Federal candidates lay out plans for Yukon mines

The Yukon's four federal candidates have weighed in on the territory's mining industry in written responses to questions from the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

The Yukon’s four federal candidates have weighed in on the territory’s mining industry in written responses to questions from the Yukon Chamber of Mines.

The chamber asked the candidates eight questions about the consultation process, regulatory uncertainty, programs to support infrastructure development, and ideas for attracting investment.

Conservative MP Ryan Leef touted his party’s New Building Canada Plan, which he said has more than $370 million earmarked for infrastructure development in the Yukon.

He also mentioned his party’s plan to expand the Mineral Exploration Tax Credit. This new measure would see the current 15 per cent tax credit for companies that invest in exploration increase to 25 per cent for operations in the territories.

NDP candidate Melissa Atkinson and Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell both say they support the tax credit. Green Party candidate Frank de Jong said his party would retain the tax credit as is, but would not increase it. He argued that most of the money invested because of the tax credit comes from “high-risk venture capital funds,” and much of it is likely wasted.

Atkinson said her party would support a tri-party review of the consultation process that would include federal, territorial and First Nations governments and could lead to an update of the consultation process and policy.

“First Nations governments are not just a stakeholder group that is a box (that) needs to be checked off when developing projects,” she wrote.

Bagnell said he would also support an initiative to better define consultation protocols.

De Jong said the Green Party would ensure that all mining companies pay the full amount of their reclamation securities to the government in good time. He pointed to Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine mine, which owed $2.8 million to the Yukon government in security payments when it filed for creditor protection in March.

He also told the News that Yukon mines should be responsible for their own needs, including their electricity supply, much more than they are now.

“If the mine is viable, it should pay for its own infrastructure,” he said.

Samson Hartland, executive director of the Chamber of Mines, said he was pleased that all four candidates responded in such depth.

He was particularly interested to see whether the candidates would support the creation of an infrastructure investment bank to promote direct investment in the Yukon’s mining industry. The creation of such a bank was one of the recommendations of a report published by a number of agencies including the chamber of mines earlier this year. The report, called Levelling the Playing Field, focuses on how to make northern mining more competitive.

Hartland pointed to the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, an agency that works at arm’s length from the state government to provide funding for development projects through bonds and loan guarantees. He said Canada should create a similar program.

“It’s an amazing model,” he said.

So far, only the Liberal Party has pledged to create a Canada Infrastructure Bank, which would provide low-cost financing for infrastructure projects across the country through loan guarantees and small capital contributions. Bagnell said roads and bridges, including those built to access mines, would be eligible for funding from the bank. “One of the things that we recognize is that in the Yukon, the resources are a long distance from markets, and they’re in remote and rural areas.”

Hartland also said he was interested in how the candidates would reduce regulatory uncertainty in the Yukon’s mining sector.

Bagnell, de Jong and Atkinson have all said their parties would repeal the four controversial amendments included in Bill S-6, which made changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. Those amendments imposed mandatory timelines on environmental assessments and gave the federal minister power to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Leef responded that the imposed timelines under Bill S-6 will give the industry more certainty.

Hartland said the Chamber of Mines is in favour of mandatory timelines for environmental assessments.

“It is something that has been challenging with YESAA applications to date,” Hartland said. “We were supportive of S-6 as a result of that.”

The full responses from each of the four candidates are available at www.yukonminers.ca.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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