Can you smell pork?

The Yukon government is spending $31 million to improve the Campbell Highway. That’s a pile of money.

The Yukon government is spending $31 million to improve the Campbell Highway.

That’s a pile of money.

There is little doubt the road needs work. Those who drive it complain it is narrow, twisty and dangerous.

But it is also little used.

In 2006 (the last year that full statistics are available) the average traffic volumes beyond kilometre 10 on the Campbell Highway, the area closest to Watson Lake and the access road to its airport, was 145 vehicles a day averaged over a full year. That’s as good as it gets.

Beyond kilometre 110, the highway saw only 17 vehicles a day averaged over the year.

At the intersection of the South Canol Road, there was an average of 88 vehicles using the highway every day, but that was only over four months (90 days). After that, there is no data available, probably because outside summer nobody drives the Canol — it is not maintained in the winter.

By comparison, the Alaska Highway by Swift River sees an average of 541 vehicles a day, the South Klondike Highway near Carcross sees 565 vehicles a day, the North Klondike Highway beyond Stewart Crossing sees 180 vehicles a day and the Dempster sees 109.

To spend $31 million to benefit 145 Campbell drivers a day ($214,000 apiece) is ludicrous. To spend it for 17 is criminally wasteful.

So what is going on?

Well, the road is in Premier Dennis Fentie’s riding, so there’s a large element of pork barreling going on.

But there’s also some economic development at play.

By economic development, we mean direct subsidy of the mining sector.

The Campbell cuts through a mineral-rich region of the Yukon. Improving the Campbell will directly benefit Outside corporations that mine the region and ship concentrate down the road.

Currently, there is only one mining company using the road. That’s the Cantung Mine, located in the NWT.

A smoother, wider, safer road benefits the mine’s owner, Vancouver-based North American Tungsten Corp.

But is it the best use of the Yukon’s capital budget?

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation doesn’t think so.

It calls it corporate welfare.

If a company benefits from the roadwork, it should pay for it, said its spokesman Scott Hennig.

That’s how it’s done in Alberta, he noted.

And if a company can’t pay for the needed improvement, then it probably isn’t viable.

It’s not a bad litmus test. And it provides a public benefit from the operation in the form of better public infrastructure.

The Fentie government isn’t the first to engage in flagrant subsidy of large industry in the territory.

Sawmills, lead-zinc mines, and gold mines have all benefited from significant public investment, roads and power deals.

Most of these subsidies were offered during a time of low metal prices and foundering economy, an attempt by government to prime the pump.

All the companies operated for a short time, then went belly-up.

It’s time to learn from these mistakes.

Times have changed, metal prices are high and the territory’s mineral wealth is coveted internationally.

If companies want our roads improved for their benefit, they should pay for it.

There is no shortage of projects in the territory that need public funding.

Spending $31 million on the Campbell isn’t one of them. (Richard Mostyn)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read