Peter Turner, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, speaks to media at Burnt Toast about employees for local businesses on Sept. 26. Turner wants to know what prospective MPs plan to do to attract workers to the territory and to keep them. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Business and mining groups lay out their wish lists ahead of the election

Issues include affordable housing and the carbon tax

Yukon business and mining representatives say they want an MP who will pay attention to labour, housing, reducing red tape and the carbon tax.

The News reached out to representatives from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, banking their expectations of prospective MPs.

Peter Turner, president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, wants to know what candidates will do to attract workers to the Yukon and how they propose to keep them here. He’s also interested in how affordable housing will be increased.

Conservative Party of Canada candidate Jonas Smith said the Yukon is doing a good job of attracting workers. Retaining them is another story.

He said he’d ensure that federal immigration officials are available in Whitehorse to help settle new Canadians.

“I think the biggest bottleneck right now is housing.”

To deal with soaring prices, Smith said he’d cut taxes — small business and personal taxes. He would remove GST from home heating and income tax from parental leave benefits, too.

“The most effective thing we can do is make life more affordable and let people keep more of their own money.”

Availability is connected to affordability, he said.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation is working to increase residential developments on settlement lands.

“I think it’s going to be transformational for our housing market here,” Smith said.

He said he would support advancing this as MP, which could eventually mean more housing available in the city.

“I think what is missing is the coordination and making sure people are rowing in the same direction.”

Liberal Party candidate Larry Bagnell said in a written statement he would make “modest and responsible” increases to immigration, with an emphasis on those who are highly skilled.

“The Yukon Nominee Program has been particularly successful in attracting new workers to the Yukon,” he said. “We have just announced changes to make the program even more effective, so that a worker can work for up to three employers, as opposed to one, in a community. We also lifted the restriction of being able to work for only one job for a particular employer.”

Key to having a stronger workforce in the Yukon is ensuring there’s affordable housing, he said.

Bagnell said 100,000 units are to be built if the Liberals are re-elected. By 2020, rental costs would be offset by an average of $2,500 annually under the Canada Housing Benefit, he added.

Justin Lemphers, candidate for the NDP, said in a written statement he’d create more jobs, in the renewable energy sector in the territory, for instance, part of the party’s national platform to create 300,000 in that area. Improving apprenticeships rates so that women and Indigenous people, among others, are better equipped to enter the skilled trades is another priority.

“An NDP government will support work programs that help facilitate people’s pathway to work in Canada such as work visas or Yukon nominee program,” he said. “The NDP would also support relocation programs that help Canadians move to Yukon.”

Under an NDP government, minimum wage would be increased to $15.

In terms of retaining workers, the NDP would put in place a new tax credit for graduates, framed as an incentive to live in rural and northern areas.

The NDP has pledged to build 500,000 new affordable homes across the country within five years.

Federal GST/HST will be waived in support of the construction of new units, he said.

In a written statement, Lenore Morris, candidate for the Green Party, said job fair delegations should be given more resources and more First Nations people should be hired.

In terms of worker retention, she said more affordable housing, particularly rentals, should be created.

Joseph Zelezny, candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, said in a written statement he’d cut business, income and capital gains taxes. Doing so, he said, “will make housing more affordable by enabling more prosperity for all with stronger economy which will be attractive for workers to stay in the Yukon.”

A free market, he continued, will help, too. Zelenzy said “non-economic immigration” strains the housing stock. The PPC wants to place a cap on the number immigrants entering the country.

Will Fellers, president of the Klondike Placer Miners’ Association, wants government to be downsized. There’s currently too much red tape, he said.

Bagnell said the Liberals want to grow the private sector.

“We will reduce red tape by eliminating the GST swipe fee, cut the cost of federal incorporation … and we will implement a voluntary, real time payroll system to automate records of employment, so that small businesses no longer have to submit their detailed records to Service Canada,” he said. “And we have reduced the small business tax rate from 11 per cent to nine per cent, leaving most Yukon small businesses better off.”

Lemphers said he recognizes that red tape impedes services businesses need in order to be successful.

“A New Democrat government will put in place a service guarantee that will make departments responsible for establishing and publishing binding service standards for programs and services accessed by the public. Ministers will be held responsible for delivering on these targets,” he said.

Smith, who’s taken on an advisory role at Klondike Placer Miners’ Association during the writ period, said he’s a proponent of an expanded private sector in the Yukon.

The Conservatives would assign a minister whose file would involve scaling down bureaucracy. They would report to the prime minister.

“We also said we would implement two-for-one rule for new regulations, so for every new regulation the federal government implements we have to get rid of two old ones.”

Morris said bureaucracy and red tape should not be taken as one in the same — civil servants can help. She said the Greens are against wasting resources.

“We need a real CRA office here in Whitehorse and the CRA needs more staff to answer the phones to help business people comply with the rules,” she said.

Zelezny said he would streamline government processes and find efficiencies.

There’s a “need to depoliticize decision-making and ensure foreign-funded interest groups are not sabotaging our economy,” he said. “Reducing cost and regulatory burdens will enable for more successful businesses by having good incentives.

Despite placer miners getting a dollar-for-dollar rebate, Fellers said he wants to see the carbon tax eliminated. He said there are still noticeable increases to food and freight costs.

Smith said he would scrap it. Doing so is a major pillar of the Conservatives.

“The Yukon government did go through significant effort to ensure the placer industry got a rebate, but that is just for direct costs. That does not affect groceries and parts and shipping and everything else. I’d rather see a government using a carrot instead of a stick.”

Morris said she would keep the carbon tax system in place.

“The carbon tax, like all consumption taxes, makes things more expensive, and long term at least it’ll cause people to use less of those items,” she said.

Zelezny also said he would torpedo the system.

Lemphers would keep the carbon tax, including rebates reserved for households falling under the federal backstop.

“We will also remove breaks for big polluters and make them pay.”

He said more work would be done to keep things local — food, for instance — which would drive some costs down.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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