Yukon Liberal Party leader Arthur Mitchell is promising a $250 tax credit for all Yukoners if he is elected premier.
“We will eliminate the first $250 paid in Yukon taxes by individuals,” Mitchell told about 55 people who spent $20 each to attend a Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the Gold Rush Inn in Whitehorse on Tuesday.
“I think the public knows what they want to spend their money on,” said Mitchell.
“Lowering taxes benefits everyone and it puts people first.”
It would cost, at most, $5 million a year to provide $250 per Yukon taxpayer, he explained later.
“We think that’s possible within the current fiscal climate of the budget of the Yukon.
“We have an $800 million budget. We can take $5 million to help the lowest-paid Yukoner.
“This will help everybody, but there are some people for whom it will actually eliminate the Yukon tax.
“For those people, it will make a meaningful difference in their lives.”
The tax credit would not necessarily displace the $250 energy rebate that Premier Dennis Fentie introduced last winter, he said.
The Liberal tax credit was the first tangible new idea to be proposed by any of the three political parties since Fentie announced the October 10 territorial election.
There were few other concrete aspects of Mitchell’s speech.
Mitchell tried to distance himself from Fentie by saying that, as premier, he would rank the health of the Porcupine caribou herd as a higher priority than the governor of Alaska, whose office traditionally supports development of the caribou calving grounds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
He mocked Fentie for taking four years to develop a climate change strategy that lacked any action.
“Global warming is likely to hit the North especially hard,” said Mitchell.
“The impact on our ecosystems could be devastating.
“We need to take climate change seriously.
“Putting your head in the sand is particularly foolish if the ocean is rising over the beach.”
But, beyond saying that Canada must honour its commitments to the Kyoto Protocol, Mitchell did not offer any concrete action on climate change, such as regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
A Liberal government would make climate change more of a priority than the Yukon Party has, he said.
Other aspects of Mitchell’s speech lacked concrete commitments.
For example, he promised to “clean up” government contracting, but didn’t promise not to use sole-sourced contracts that successive governments, including the Liberals, have used in the past.
Land disposition needs a “comprehensive policy,” not confusion and favouritism, said Mitchell.
And he promised an “open attitude” towards the needs and ideas of communities and First Nations.
“I think that we need to stop the top-down approach to economic development in our communities and ask the people who live there and work there what they think will work best in their communities.”
He lauded increased transfer payments from Ottawa that have occurred during the Yukon Party’s tenure.
“More money is on the way,” he said.
“A change in government is not going to change the amount of money we get from Ottawa.
“Like it or not, and most of us don’t like it, we are still largely dependent on Ottawa to finance the territory, and that has not changed in the last four years.”
Overall, Mitchell didn’t promise many differences from the Yukon Party government, but said the Liberals would do it better.
However, Mitchell did offer several ethical enforcement strategies.
All Liberal candidates will sign a code of conduct during this election, he said.
If elected, Mitchell promised an “ethics and accountability act” that would forbid anyone more than 30 days in arrears on outstanding debts to the Yukon government from running for office or becoming a cabinet minister.
It was an obvious shot at the Yukon Party, which elected former deputy premier Peter Jenkins, and at Fentie, who belatedly expelled Jenkins from caucus for holding a debt to the government worth more than $300,000.
The ethics plank of Mitchell’s platform, released Monday, included a measure for the removal of MLAs convicted of serious criminal acts — another shot at the Yukon Party that elected Haakon Arntzen and at Fentie again, who refused to publicly ask for Arntzen’s resignation from the legislative assembly even after the Copperbelt MLA was convicted of indecent assault.
Arntzen has now successfully appealed his conviction and will face a new trial.
At the chamber luncheon, Mitchell promised that anyone convicted of an offence under the Yukon Elections Act would not be allowed to stand for election.
“Yukon is one of just four jurisdictions where this is not already law,” he said.
However, Mitchell’s commitment to a mandated review of the Yukon Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was vague.
On Monday, Mitchell promised to “ consult with officials” regarding the ATIPP Act that Yukon privacy commissioner Hank Moorlag twice recommended beefing up.
Highways and Public Works Minister Glenn Hart shelved a review of the legislation, saying modifications would be complex and the Yukon Party government would wait to see what other Canadian jurisdictions did first.
“I don’t think that Yukoners elect a government to come back to them and say, ‘We took a look at what Yukoners asked us to do or what the ombudsman asked us to do and it’s just too hard,’” said Mitchell on Monday.
“It just takes doing some work.”