While it was difficult to hear the message over the sound of backpedalling, Economic Development Minister Currie Dixon’s op-ed last week is as much an admission of lost opportunity as it is a pat on the back. In summary, the Yukon Party claims responsibility for past success brought on by high mineral prices, but blames the pending decline on “global market forces.”
The Yukon Party has been claiming immunity to just these forces for years. When opposition parties called for restrained spending, the government would celebrate their billion-dollar budget. When we raised difficult questions about infrastructure, the government would pat themselves on the back for record high exploration rates. When we asked for planning for tomorrow, they pointed to yesterday’s employment numbers.
The commodity super-cycle that allowed the Yukon Party to rest on their laurels is soon to be over, and Dixon knows it. While his letter admits this and provides hollow commitments to “always be looking forward,” it provides little in the way of substance.
In the Yukon, where mining is the cornerstone of our economy, we must leverage our good times to prepare for our bad. When mineral prices reach record highs, we need to invest in energy infrastructure that will help companies succeed when mineral prices are down.
While exploration companies are bullish, we need to help them navigate regulatory processes to get their projects online. And while First Nations are willing to come to the table, we must seize that opportunity. Yukoners have been raising these points for years. Hopefully it is not too late for the government to start listening.