Liberal government releases first cabinet mandate letters

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver has issued mandate letters to his ministers in advance of the one-day legislative sitting scheduled for Jan. 12.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver has issued mandate letters to his ministers in advance of the one-day legislative sitting scheduled for Jan. 12.

The letters are essentially updated copies of the Liberals’ election platform, and contain few surprises.

As finance minister, Silver has committed to returning federal carbon tax revenue to Yukon individuals and businesses through a rebate, and to issuing government tenders earlier in the year “to take full advantage of the construction season.”

There is also a heavy focus on the relationship between the Yukon government and First Nations. Silver has pledged to revitalize the Yukon Forum, to respond to the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to develop a policy for using traditional knowledge in government decisions.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Ranj Pillai has been tasked with allocating $30 million a year to energy retrofits for residential, commercial and government buildings. As minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, he is also expected to establish a $10-million economic infrastructure investment fund.

As education minister, Tracy-Anne McPhee has been given a mandate to implement the Yukon version of the revised B.C. education curriculum, to improve staff housing to encourage teachers to remain in communities, and to develop an Indigenous fine arts program at the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson City.

Community Services Minister John Streicker has been tasked with making National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in the Yukon, creating a five-year funding plan for the municipalities and improving affordable housing options in the communities.

As environment minister, Pauline Frost’s responsibilities include reducing dependence on fossil fuels and working toward accepting the final report of the original Peel watershed planning commission. As health minister, she’s been given a mandate to regulate midwifery and to improve mental health services in the communities.

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn is to propose amendments to Yukon’s access-to-information legislation, while Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie Dendys has been tasked with hosting a Yukon summit on winter tourism development.

The Yukon Party was quick to try and take credit for the public release of the mandate letters this week. On Jan. 5, Yukon Party MLA Scott Kent wrote a letter to government house leader McPhee asking the Liberals to post the mandate letters online.

“I’m pleased that they’ve decided to make the mandate letters public,” Kent told the News. “It’s something we had done.”

The former Yukon Party government did make its mandate letters public, though not always right away. Its last mandate letters, issued in June 2015, were only posted online in August.

Cabinet press secretary Sunny Patch was quick to dismiss the suggestion that the Liberals released the letters at the urging of the Yukon Party.

“Firm no. It wasn’t as a result of that letter,” she said. “We had always intended to release our mandate letters publicly.”

Kent’s letter also requested that the Liberal cabinet release its transition binders, which include advice from the departments to the new ministers.

“I think it will provide more detailed information into different files,” Kent said. “It’s just something that would help us do our job as legislators.”

But Patch said the Liberals won’t be making the transition binders public. She referred to a section of Yukon’s access-to-information legislation that protects cabinet confidences from being released. But she said the Liberals would be willing to work with Opposition MLAs if there is specific information they’re looking for.

The Yukon Party did not release the contents of its own transition binders when it was in office.

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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