Robbing Peter to pay Ted

As the federal government shuts its Canadian Revenue Agency office in Whitehorse, stops guided tours of the SS Klondike and padlocks Dredge No. 4, it will simultaneously shell out more than $1 million this year on a new venture in the Yukon.

As the federal government shuts its Canadian Revenue Agency office in Whitehorse, stops guided tours of the SS Klondike and padlocks Dredge No. 4, it will simultaneously shell out more than $1 million this year on a new venture in the Yukon.

It’s the new regional office of Leona Aglukkaq, minister responsible for health, the North, and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

Headed by Ted Staffen, a former Yukon Party MLA, the office cost $826,926.40 to establish. Its annual operating cost is expected to be $304,105.73.

The office, which opened in March, is discreetly located on the third floor of the Hougen’s Centre, on the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue. The building’s directory merely identifies the office as “MRO,” for Minister’s Regional Office.

Upstairs, visitors are met by a locked door, a numeric keypad and a security camera. A handwritten note on the door has the cellphone number of the office manager, Suzanne Evans.

She explains the only way to get inside is as an invited guest.

It’s hard to say how much of the cut services Staffen’s new digs would have paid for. The CRA refused to say how much it cost to operate its Whitehorse office, which was staffed by one full-time worker.

Parks Canada also refused to say how much it’s saving by reducing services at historic sites like the dredge and sternwheeler, ending search and rescue responses in Kluane National Park, and more.

But a report on the department’s website puts the organization’s Yukon budget at $10.4 million for 2008-09, the last year that numbers are available.

Nationally, Parks Canada is expected to cut $29.2 million and 638 jobs this year. The territory is set to lose 30 of its 110 federal parks staff.

The Ministers’ Regional Office program started in 1986, according to a spokesperson for Public Works and Government Services Canada. The decision to open offices in the North came in 2009, “to support Canada’s Northern Strategy, which demonstrates our government’s increasing engagement in northern Canada.”

In February, Staffen told the News he would be Aglukkaq’s man on the ground in the Yukon. “I assist with issues that arise. It’s a new position. Flexibility is key,” he said. He was not available for further comment before press time.

Since opening, the new office has sent out one press release – on Aglukkaq’s behalf – commemorating the International Day of the Girl, which was on Oct. 11.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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