Hardy proposes economic council

Todd Hardy wants to share the wealth. Thursday, the NDP leader outlined his vision for the territory’s economic future, pitching a radical…

Todd Hardy wants to share the wealth.

Thursday, the NDP leader outlined his vision for the territory’s economic future, pitching a radical proposal for consensus-style fiscal management.

From his hospital bed in Vancouver, Hardy laid out plans for a “Yukon Economic Council,” reminiscent of the Tony Penikett era, to guide the territory’s economy through boom and bust cycles.

Conflicting political agendas have dominated for too long, and it’s time someone brought harmony to the debate, said Hardy during a teleconference held at NDP headquarters in Whitehorse.

The US economy is cooling off, and the Yukon needs vision to weather economic slowdowns, he said.

“No party has a monopoly on all the good ideas; no party has a vision that is reflective of every region of the Yukon.

“If we keep an open council … as things change in the economy — and they are changing again — we will be able to adapt and serve the people of this territory (better) than we have in the past.”

The “economic roundtable” would be as open as possible to public input in the crafting of annual budgets, he said.

“It would provide direct public input into the government’s economic budget for the short, medium and long term, and it would be precedent-setting in engaging the opposition parties directly in that budget-making process.”

The Yukon’s budget-making process typically involves small-scale consultation with a few select groups followed by a small group of individuals making decisions behind closed doors, he said.

“We have to open it up so that all the three party leaders are engaged in crafting the economic future for this territory.

“I believe if we go in that direction, we will be able to withstand, to handle or absorb, many of the ups and downs that we have lived through in our past.”

But just how such a council would operate, set priorities and make decisions remains unclear.

The three party leaders would co-chair the council, and representatives from First Nations, rural communities, Ottawa and “all walks and all groups ”would be invited to administer territorial finances, said Hardy.

He envisioned eight to 14 participants.

“If it means consensus to craft an economic future, so be it.

“If we need a mechanism to break that on certain issues, then we will craft that together.”

Voting would not necessarily be part of the decision-making process.

“It’s not a matter of voting yes or no, it’s a matter of making decisions together.”

And, in the event of a disagreement, the premier would not necessarily retain veto power.

In establishing the council, the three leaders would include a conflict-resolution mechanism, said Hardy.

Reporters pressed Hardy to explain how, for example, conflict would be resolved if one party wanted to spend $3 million on an Alaska-Canada rail link feasibility study, and one or both of the others did not.

The three chairs would consider every proposal in concert, said Hardy.

“If it was a good decision, that would be known, that would be debated, people would be able to participate fully and all leaders and all levels of government as well as all regions of the Yukon would be represented,” he said.

“No one has the answer to the economic future of this territory, but together, we do have the answer.”