Leaders stick to scripts during final election debate

The last debate of Yukon’s electoral campaign went much like the others: lots of talking points, very little confrontation, and a wide variety of topics from humane society funding to food security.

The last debate of Yukon’s electoral campaign went much like the others: lots of talking points, very little confrontation, and a wide variety of topics from humane society funding to food security.

The leaders of all four parties were in attendance.

The Green’s Frank de Jong, who hasn’t attended many of the previous debates, differentiated himself most from the other parties.

He said it’s urgent to protect the environment, and touted the Green Party’s conservative fiscal policies aimed at reducing income taxes and replacing them with carbon taxes.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson took aim at the Liberals over hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The NDP and Liberals have been locked in a squabble over the issue, with the NDP contending a ban on fracking has more power than the Liberals’ proposed moratorium.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver quickly replied that the Liberals were opposed to fracking.

“We have a clear position on fracking,” he said. “No fracking.”

On the topic of education, the candidates were asked how they could create programs to meet the needs of Yukon workers.

Hanson said programs at Yukon College should be improved.

“Yukon College has also become a leader in the circumpolar world…on climate change and innovation,” she said.

Silver said there are problems with high schools in the communities. As a result Yukon College ends up working on high school equivalencies, he said.

De Jong, a teacher, highlighted the need for more apprenticeships, saying he sees first-hand how his students are hungry for “real-world experiences.”

“You can call it reality therapy,” he said.

Pasloski pointed to his party’s investment in Yukon College with the creation of the Centre for Northern Innovation in Mining, and the college’s upcoming transition to a university.

On food security, all leaders supported more local food production. Silver took a shot at the Yukon Party, saying some farmers had been fighting for years to clear land to plant produce.

Hanson favoured research into crops that would do well in the territory, and making more land accessible to farmers. Pasloski pointed to a project the Yukon Research Centre funded that aims to grow food year-round with a new type of greenhouse.

De Jong said the topic should be featured more prominently in school curriculums. We don’t realize how dependent we are on the outside, he said.

“If that magic truck stopped coming from Edmonton or Vancouver we would be in pretty bad shape pretty quickly.”

The carbon tax, always lurking in the background, eventually burst into the debate when the leaders were asked how it would reduce consumption if all the money is returned to Yukoners.

None of the leaders actually answered the question.

The Liberals and Greens have said they would give everything back, unlike the NDP, which wants to use part of it for a green energy fund.

The leaders were also asked about future fossil fuel development.

Hanson was quick to attack the Yukon Party for its stance on oil and gas development. She reiterated her promise for a $50 million fund to invest in green energy.

Silver also talked about renewable energy, saying the need for energy had to be balanced with reducing the Yukon’s carbon footprint. But neither Silver nor Hanson would close the door entirely to conventional oil and gas production.

De Jong was clear: a Yukon Green government wouldn’t licence any oil or gas extraction from Yukon.

Pasloski referred to a study that found the Yukon spends $200 million to buy energy from other jurisdictions, with nine million litres of fuel burned in transport.

The Yukon needs to innovate, he said.

In closing, de Jong insisted on looking at everything in our lives through the lens of environmental responsibility.

“Ekos means home, and that’s where we live,” he said.

Pasloski characterized his party platform has a “bold vision” and reiterated his opposition to the carbon tax.

“We continue to do that because less money in your pocket means less money to support local businesses, less dinners out with your family, less money for your kids’ sport equipment, music lessons, and art supplies,” he said.

Hanson said she enjoyed talking to Yukoners who shared their concerns with her.

“You deserve more than a different government, you deserve a better government,” she said.

Silver went last, and drew some laughter from the crowd.

“The Yukon Party has been in power since before the iPhone, before Facebook, and it shows,” he said.

Yukoners go to the polls Monday.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.cm

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