Dreaming the big dream

Yukoners like to think of themselves as a hardy, self-reliant lot. This collective self-image is at odds with the reality that our territorial government is propped up with massive subsidies from Ottawa.

Yukoners like to think of themselves as a hardy, self-reliant lot. This collective self-image is at odds with the reality that our territorial government is propped up with massive subsidies from Ottawa.

This year total transfers from the feds are expected to top $1 billion. That’s nearly $30,000 for every resident of the territory.

By comparison, the territory expects to raise a mere $162 million through its own taxes and other levies. That’s just 13 per cent of the government’s total revenues.

Our Yukon Party government is usually of the habit of celebrating how much federal cash is raining upon the territory, and of suggesting that its cozy ties with its federal counterparts help make it all happen.

But, to some conservative-minded residents, this dependence on federal hand-outs is a sign that the Yukon has lost its way. Presumably as a sop to this crowd, Pasloski last week told a business audience that he aimed to see the territory become a net contributor to Canada.

It’s a nice idea. While we’re at it, it would be swell to live in a territory powered by endless supplies of clean power thanks to cold nuclear fusion, where we commute to work either in flying cars or on hoverboards and everyone has a pet unicorn in their backyards.

But nobody would expect such flights of fancy to happen anytime soon. After all, extravagant claims should be buttressed with credible details to be believed. Such specificity is completely lacking with Pasloski’s pie-in-the-sky dreams of financial independence for the territory.

The Yukon Party has always put much faith in mining. But even when a mining boom seemed much more likely to materialize back in the autumn of 2011, the wonks with the Conference Board of Canada didn’t expect new mines to make the territory any less dependent on Ottawa. That’s because as the territory’s population grows, so do federal transfers.

Of course, many of the mine projects that the conference board anticipated to surge forward are instead now stuck in the mud, as metal prices slide and investors fail to buy into already-permitted properties.

If you’d like further reasons to doubt the premier’s claims, consider what he touts as a shining example of fiscal discipline: the government’s badly botched plans to rebuild F.H. Collins Secondary School.

Pasloski maintains the territory saved $17 million in its handling of plans to rebuild the aging high school. He reaches that figure by comparing the construction cost of the ostentatious monument his government initially planned to build – all pricey glass walls, curving walls and long roof spans – against the cost of the revised plan, which doesn’t look like much more than a glorified chain of portables.

Students were supposed to occupy the new building last fall. Instead, thanks to the government having to go back to the drawing board and redesign the school, that opening has been delayed by two years, to the autumn of 2015.

Local contractors ended up wasting their resources to bid on the ill-fated project. And many later found themselves locked out of the bids for the new work, which required experience on projects in Alberta. This all represents missed opportunities for Yukon workers.

And the territory itself frittered away at least $5 million on generating its unused school plans. That’s not including all the man-hours consumed by bureaucrats who worked on the file. Needless to say, had these funds not been wasted, they could have actually been put to some good.

How does the premier characterize this outcome? Why, in his budget speech he described it as “one of the best examples of fiscal prudence” his government can muster. What a frightening thought.

Perhaps that’s how we’ll become financially independent, then. We need only earmark $1 billion in poorly conceived projects, then later scrap those plans at an expense of, say, a few hundred million. Presto change-o, by the premier’s own reasoning, we’ve just saved a billion bucks. 

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

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read