Harper touts mine training cash in the Yukon

Yukon College now knows a little more clearly how much money it will be getting from the federal government to help run its Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining.

Yukon College now knows a little more clearly how much money it will be getting from the federal government to help run its Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in Whitehorse on Monday that the feds will contribute $5.6 million over four years to the program. The press conference, held at Quantum Machine Works, kicked off the prime minister’s eighth annual northern tour.

“To realize the promise of the North we must act. Sustained prosperity in the mining industry requires the following things: Efficient and effective regulatory regimes, the best technology, the most innovative methods, and a highly skilled workforce,” Harper said.

The money itself isn’t new. Yukon College got the news in March, when the funding was included as a line in the 2013 federal budget. But the school didn’t know exactly how much it was getting, or when.

College president Karen Barnes said at the time that the college’s proposal had been for $30 million over a number of years. The $5.6 million will go towards training local students to work in the territory’s mines. The program has already graduated its first successful class. The centre has a new mine-training simulator to teach students how to pilot heavy machinery underground, and a new mobile trades trailer, which can deliver trades-specific training in Yukon communities.

In its first five years, the mining program is expected to produce 520 trades, mining and apprenticeship graduates, plus 710 students completing shorter non-credit courses, such as safety training.

When asked how these new grads could expect work with two of the three territory’s mines either shutting down or laying off workers, Harper said having local labour will help reduce operating costs and help keep the mines profitable, and open.

“Obviously there is fluctuation in metal prices, that is normal. But what has occurred in the layoffs of one in particular really has been because of the lack of available labour in the Yukon, and the extremely high costs that are imposed on mining companies by the necessity of flying people in from a distance,” Harper said.

Harper also said he plans to ask the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until after a new throne speech in October.

“There will be a new throne speech in the fall and obviously the House will be prorogued in anticipation of that. We’ll come back in October, that’s our tentative timing,” Harper said on Monday.

Prorogation is a common tool for prime ministers with a majority in the House of Commons, and it often occurs just over half-way through a majority term. It formally ends a parliamentary session and allows for a new speech from the throne to set or adjust the government’s planned direction for the next couple of years.

It has been used without rancour by majority prime ministers of all political stripes to help steer the priorities of Parliament. Harper, however, stirred heated controversy in the past when he used prorogation to shut down Parliament in 2008. Critics accused him of using the tool improperly to avoid a threatened vote of non-confidence by the opposition, which would have triggered an election.

He also used it in 2009, with the opposition accusing him of ducking difficult questions about the Afghan detainee scandal. This week, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Harper is at it again, trying to avoid answering questions about the Senate spending scandal.

At a speech to about 150 party supporters at the Northfork farm off the North Klondike Highway on Sunday, Harper had touted what he said were 84 fulfilled election promises of the 100 his party made during the last election. The rest, he explained on Monday, can be tackled after a new throne speech sets up the priorities for the rest of this tenure.

“We will obviously have still some things, still some unfulfilled commitments to work on. The No. 1 priority for this government, I do not have to tell you, is on jobs and the economy,” Harper said.

He also took a moment to assure the crowd that he will lead the party in the next election.

“The answer to the last question is, of course, yes. I’m actually disappointed that you felt the need to ask that,” he said, raising a chuckle from the audience.

The party supporters weren’t the only ones at the farm on Sunday.

Outside the gates, and kept well away from the Tory barbecue, a dozen protestors waved signs, held banners and beat drums.

Some protesters, like Werner Rhein, opposed what he fears is a government plan to push for hydraulic fracturing and a cozy relationship between the Harper government and energy giant Halliburton.

“We don’t want him coming here with his dirty Halliburton jobs,” said Rhein.

Half of the protesters were from the Idle No More movement, who sang and drummed, calling attention to the plight of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada.

There have been a number of recent suspicious deaths of aboriginal women in Toronto. In response, Canadian premiers, including Yukon’s Darrell Pasloski, have agreed to push for an inquiry into these and similar deaths across the country. Harper has yet to make such a commitment.

“It would be nice to see this government announce this initiative and make a firm commitment towards our First Nations women,” said protest organizer and Liberal supporter Cherish Clarke.

But Clarke wasn’t hopeful that Harper would heed her group’s concerns, or that he would be willing to consider aboriginal Canadian issues more broadly.

“I’m feeling really disheartened by that. During the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting, there was a noticeable absence. I know that (Aboriginal Affairs Minister) Bernard Valcourt is here today, and it’s too bad that the Conservatives didn’t come to the (annual assembly) to deal with the nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations people,” Clarke said.

“Just like when there was a protest last year in Carcross, Stephen Harper will blow by here and won’t even acknowledge that we’re here,” she said.

And Harper did just that, rolling past the protest without stopping, in a column of black SUVs with tinted windows, flanked by RCMP trucks with a police dog barking from a window.

Once inside the perimeter at the farm, Harper took the chance to blast the opposition parties, accusing them of “dangerous ideas” while promising that the Conservative government will continue to push for more resource and economic development in the North.

He also spoke about the Conservative bill to change the Not Criminally Responsible legislation.

“We all remember incidents, awful incidents, where people who have done terrible things but were not held to be criminally responsible through mental illness showed up in the very community where their victims lived. Nobody was warned. This is not acceptable and it is finally being fixed, just like we fixed the right to citizens arrest,” Harper said.

He did not take any questions from the press on Sunday, preferring to wait until the press conference on Monday.

Harper’s staff limited reporters’ questions to four, allowing only one from local media.

Radio reporter Tim Kucharuk from CKRW asked why Harper wouldn’t use the mining downtime to focus on social issues like the call for an inquiry into missing aboriginal women.

“It’s our strong belief that there has been a lot of study of this particular issue, and we have taken a number of steps to deal with this,” Harper said.

Though he did not address the question of an inquiry directly, Harper said the focus should be on protecting all Canadians.

“We think that what is important is that we look for ways of taking action, not just for missing and murdered aboriginal women but more broadly. It’s about securing safe streets and communities,” he said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read