Fentie willing to rethink funding to communities

The Yukon government is responding to community demands for more territorial funding. It will review financial arrangements in partnership with the…

The Yukon government is responding to community demands for more territorial funding.

It will review financial arrangements in partnership with the Association of Yukon Communities, said Community Services Minister Glenn Hart.

The review comes after Ottawa pledged an additional $25 million to the Yukon in its latest budget, released in March.

For at least 12 years, the AYC has asked the territory for increased community funding, but until now the requests have been ignored, said association president Doug Graham.

Yukon communities want their base grant indexed to inflation, but Premier Dennis Fentie wants all sources of funding considered during the discussions.

Other sources of funding include the gas tax funding and the federal Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund.

“I think that’s wonderful because things have changed over the last 10 years and to sit down with a completely open mind on both sides and just talk is great,” said Graham.

“There’s no doubt that communities are having trouble with funding right now in various ways.

“Many communities are having trouble funding their ongoing operations, so this is a chance for us to get out and really talk about it.”

Hart will be looking at territorial base grant funding to the communities as well as the communities’ infrastructure and operating costs.

He will be comparing the funding and costs of Yukon communities with communities outside the territory, he said in an interview Tuesday.

“There’s no doubt that something like the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund is wonderful because it means that one third is paid by the feds and one third is paid by (the territorial government) and one third is paid by the community.

“But in smaller communities they can’t come up with their one third, so that’s why Mr. Fentie wanting to talk about it in the even larger context is even better.

“Then we can say, ‘Well in some cases communities can’t come up with their one third, so what can you do for them,’ and that’s the kind of stuff that we’re really looking forward to discussing.”

“We enjoy smacking the government when they do things wrong, but many times people don’t give them credit when they do something that’s in the best interest of all of us and this is one of those things,” Graham added.

The new money from Ottawa has something to do with the territorial government’s sudden willingness to talk, said Graham.

The association is holding its annual general meeting in Dawson City in May and one of the agenda items is going to be the new federal money and what the territorial government should do with it.

“It was going to be a big item of discussion, but now at least we don’t have to think of ways to put pressure on the territorial government to sit down because they’ve already volunteered,” he said.

 “Let’s face it — in the Yukon, municipalities, they really are the economic drivers. Without the communities going we don’t have an economy going.

 “It’s so important that we keep our communities strong and financially viable.”