Parties must aim higher on broadband

Not surprisingly, every Yukon political leader promises to deliver “a strong, robust economy.”

Not surprisingly, every Yukon political leader promises to deliver “a strong, robust economy.”

It’s a fine aspiration. But make no mistake, the possibility of a strong, robust economy in the Yukon will be totally dependent upon the quality and competiveness of Yukon’s broadband connectivity to the world.

In the 21st century, remoteness is defined NOT by geography, but by connectivity. And one fact is beyond dispute: only those jurisdictions with dependable, high speed and affordable broadband connectivity will have a ghost of a chance to prosper economically in the coming years.

Sadly, Yukon does not come close to meeting those conditions. Our broadband connectivity is not dependable, it is not high -speed, and it certainly is not affordable — not with respect to the world in which we need to be able to compete economically.

There are understandable historic reasons for the situation in which we find ourselves. But there is no excuse for letting those conditions set the limits for our future.

Yukon is, per capita, one of the most creative and highly educated jurisdictions in Canada, if not the world. With appropriate infrastructure support, we have the potential to compete with the best of the world’s knowledge workers and entrepreneurs. But only if we can get on the playing field. And the only way to get on the playing field is to have world-class connectivity.

When I read the platforms of our four parties, only the Liberal and Yukon Parties speak explicitly to developing the knowledge sector of the economy, and both tout their commitment to the redundant fibre optic cable coming down the Dempster — and that is no small thing. But that project only begins to address the reliability issue. It does not touch on the speed and affordability issues — issues for which no party appears ready to take a clear stand.

As for the NDP and Green Party platforms, I have seen no reference to connectivity challenges.

Addressing this need is an urgent government infrastructure issue, equal to ensuring we have good highways and clean drinking water. Until we have a government that genuinely embraces this reality of the 21st century, Yukon will be confined to a welfare economy, wholly and totally dependent upon the transfer payments from taxpayers in the South for its economic and social survival. I am convinced we can do much better than that, but there is no time to waste.

Barrett W. Horne,

Whitehorse

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