Leef passes the buck on cuts

Yukon MP Ryan Leef says to not blame him for job cuts being felt across the territory. Conservative members told federal officials how much to cut.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef says to not blame him for job cuts being felt across the territory.

Conservative members told federal officials how much to cut. But it’s up to individual departments to pick what jobs go, Leef said during an interview on Thursday.

Back in March, when the Conservative government announced its plan to cut more than 19,000 jobs over the next three years, Leef praised the proposed budget and promised that when it came to job cuts, with his former employer the RCMP at least, frontline services provided to the public would not see changes.

But when it came to cutting nearly a third of Parks Canada’s staff in the territory, for example, the frontline will be affected.

Starting next summer, Parks’ staff will no longer conduct search and rescue operations in Kluane National Park. Visitors will have to give themselves unguided tours of the S.S. Klondike and Dredge No. 4. And in the winter, they’ll have to break their own trail on ski paths now maintained by the federal department.

“It was up to the departments’ responsibility to provide the programs and services that they felt that they could make adjustments to,” Leef said. “I certainly said that I hoped the departments would look at the efficiencies, find out where they could achieve efficiencies in operations or administration, with limited to no effect on the frontline service.”

Parks Canada did trim jobs and salaries in management and administration, said Anne Morin, field unit superintendant for the Yukon. But the targets were just too big to spare frontline staff, she said.

The department also had to follow their agreement with the union. That means contract workers are cut first.

The cuts were also guided by the department’s plan to focus on the most popular places, in the most popular seasons, said Morin.

Summer is the peak tourism season, so ski trails are out. The S.S. Klondike and Dredge No. 4 may draw visitors, but they attract fewer than Dawson City.

And only one serious incident happens every two years at Kluane National Park, so visitors will have to assume responsibility to better plan their hikes and develop their survival skills.

But there is still a year until these changes are felt, said Leef. That’s enough time for him to help correct any cuts that Yukoners can’t live with, he said.

“We have to contribute to returning Canada to balanced budgets, Yukon has to play its role at that,” he said. “But on the same token, I don’t expect the Yukon to throw itself on the sword. If we have a legitimate case to be made that puts us in a unique and difficult position that’s above and beyond what other regions in the country are doing to contribute, then I’ll put that case forward and I’ll fight for it.

“Obviously, today, you’re going to have an emotional reaction to what’s going on and one which I completely understand. But I do need to look at the complete picture of this. It’s going to take a little bit of time but I’m certainly committed to moving forward with that.”

That’s probably little comfort to those who have lost their jobs. This summer, services to be cut will be handled by staff juggling other duties. The people who lost their jobs will already be gone by next year, said Morin.

Jobs cuts aren’t the only controversy created by the Conservative’s massive, 420-page omnibus budget bill. There’s also a plan to “streamline” environmental assessments in places where federal and local assessment bodies overlap.

The Yukon changed that years ago when it signed the Umbrella Final Agreement and created the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and Board.

The territory’s review regime won’t be affected, said Leef – at least not directly and not right away.

“I think there are some mining and development companies that would like to see some changes,” said Leef. “Now, all of a sudden, every other province will have that one-review, one-timeframe process that will actually start working a little bit quicker than in the Yukon.”

But the assessment board continues to receive “nothing but favourable reviews,” said Stephen Mills, chair of the board.

Bigger projects take longer. But Mills is confident there will be no changes to how projects are assessed.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at


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

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read