by Darrell Pasloski
Yesterday, I was proud to stand up on behalf of our entire caucus and all Yukoners to table our 2016/17 budget.
This budget is shaped by our shared values, Yukon’s economic realities and extensive public engagement. These shared values – what I like to call the Northern Way – will bring a bold prosperous future for Yukon.
Yukoners are resourceful and resilient. They are determined to build a brighter future for their families. And they want government working toward the same goal. This budget is proof that our government shares Yukoners’ values, that we listened to their views and that we built a budget that meets their expectations, with sensible solutions to real problems.
The cornerstone of our common-sense plan is simple – a balanced budget. I’m proud to say we won’t raise taxes, we won’t run a deficit and unlike almost every other jurisdiction in Canada, Yukon will have no net debt.
We are also the only party in Yukon which has stood firmly against any sort of new carbon tax. A carbon tax would force our families and our businesses to pay more and would put our economy and Yukoners at a disadvantage.
We know that economic realities will make this a challenging year. The downturn in the mineral sector continues to impact our revenues. But we can’t simply wait for commodity prices to rebound.
Now more than ever we need to stand up for our resource sector, so that we can continue to benefit from the high paying jobs and economic opportunities this sector creates.
This year we’re offering double assessment credits to mining companies to spur exploration and employment. We will continue to engage with First Nations, modernize regulations, and promote investment.
But even as we stand up for mining, we can support and grow other sectors. Tourism has always been a key piece of Yukon’s economy.
That’s why we invest more than $20 million in tourism and culture every year. This budget will invest $1.84 million in museums and First Nations cultural centres, and includes a $100,000 increase in annual funding for the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association. We are also funding the incredibly successful Yukon Now tourism marketing campaign for another three years at just under $1 million/year, and have asked the federal government to match that.
This year’s budget also includes the largest-ever single-year investment in information technology. Last fall, we committed to increase IT capital spending by $2 million. We’ve done even more. Our IT spending will increase by $3 million, to a total of $9.5 million.
We’re also investing in a new fibre optic connection to the N.W.T. These and other community-level IT investments will create even more jobs for Yukoners.
Whether mining, tourism, or tech, we’re blessed with a diverse economy and our investments will continue to build on that.
That’s what sets us apart from other parties. While others talk about replacing the resource sector, we’re focused on diversification that strengthens all sectors of our economy.
Of course, education remains the best investment in the economy, because it’s an investment in our future. This year’s budget provides $100 per student for the purchase of school supplies. We’re also increasing our investment in the Yukon Grant and contributing $1.5 million over three years to help Yukon College become Yukon University, so our children can stay close to home and pursue a Yukon-made degree.
Our government has spent about $300 million on capital work in every year of our mandate, and this year will be no different. We’re also increasing our focus on projects at a scale and scope for local companies to benefit.
There is $3 million to build new staff housing in Ross River, almost $5 million in airport upgrades from Burwash to Dawson to Whitehorse, and more than $50 million to improve roads and bridges.
Virtually every community will see job-creating investment when Yukoners need it most.
When the mineral sector starts to rebound, we’ll reduce our role in the economy. Only a party committed to private-sector growth and employment can understand and respond to that cycle.
Our vision and plan is a reflection of what we heard from you in our pre-budget tours and community conversations. Every community we visited had a simple theme – invest in projects that make our lives just a little easier.
From working on the economy, and diversifying it, to improving education delivery, to collaborating with First Nations to drive positive change, your values are reflected in this budget.
We’re the only party that has a made-in-Yukon solution that puts the focus on results, not ideology.
This budget is about building a prosperous future for all Yukoners. I look forward to passing this budget and continuing to invest in Yukoners.
Darrell Pasloski the Yukon’s premier and minister of finance.