Federal funding will help territory better understand small towns

There’s a dearth of statistics on Whitehorse and it’s time the government starts to look at other communities in the territory, says the…

There’s a dearth of statistics on Whitehorse and it’s time the government starts to look at other communities in the territory, says the Yukon statistics bureau.

“We get so much information on Whitehorse — through StatsCan or other places — so we need to know more about the communities outside the city,” said bureau director Greg Finnegan.

A socio-economic study — a community omnibus survey — will look at the social well-being of living in different towns.

It’s one of two surveys receiving funding from Ottawa.

The bureau got $750,000 from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada when minister Chuck Strahl visited the Yukon earlier this month.

 The money will fund two economic surveys, including a census of home-based and establishment-based businesses to get a better grasp of labour problems in the territory.

The two-year omnibus survey will study each Yukon community to provide better economic development information for industry and for Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act impact studies.

The survey will serve as a benchmark for the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, said Finnegan.

“The government needs databases for corporations studying the impact certain projects would have on the community,” said Finnegan.

Educations levels, skills, job breakdown by industry, access to the internet, criminal activity, roads, and health issues are some areas the survey will cover.

“If we put in a new mine, how ready are the communities and what’s the impact going to be on Teslin or Watson Lake?” he said.

A comprehensive survey of the communities had not undertaken until now because there was no trigger like the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act process before now, said Finnegan.

The announcement from Ottawa includes $200,000 that was not spent last year, and is part of a three-year project now in its second year.

The business survey will look at a broad range of information to better understand the labour shortage and other economic issues affecting small and large businesses in the Yukon.

Results of the survey should be known this spring, said Finnegan.

There is an estimated 4,200 “business entities” in the Yukon, according to the bureau.

“A lot of businesses are based out of homes and they’re not easily seen from the street,” said Finnegan.

Mostly, the bureau wants to know how businesses are dealing with the labour shortage that many employers are talking about — what does industry need, where will it find labour and how will it retain it?

It’s the reverse from a decade ago.

“In the 90s, we were looking at reasons for the high unemployment, now it’s the opposite,” said Finnegan.

The studies are actually complimentary because surveyors will be asking people in the communities why they left jobs, said Finnegan.

“So we get two studies — this is what business is telling us, and this is what labour is telling us.”