Harper says Bill S 6 was territorial initiative during Whitehorse visit

Stephen Harper visited Whitehorse this week to take a whirlwind boat tour of Miles Canyon with MP Ryan Leef, pour a glass of beer at Yukon Brewing, and tout his government’s economic record.

Stephen Harper visited Whitehorse this week to take a whirlwind boat tour of Miles Canyon with MP Ryan Leef, pour a glass of beer at Yukon Brewing, and tout his government’s economic record during a brief campaign speech at the Trans North Helicopters hangar.

During his speech, Harper asserted that Canada “has been steadily creating jobs for six years” and that the economy has been growing for seven straight years.

“The Yukon has been a big part of that,” he said.

In fact, the Yukon’s economy has shrunk for each of the last three years.

Last week, Canada was confirmed to be technically in a recession, as the economy shrank for the first two quarters of 2015. But the economy did start to expand again in June, and numbers released on Friday by Statistics Canada show that the country gained 12,000 jobs in August. Yukon’s job market has also improved slightly, gaining 200 full-time jobs in August.

Harper also addressed a question about Bill S-6. Last Thursday, three Yukon First Nations announced they have hired a lawyer and plan to file a lawsuit against the federal government within a month over the bill’s controversial changes to Yukon’s regulatory regime.

“There’s no doubt there is going to be a court process,” Harper said. “The government believes that we’re operating totally within our constitutional authority.”

Harper went on to say that the territorial government requested the changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act laid out in Bill S-6, and that it “speaks on behalf of the vast majority of Yukoners.”

That statement runs counter to comments made by Premier Darrell Pasloski during an interview with the News on Tuesday, when he appeared to lay responsibility for the bill and the related consultation process at the federal government’s feet.

“It is a federal government process. It is federal government legislation. All we could do is provide our comments,” he said.

Pasloski said he was “disappointed” that the issue may end up in court. He referred to an offer he made this spring to sit down with First Nation leaders and negotiate some kind of solution, and said that offer is still open. “Really, at the end of the day, it’s the responsibility of us as leaders here in the Yukon to find a way to resolve these kinds of issues out of court,” he said.

The Yukon NDP was quick to point out on Friday that Pasloski has previously claimed responsibility for two of the four amendments in Bill S-6 that have caused most of the controversy.

A statement from NDP MLA Lois Moorcroft claims that Harper’s assertion in Whitehorse “shows that the federal Conservatives are prepared to throw the Yukon government under the bus… and that the Yukon Party government has not been clear about its role in crafting Bill S-6.”

In his speech, Harper also touched on a number of proposed Conservative measures that may affect Yukoners, including the enhanced mineral exploration tax credit that was announced last week.

He also said a re-elected Conservative government would provide $9 million over three years to Destination Canada to attract recreational anglers, hunters, and snowmobilers from the U.S. to boost the Canadian tourism industry.

He referred to a new wildlife conservation and enhancement program that would launch in 2017 with a $5 million annual budget to protect the habitat of species targeted by hunters and trappers, including moose, deer, and wild turkey.

He also promised to modify regulations for migratory bird hunting.

And Harper couldn’t resist a final jab at the Liberal and NDP parties, who he said would both bring back the long-gun registry “if they get the chance.”

Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell has since released a statement saying his party has “categorically ruled out bringing back the long-gun registry.”

In a separate announcement on Friday, the Conservatives promised to set up a Canadian Armed Forces reserve unit in the Yukon. The unit would specialize in northern survival skills and “provide a specialized emergency response capacity in the face of natural disasters such as wildfires.”

The territory’s last Canadian Armed Forces regiment was disbanded in 1968.

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