Green Party’s Calhoun livens up mostly staid economic forum

Yukon’s four political parties met to discuss mining, tourism, local businesses and the economy at a forum at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse on Thursday.

Yukon’s four political parties met to discuss mining, tourism, local businesses and the economy at a forum at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse on Thursday.

Yukon Party Leader Darrell Pasloski, NDP Leader Liz Hanson, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and Green Party candidate Kristina Calhoun spoke at the forum, which was attended by more than 100 people.

The candidates were first asked how they would avoid a double carbon tax on goods being shipped up from B.C., where there is already a tax, if a price on carbon is implemented in the territory.

The three major party leaders stuck to their well-rehearsed talking points on the issue, with Pasloski saying the Yukon Party will continue to fight a tax, Silver promising to return all the revenue to Yukoners, and Hanson saying the Yukon needs to work with Ottawa instead of just saying “no.”

Calhoun gave a more nuanced answer, suggesting that double taxation is not a major issue, in part because border carbon adjustments can be applied to avoid taxing imports twice.

“That worry is not as big of a worry as some people might think it is,” she said.

On several issues, the parties seemed to be in agreement. The three main leaders said they would pave the Dawson City airport runway, though they wouldn’t commit to a timeline, and all four candidates agreed to improve procurement practices to help local companies win government contracts. They also agreed to permanent funding for the Yukon Now tourism marketing campaign.

“We’re very proud to have committed to what is now an award-winning program,” Pasloski said.

Yukon Chamber of Commerce president Peter Turner said he was pleased that all the candidates recognized the need to diversify Yukon’s economy, but added that “we were a little short on actual solutions.”

He said he was “disconcerted” by an answer Hanson gave to a question about connectivity in Yukon communities. The NDP leader questioned why the Yukon Party has decided to partner with Northwestel to build a redundant fibre-optic line up the Dempster Highway, instead of putting the project out to tender.

“The NDP government will build a second fibre-optic line through a competitive bidding process,” she said.

Turner said he would be worried about going “back to square one” on the project.

He said the existing project “is a solution that at least, if it doesn’t give us competition, it at least gives us internet redundancy, which is the more critical problem for the Yukon business community.”

The Liberals and the Yukon Party both say they will build the line as planned.

The candidates were also asked whether they would lobby the federal government to create a northern infrastructure investment bank to promote direct investment in Yukon’s flagging mining industry.

None of the parties would commit to the bank. Silver said the Liberals “don’t have a position on the northern industrial investment bank,” but would consider the idea in partnership with First Nations governments.

Yukon Chamber of Mines executive director Samson Hartland, who has championed the idea of an infrastructure bank, said he wasn’t necessarily looking for a firm commitment.

“What was interesting to us was everyone’s very strong working knowledge of what we were asking about,” he said. “We understand that it’s an incredibly complex and significant question to ask.”

Through the evening, it was Calhoun who stole the show, as the only candidate to elicit laughter from an otherwise very quiet audience.

At one point, Calhoun heaped scorn on the Yukon Party’s commitment to replace the government mail fleet with electric vehicles.

“That’s great, we’ll turn a dozen or so vehicles into electric and we’ll have stations for them to recharge, but that is not anywhere near the scope of what needs to happen,” she said, prompting muted chuckles from the audience. (The Yukon Party actually plans to buy four electric vehicles.)

The Green Party wants to see public transportation offered between all Yukon communities. “I’d like to see any one of the parties up here take that on,” she said.

Later, she voiced concerns about paving the Dawson City airport runway, calling it a “very expensive financial risk to take.”

“We also don’t want to discount the added charm for international tourists to land on a gravel strip. It certainly adds to their experience of being in a really wild place,” she said, to widespread laughter.

Calhoun also delivered a bold closing statement, accusing the other parties of being too quick to say “yes” just to buy votes.

“No, we cannot fund your organization until we ensure that every Yukoner has access to food, shelter and water. No, we cannot continue to outsource our jobs and manufacturing,” she said. “We have to start by developing a sense of self-sufficiency right here, right now.”

The event was organized by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Association of Yukon Communities, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read