports and a hobby farm of a tourist industry. Most of the businesses here exist to provide services to the government employees and Americans driving to Alaska.

If government didn’t pay them so much, they wouldn’t have money to spend in the community on overpriced goods and services. It is an insular economy and a fake one at that.
Your arguments of small government just aren’t valid here. The entire place would fall apart.
Look on the bright side, it makes our economy virtually immune to economic downturn.

And no, I’m not from Ontario or BC.

Up 15 Down 4

Chuck Farley on Feb 1, 2023 at 2:20 pm

Partial fix; red circle managers annual salary, freeze the hiring of public servants; federal government can do it so can the Territorial government.

Up 14 Down 8

Lawl on Jan 31, 2023 at 6:31 pm

@ Proudtobeprivate

It’s always in fashion to bash public service employees, but take a swing at the private sector workers and you melt like a snowflake. Lawl
Heres the deal, I’ve worked private and public sector. I’ve worked in Unions and with a union.

Every single person I know in the private sector loathed the public sector…..until they were in it.
Ya know, with some schooling and maybe a little luck you’ll get in with the govie too.

Like it or not, public sector wages are the backbone of the Yukon economy and without them you’d be living in a shack, hand to mouth.
Careful what ya wish for

Up 28 Down 6

Proudtobeprivate on Jan 31, 2023 at 11:53 am

@politico @lawl Wow, "crappy private sector" "poverty wages". Prejudiced and misinformed much? Demeaning and maligning private sector employers and employees without -- one suspects -- even half a clue about what you speak does nothing to address the very real issues and concerns of Yukon SMEs or to help advance a more diverse, vibrant community and economy. This kind of divisive rhetoric can only come from those who draw a government paycheque without a clue how the rest of their neighbours operate and earn a living. Do you want to live in a place with only box stores and chains ? Remember Whitehorse in the '90s/early 2000's? Wasn't pretty.

Up 36 Down 4

Groucho d'North on Jan 31, 2023 at 9:14 am

This is not a new or emerging situation, it has been going on for years while each of the parties formed government. The private sector recruits and in some cases reloactes new emloyees to the Yukon. They then invest in training to make this person more effective in their work. Once they get up to speed and are performing well, they anticipate better wages and benefits and often these are compared to government or more properly the collective bargining group's wages and benefits which private enterprise cannot match.
YG posts a position and these private sector people apply and get the job leaving the private sector employer on the hook to replace that employee they invested in for their business. On another note: with all the growth YG has had in staffing why has the delivery of services not improved? It still takes extra time to get information from a department or important things like a Class 4 driver's licence so people can fulfill new job opportunities. Staffing shortages are not the problem, A lack of delivering quality customer service is.

Up 36 Down 6

iBrian on Jan 31, 2023 at 6:31 am

I agree. When Covid lockdowns hit. 60% of the YG workforce worked from home. Well, went home anyways. And no one noticed.
Tourism is dead here, so may as well reduce that department to 3 people. Out of the 3, one will show up for work.
Yukon Environment can reduce to 2 Biologists or fire the ones who are GreenPeace and Anti-Hunting/Trapping paying members. So offensive to pull into Burns road and see the Save ANWR, Greenpeace and other political bumper stickers.
Education department. That whole Department needs a flush. How did the Yukon end up with such poor quality instructors? Some of the worst instructors (can’t call them teachers, no degree in education). Why are the Learning challenged kids not in their own class or school? Certainly have enough FASD running around, could almost start their own Basketball league.
Yeah, I see how government has inflated, and it’s good to see them cleaning out the NGO sector. Was grossed out when I found out many Environmental groups are both the Board Members applying for funding and also hire themselves to do the work. Lots of shady, illegal stuff with those groups and the whole save the world Rainbow groups. So, YG will be issuing probably close to 30% less revenue to NGOs this next quarter.

Up 30 Down 8

Matthew on Jan 31, 2023 at 6:03 am

Simple, big Government = big problems! In order for an economy to thrive, it's the PRIVATE sector that does the heavy lifting.. not the municipal, territorial or federal governments!

Up 29 Down 3

Jim on Jan 30, 2023 at 7:36 pm

So Pillai cites the increase in public sector jobs mostly due to shortages in the health care and education. So has anyone noticed the increase in doctors? Apparently the nurse shortage has reached a new high. Surgeries are being cancelled due to labour shortage. So premier, where exactly did these hires fit into our health care system? Or is this just a continuation of the Liberal non-answer double talk that we can expect going forward. Nice to see some things never change.

Up 33 Down 8

Juniper Jackson on Jan 30, 2023 at 6:51 pm

This government is not hiring Yukoners.. They are importing the bloat from Ontario Liberals.

Up 28 Down 0

Simon on Jan 30, 2023 at 4:28 pm

Politico - Poverty wages? Depends on your job and skills.

I make WAY more money in private industry compared to what I’d make in government.
There’s also more room for advancement and opportunities for bonuses and commissions in private. Again, depends on what you do.

Up 19 Down 10

BnR on Jan 30, 2023 at 4:07 pm

That’s what the YP is saying eh?
The Libs growing YG…..
The Yukon gov has been growing the YG since the days of Dennis Fentie. This isn’t a party issue, they’ve both been doing it.
You going to run on this platform Currie?
You going to run on a “reducing the size of YG” ticket?
Oh, that’s a good one.

Up 28 Down 3

John - with a J on Jan 30, 2023 at 3:53 pm

44,000 people divided by 8,800 government employees.
That means there is one government employee for every 5 people.
And growing? Ridiculous.

Up 16 Down 6

Dallas on Jan 30, 2023 at 3:49 pm

Obviously lawl and politico are liberal supporters.

Up 65 Down 11

Contradiction on Jan 30, 2023 at 3:39 pm

I thought one of Sandy’s mantras was ‘we won’t grow Government.’


Up 67 Down 8

Erwin Glock on Jan 30, 2023 at 3:05 pm

Only in the Yukon does every average workers has its own civil servant. My god are we being spoiled rotten (sarcasm?).

Up 40 Down 71

Lawl on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:57 pm

Dixon just shooting himself in the foot over and over in this story. Lol.

It’s almost palpable where he realizes he is demeaning public servants which happen to make up the largest block of voters.
He continues to have a major blind spot for anything First Nation (remember the Peel?) Yukon FNs (there are 14) are building their own governments of course they require staff. Is Dixon living in an alternate universe?

Further the Yukon population is growing. It grew even through the pandemic. More people require more government services.
Does he really want workers to strive for a crappy private sector job with no benefits/pension and 2 weeks holidays?

Up 48 Down 25

Politico on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:20 pm

Currie is right. Who wants to work for poverty wages in private enterprise when there are well paid government jobs with pensions and sick days. After all Brad, Currie and Geraldine have shown the way by choosing to be in government all these years while shunning the private sector! Currie, face it, people aren't that stupid any more!

Up 46 Down 12

Crunch on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:19 pm

One does not need stats or numbers to come up with this conclusion. We see it where ever we go and in everything we do. Always growing the economy with immigration and borrowed money.

Up 66 Down 19

John on Jan 30, 2023 at 2:07 pm

Yup. it is all about the government - no wonder we have a housing crisis all made do to the gobble, gobble actions of the Lieberals! That's job creation for you. You wanna work in the Yukon - get a government job - paid the most in Canada - the work, well we do ask that you show up, or at minimum phone in...

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