NDP make royalties a matter of trust

The money made from mining the territory's resources is not staying in the Yukon, said NDP leader Liz Hanson. "Yukon is blessed with natural resource wealth, it is time for Yukoners to get a fair share," she said.

The money made from mining the territory’s resources is not staying in the Yukon, said NDP leader Liz Hanson.

“Yukon is blessed with natural resource wealth, it is time for Yukoners to get a fair share,” she said. “Mining companies reap the rewards and all that’s left for future generations are holes in the ground.”

Hanson, and her party, are proposing the “Yukon Resource Legacy Fund.”

Like a savings account, or trust fund, money made from the territory’s non-renewable resources would be put in this fund for future uses.

The NDP’s ideology on prudent spending and the Yukon’s New Democrat’s track record should not be ignored when Yukoners go to the polls, said Hanson.

Not only did previous NDP governments welcome mining and help establish the mines currently working today, but the Piers McDonald government left behind a $60-million budget surplus in 2000.

RELATED:Read all of our election coverage.

But before any government can start something like this trust fund, the territory needs to start making money off of the industries – from placer mining to oil and gas, said Hanson.

Gold is currently selling for about $1,784 an ounce. For Yukon’s placer gold, the territory is collecting less than 40 cents per ounce, thanks to a 0.02 per cent royalty rate that hasn’t chanced since 1906. Mongolia, sandwiched between Russia and China, has a 7.5 per cent royalty rate on placer gold, according to a global review of royalty rates by The World Bank.

But the big money is in hardrock mining.

The royalty rate for hardrock mining in the territory is based on the mine’s earnings, so as the company makes more, the royalty rate increases. A change in May 2010 capped the rate at 12 per cent.

According to a June report from Natural Resources Canada, the Yukon’s royalty rate is average, compared to other Canadian jurisdictions.

And Hanson won’t provide any numbers on a new royalty regime. If elected, she will consult with the industry and economists to decide what is “reasonable.”

And whatever the change, it will not scare away mining, said Hanson.

“Industry will want to be a part of this,” she said. “They realize that in the Yukon, with the settlement of land claims and through the establishment of regulatory regimes like YESAA – which were all negotiated under previous New Democratic governments – that we have made an environment that is conducive to effective business.”

And despite a list of ideas from education to emergencies, Hanson did not say what will happen with the money collected in the trust.

That, including any possible preference given to First Nations because of their special claim to the territory’s land and resources, has to be decided by Yukoners, she said.

Fixing EMS is an emergency

Yukoners need to have more confidence in their emergency services, which is to say they need to have more confidence in the people who manage them, said NDP Leader Liz Hanson.

An audit of the territory’s Emergency Medical Services released last month showed a government branch nearly $500,000 over budget.

Hanson has a couple of ideas why.

“You start with the political decision about how you organize,” she said, pointing out EMS’ exclusion from the new public safety building at the top of Two-Mile Hill.

Plus, Emergency Medical Services is now under the Department of Community Services, not Health and Social Services, which has jurisdiction over hospitals and other medical facilities, she added.

“There may be some rationale, but it doesn’t make sense to me,” she said. “It starts with actually having informed ministers who monitor carefully what’s going on within their responsibility. Clearly the audit is showing that there isn’t that ministerial accountability. There isn’t that ministerial oversight as to what’s going on under their watch.”

By having EMS in another department, transportation costs, like those for medevacs and rural ambulances, is not included in the overall budget for health care in the territory, she said.

And even without those numbers, the federal auditor general reported in February the Department of Health and Social Services has been overspending, by millions, for years.

“We don’t have a full picture, as legislators, of what the true costs are for the full scope of health care in this territory, so we don’t have it as taxpayers either,” said Hanson.

If elected, the New Democrats would begin a critical review of the current system, and how to do it better.

“Definitely within a year,” she said. “These are huge costs.

“Right now, we’ve seen situations where EMS has been forced to make decisions, for budgetary constraint reasons, that may or may not have negative consequences for the health and safety of citizens. We want to avoid that. And the only way you can avoid that is to know what you’re paying for, and why.

“If that means that they’re under one roof, that may be the case. It may be more money, or it may be money spent more effectively.”

Hanson also promises to create a tax credit incentive for EMS volunteers, in hopes of bolstering confidence in emergency services in the territory’s rural communities.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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