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Liberal platform heavy on ethics, details and numbers

The Yukon Liberal Party platform — the product of a 20-person team after a year of work — was released on Thursday.

The Yukon Liberal Party platform — the product of a 20-person team after a year of work — was released on Thursday.

“It shows voters that Liberals are serious and have thought through the tradeoffs and priorities,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell in releasing the 21-page document.

“Voters can know that this platform is doable,” said Mitchell, who was flanked by 10 candidates at the Liberal headquarters at Qwanlin Mall in Whitehorse.

“It has specific commitments, such as the $250 tax credit, not just a vague promise worth somewhere between a cent and $1,000.

“Voters can hold us accountable to these commitments.”

The 21-page document details a five-point plan that offers ethics and accountability as its central tenets.

Mitchell already has a code of ethics he required each would-be MLA to sign.

It forbids them from sitting in cabinet, or even running for office if they are in arrears to the government for more than 30 days.

The code includes measures to remove MLAs convicted of serious criminal acts while in office.

But Mitchell’s attempt to woo voters on ethical grounds extends to commitments of how a Liberal government would operate.

Mitchell committed to implementing the repeated recommendations of Yukon Ombudsman Hank Moorlag that would improve access to information and government transparency.

The current protocol of requiring all information requests to funnel through department communications officers would be scrapped, he said.

“I think it’s reasonable, if the question is about policy, to expect the department to find the right person to speak,” said Mitchell.

“But when it comes to facts, people should be able to get that information from the department.”

Other promises, such as whistleblower legislation and an all-party committee for appointments to committees and boards, have been heard in the past.

But Mitchell committed to new negotiations with the Yukon Employees Union to develop protective legislation for whistleblowers.

And the Liberals promised an independent citizens’ commission on electoral reform.

The Liberals would also restore accountability provisions of the Taxpayer Protection Act that would require any government that goes into debt to immediately stand in an election.

Fentie gutted the act that former Yukon Party premier John Ostashek brought in.

It needs to be restored, said Mitchell.

The government’s net financial resources are projected to decline in 2008, and any government — including a Liberal government — should face election if they wind up in the red, he said.

In keeping with its ethical stance, the Liberal Party released a cost assessment that covers $67 million in promised capital spending.

“The new jail is some $30 million of that figure,” said Mitchell.

The commitments are all there: $100,000 per year for a Whitehorse food bank; $100,000 for a feasibility study for a Yukon university; $1 million per year for an “educational innovation fund;” $4.8 million to completed the Watson Lake health-care facility, and $8 million for a new school in Copper Ridge.

“This is in sharp contrast to the other two parties in this election,” said Mitchell.

“They have presented their platforms with no dollars attached whatsoever.

“We believe that it is important to be up front with Yukoners about spending priorities.

“It’s their money, and they deserve to know what we would do with it.”

The Liberals want to tie economic and environmental issues together.

The promised $250 cut to Yukon income tax is in the platform, as is the commitment to create a “regulatory competitiveness advisory force” that the Yukon Minerals Advisory Board recommended earlier this year.

The Liberals would also continue the mineral tax exploration credit and reinstate a “mining facilitator” position within the mines department that would co-ordinate the efforts of project champions and act as an overall liaison with industry.

They promise to support both proposed northern natural gas pipelines and will deny coal-bed methane development “until a comprehensive policy has been completed to determine how and if it should proceed.”

Beyond a climate change action plan, the Liberals would protect the environment by completing land-use plans in accordance with First Nations final agreements.

They would host an international summit about the Porcupine caribou herd that migrates through North Yukon.

And they would kibosh an exclusive land application policy for outfitters until First Nations and commercial interests have been “fully consulted.”

Mitchell affirmed his commitment to the Yukon Forum with First Nations and promised to lobby Ottawa “aggressively” to fund the $5.1-billion Kelowna Accord.

What’s more, he promised to establish a new cabinet responsibility and appoint a minister of land claims and self-government implementation.

“Yukon has the potential to set the standard in Canada of a society that is in true partnership,” said Mitchell.

“We understand that the signing of final and self-government agreements is really just the beginning of working together.”