The Yukon government has published mandate letters sent from Premier Darrell Pasloski to his ministers that set out specific goals for each department to work toward what’s left of his tenure.
The mandate items listed in the letters range from negotiating reconciliation agreements with non-settled First Nations, to facilitating offshore oil and gas development, to increasing the number of continuing care beds in the territory.
But these aren’t exactly new priorities for the territorial government. The mandate letters date from June 18. They were sent out as a result of the most recent cabinet shuffle, which happened back in mid-January.
“As we have gone through a large part of the mandate, we’re in a situation where we have actually delivered on many of the actions and priorities that we had committed to during the last election,” said Pasloski. “So this is an opportunity to provide a re-look and a refocus.
“The letters and the refocus didn’t necessarily have to coincide with the latest cabinet shuffle,” he added.
Certainly, a number of the items listed in the letters have been achieved. Those include developing a policy on hydraulic fracturing in the territory, drafting a local food strategy, and working to streamline the process for mine licensing.
But NDP Opposition Leader Liz Hanson disagreed that this is a time for the government to pat itself on the back for everything it’s achieved. She said the Yukon Party has done little to make the territory’s economy more sustainable.
“We are in a serious economic slump in this territory,” she said. “It’s still stuck in a single-sector emphasis.”
One item on the list that hasn’t yet been achieved is a policy for independent power production in the Yukon, which the NDP believes would encourage renewable energy development. The government committed to developing a policy in 2009. Its most recent draft policy was released in 2014, but it included natural gas as an eligible form of independent power production, which was heavily criticized.
Hanson also questioned the mandate letters’ emphasis on building partnerships with First Nations. She said this government has driven First Nations to court rather than work with them, citing the upcoming Peel watershed appeal.
“It’s beyond ironic that they would tout partnerships with First Nations,” she said. “How do you have a partnership with anybody if you don’t start from a basis of respect?”
Liberal Leader Sandy Silver also criticized the premier for suggesting he’s achieved many of his commitments.
“I would remind him that there’s an awful lot of work to do on our economy,” he said. “It has shrunk three years in a row under this government. We have the worst performing economy… in Canada. If he thinks that the job is near completion, then I think a lot of Yukoners would completely disagree with that statement.”
Silver also expressed concern that the government made no commitment to building a new francophone school in the mandate letters.
“We heard things like ‘done deal’ and now this project isn’t even mentioned,” he said.
However, Silver did praise a commitment listed in one of the letters to “report progress on major capital projects including budget and timeline performance.”
“Given the number of projects that have been late or over-budget under this government, I’m anxious to see what this new reporting would look like,” he said. “For example, the new F.H. Collins (school) is millions of dollars over-budget. It’d be nice to have had that type of reporting for that project and others.”
Pasloski must call a territorial election by October 2016 at the latest. He declined to say whether he is considering calling an election before then.
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