Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski is officially seeking re-election as leader of the Yukon Party in Mountainview.
His long-awaited announcement on Thursday means the Yukon Party now has a full roster of candidates, and Pasloski could call the election whenever he chooses.
But the premier is keeping tight-lipped about his plans for the time being, and wouldn’t confirm whether he plans to drop the writ before or after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visit Whitehorse in late September.
“It’s not safe to say anything, I would tell you that right now,” he said.
Oct. 14 is the last day the premier could call the election before the legislative assembly is dissolved. Campaigns in the Yukon typically run for 31 days.
Pasloski outlined what are likely to be his major campaign talking points during an interview with the News Thursday, focusing on his government’s economic track record and his continued aversion to a carbon tax.
His government has cut the small business tax rate by 25 per cent and reduced taxes so that the average family of four will save up to $777 annually relative to 2011, he said.
For months, Pasloski has used every opportunity to repeat that Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada with no net debt, and that his government has passed record capital budgets and delivered surpluses.
This year’s budget predicted a small surplus of $9.5 million. But the government has also been drawing down the territory’s net financial assets, which are essentially its cash in the bank. Those assets are now estimated at $57 million, down from about $223 million in 2014-15.
Those shrinking funds will make it harder for the next government to avoid either a deficit or spending cuts next year.
The 2015-16 surplus also shrank dramatically from a predicted $23 million last year to an estimated $1.2 million this past spring.
But Pasloski maintained his government has a strong record of fiscal responsibility.
“We don’t budget any money to service debt here,” he said. “All of our revenues go to capital investments or programs and services delivered to Yukoners.”
He also said the government has done everything it can to help the Yukon weather the current slump in the mining industry.
“Every other major sector of our economy grew in 2015,” he said.
“What we’ve seen in other times of resource economy declines, we’ve seen a huge exodus in population…. What we’ve seen this time is that our population has continued to grow.”
A recent report commissioned by the City of Whitehorse suggested that Yukon has been less affected by the most recent mining slump because of the large number of people employed by government.
Pasloski said his government has also done everything it can to spur investment in Yukon’s mining industry, from creating the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining to launching an investment attraction strategy in 2014.
“I believe that we’ve done a significant amount of work in the last five years to really keep the downturn to a minimum,” he said.
With respect to his government’s social record, Pasloski pointed to the construction of the new Sarah Steele detox facility and the new Salvation Army centre.
In recent months, Pasloski and his party have seemed to launch more barbs at Liberal Leader Sandy Silver than at NDP Leader Liz Hanson, suggesting they may see the Liberals as their biggest threat in this election. But Pasloski wouldn’t speak to that on Thursday.
“A vote for the Liberals or a vote for the NDP is a vote for making everything cost more money,” he said, referring to the fact that both parties seem interested in some form of carbon pricing.
“I believe that we will win this election on our vision and we will win it one vote at a time,” Pasloski said.
Under the Yukon Party’s constitution, Pasloski is exempt from a nomination battle in Mountainview, because he passed an annual leadership review earlier this year.
The Mountainview riding includes the McIntyre, Hillcrest, Granger and Valleyview subdivisions.
Pasloski will face Jeanie Dendys for the Liberals and Shaunagh Stikeman for the NDP.
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