Open letter to Yukoners

Open letter to Yukoners All Yukoners feel a great sense of pride when one of our own gets recognition on the national stage. Shawn Ryan's prestigious award for being named Canadian Prospector of the Year in Toronto is indeed a cause for celebration. Yuko

All Yukoners feel a great sense of pride when one of our own gets recognition on the national stage. Shawn Ryan’s prestigious award for being named Canadian Prospector of the Year in Toronto is indeed a cause for celebration.

Yukoners can also share in Mr. Ryan’s personal achievements because we have collectively invested a great deal in the success of the mining industry. Mr. Ryan, and many other “grassroots” prospectors, have benefited from our Yukon Mineral Incentives Plan, and Mr. Ryan made sure to express thanks for the support he received from YMIP in the local media.

Through incentive programs like YMIP - created in 1987 by a Yukon New Democratic Party government – our party has long demonstrated its support of the industry. Through YMIP, and other measures, the Yukon people are co-investors in this industry. We own the resources, we permit their exploitation, we finance and build infrastructure necessary for the success of the industry (e.g. roads, bridges, energy, etc.), we pay the wages of water testers, mining recorders and inspectors, and we compile the geological survey data.

Let’s not forget the generations of Yukoners who worked on land claims, self-government agreements and devolution, and through their efforts created the resource certainty that the mining industry needs.

The Yukon New Democratic Party is the only party to talk publicly about the need to take a co-operative and collaborative approach to developing our nonrenewable resources in a responsible manner that provides maximum returns to their true owners Ð the people of this territory.

We have consistently questioned whether, under our current royalty regime, we are getting a fair deal for our mineral wealth.

And we’ve come under attack for it by the Yukon Party and the Liberals, who are content to see most of our resource wealth flow to Outside shareholders.

Under our current rules, the reality is that the total revenues our government expects to get from oil-and-gas revenue and land-and-mineral leases and royalties will be less than the government will bring in from campground permits.

The royalty for placer gold that goes to the public is 37.5 cents an ounce Ð because the value of gold set by government is pegged at $15 an ounce. The price of gold today, as we all know, is over $1,400 an ounce.

Recently, the Yukon and Liberal parties awoke to the fact we should at the very least start seeking to amend the Yukon Northern Affairs program devolution agreement with Ottawa, which caps the maximum amount the territorial and First Nations governments get on resource revenues at $3 million a year. All the rest goes to Ottawa. But that’s as far as they are willing to go.

We think what’s fair for Yukoners around retaining more of our resource wealth means more than just the premier going to Ottawa cap in hand Ð after all, we’ve never reached the $3-million cap.

The Yukon New Democratic Party thinks it’s time Yukoners were involved in discussions on how we can benefit to a greater degree from our resource wealth, and how we can get more in terms of employment and training opportunities for Yukoners Ð particularly in rural Yukon where high levels of unemployment persist.

By all means, let’s talk about modernizing the devolution deal with Ottawa, but there are many more things we can and should do to ensure Yukoners derive maximum benefits from these precious but finite resources.

Mining is a nonsustainable activity. It depletes the mineral wealth of a jurisdiction and therefore depletes the wealth available to future generations. And there is a growing consensus among Yukoners that our actions today should reflect an awareness that we not take from the future.

My party believes it’s time to convene a summit bringing together industry, all levels of government and the general public to begin this important debate. When Yukoners work together, we accomplish incredible things. Let’s begin the discussion with all Yukoners at the table on what’s a fair deal for our resource wealth.

Liz Hanson

Yukon NDP leader

MLA, Whitehorse Centre