The Yukon Liberals say they will improve the relationship between the Yukon government and rural communities if elected.
They say they will ensure Yukon communities have equal access to consistent, predictable funding, particularly for rural infrastructure.
“One of my priorities for rural Yukon is simply transparency and communication around the government decision-making process,” said Vuntut Gwitchin candidate Pauline Frost on Thursday. “We believe all communities matter, not just the capital.”
The Liberals want to establish five- to 10-year infrastructure investment programs, as well as five-year funding plans for the comprehensive municipal grant and a rental construction program, which provide Yukon government funding to the municipalities.
“These are a combination of specific requests from the Association of Yukon Communities, and also meetings that I’ve had with mayors and councils over the last couple of years,” said Liberal Leader Sandy Silver.
The party also wants to help communities develop “mining within municipality” policies, expand campground infrastructure and reduce diesel energy use, though it didn’t provide any details.
Frost said Yukon’s unincorporated communities sometimes get left out when it comes to discussions around infrastructure dollars, and the Liberals want “to give them a voice at the table.”
“In several rural communities, there is no government to represent the people,” she said. “We want rural communities to be heard when these resources are allocated.”
Currently, the Association of Yukon Communities represents Yukon’s eight municipalities and five unincorporated communities, including the Kluane First Nation and the Hamlet of Mount Lorne. But other communities, including Old Crow and Ross River, have not chosen to become members.
The Yukon government is directly responsible for delivering services to unincorporated communities.
Frost pointed out that Yukon land claims agreements state that responsibility for programs and services is to be transferred from the Yukon government to the self-governing First Nations, but that has not happened.
“Yukon First Nations have yet to negotiate a single (agreement) for movement of Yukon services,” she said. “We remain committed to negotiate in good faith.”
Silver said he wants to ensure that all available federal infrastructure funding is used in Yukon communities. The New Building Canada Fund, a major pot of federal infrastructure money, requires that the Yukon government put up one dollar for every three dollars from Ottawa.
Silver said he would consider borrowing money to make sure that Yukon can match all the federal funds.
The Yukon government has promised funds for a number of rural infrastructure projects this year, but Silver suggested that some communities’ needs are ignored.
“What we see right now is not the leaders of the communities being at the forefront of what actually gets accomplished.”
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org