A cheque Yukoners can’t cash

The Liberals won't be investing millions of taxpayer dollars in asset-back commercial paper, said leader Arthur Mitchell. In fact, the Liberals plan to make such investments illegal.

The Liberals won’t be investing millions of taxpayer dollars in asset-back commercial paper, said leader Arthur Mitchell.

In fact, the Liberals plan to make such investments illegal.

On Monday, Mitchell was sitting at Liberal headquarters before an enormous cheque.

It features pictures of Premier Darrell Pasloski and former premier Dennis Fentie in the top left corner.

Under them was the slogan: “Wasting your tax dollars together.”

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The cheque was for $36.5 million – the amount the Yukon Party invested in asset-back commercial paper in August, 2007.

The risky investment was supposed to earn $200,000 in just 30 days.

Four years later, the government still hasn’t seen its money.

“And I don’t know if we’ll ever see it again,” said Mitchell.

It was Mitchell who contacted auditor general Sheila Fraser about the dubious investment.

In a report issued in February, 2008, Fraser found Yukon Finance officials had broken the law with the investment.

Fentie, who was Finance minister, referred to Fraser’s report as “just one person’s opinion,” at the time.

“Fentie and (deputy premier) Elaine Taylor stood up in the house and said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get the money back,’” said Mitchell.

“Despite repeated promises our money was safe, Yukon taxpayers still don’t know if we will ever see our $36.5 million again.”

It would have been better if Fentie had just admitted he’d made a mistake, said Mitchell.

“I think Yukoners would have been accepting of that,” he said.

“But, instead, Fentie just denied, denied, denied – and Yukoners are tired of this.”

The Liberals are promising to make legislative changes so governments can no longer use taxpayer dollars for risky investments.

They’re also promising not to raise taxes or health-care premiums.

The Liberal party is hoping to get better rates on consumer goods, too.

“We want to get fair value for what we purchase on everything from toilet paper to trucks,” said Mitchell.

Right now, pricing is different on either side of the border on many items, he said, mentioning books.

“On the back of books you’ll see $28 Canadian, $20 US,” said Mitchell. “There have been no adjustments made, despite the growing value of our dollar.

“Yukoners deserve a better deal.”

The Liberals would tackle this by reviewing the Yukon’s purchasing policy, he said.

They also plan to establish a contingency fund in each annual budget in case of catastrophic events, and would require the Department of Finance to provide new incoming governments with a comprehensive report on the state of Yukon’s finances within 15 days of taking office.

The Liberal party has also promised to work collaboratively with Yukon First Nations to negotiate an improved resource-royalty sharing agreement with the federal government.

Currently, the territory can only keep the first $3 million earned annually from mining royalties. Anything more is clawed back by Ottawa.

The territory hasn’t hit its royalty cap yet.

But with Alexco up and running and Victoria Gold on the horizon, this could soon change, said Mitchell.

The Liberal party also would begin each spring sitting before the end of the fiscal year, which is March 31, in order to allow members the opportunity to review and pass an interim appropriation act.

And it’s promising to restore the accountability provisions of the Taxpayer Protection Act.

“I’m proud to lead a team that is committed to the responsible management of our finances,” said Mitchell.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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